Sprout Home Plant Of The Week: Mikado

02/29/2012 09:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Syngonanthus chrysanthus 'Mikado', or as we have dubbed it at the shop 'Disco Alien Plant', always seems to fascinate everyone when they discover it. They can be unassuming and easy to miss because they are small in scale, reaching to only about 8" in height. The Mikado's velvety grass-like leaves stretch from a central rosette forming clump and stay fairly close to the ground but what emerges from this tuft is the alien looking part. Long stems jet upright from the center of the plant on a fairly consistent basis each revealing a golden brown silky bud that opens up to a creamy white button flower. It reminds me of a collection of large pearl top pins sticking out of a pin cushion in a very 1970's way.

Flickr photo by fabiane13

The Mikado is native to Brazil, preferring warmth, humidity and high light. Make sure to keep it in the warmest part of your home and in a bright filtered to part sun location. They are small little guys and do not need to be repotted very often, but when you do, supplement your potting mix with loosely packed humus and peat. Since they originate in swamps, the Mikado likes to be in a mix that has high moisture retention and will do quite well if allowed to drink from below, sucking up the water from a pebble tray. Keep them moist at all times but well drained. Because of the high humidity that your Mikado is hopefully getting make sure that it is in a well ventilated space as to avoid any fungal problems that might occur.

An ideal place to keep a Mikado in order to assure humidity and warmth is in a bathroom. If your bathroom does not have adequate light for the Mikado and you need to put it on display elsewhere give it regular mistings to keep that humidity high. I like to display this alien on its own, up front and center, like the middle of a coffee table so that this petite and fascinating plant will not be missed. It might inspire you to pull out those dusty Donna Summer or Bees Gees records and give them a spin.