7 Local Plants Collectors Are Going Gaga For
Move over, monsteras. We're going local now!
With the pandemic-born plant parent looking like it's here to stay, we thought that it would be a golden opportunity to introduce local plant species to the burgeoning plant collector. After all, it's not only the imported monsteras and philodendrons that pepper our social media feeds that deserve our adoration. With the Philippines being home to thousands of plant and flower species (and more than one half of the total Philippine plant population found nowhere else on the planet), it's due time that we shine the spotlight on the flora that's proudly Pinoy.
In celebration of Independence Day on June 12, we proudly share with you a list of endemic Philippine plants worthy of a spot in your collection below!
The Kris Plant
It's most salient feature is its dagger-like silhouette. Native to Misamis Occidental and Bukidnon, the Kris Plant is incredibly valuable and difficult to purchase because it's actually an endangered specie! It's almost never sold in the market these days because of its status as a protected plant, but when it does end up in an experienced collector's hands, you can be sure that they went through a stringent process with proper justification to be able to acquire them, legally.
Where they're sourced: Plant collectors will have to be very, very discerning about who offers them a Kris Plant, to ensure that they're not supporting a seller operating under the radar of the law. (This Facebook group with over 5,500 members provides plant collectors with practical knowledge on how to tell whether a plant seller is legit, or just trying to make an easy buck. Meanwhile, this announcement from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources lists down other plants that are endangered/protected/vulnerable, so if you learn of their selling, you can report it).
Original hybrids created by famed Filipino horticulturist Boyet Ganigan
Hybrid plants aren't a "specie" on their own, but it's exactly their novelty makes them all the more coveted by serious plant collectors with a taste for rarity. Boyet Ganigan, the man behind plant business Arids & Aroids (a celebrity favorite!), debuted his most impressive hybrid plant to date just last year—and it took a decade to create. But that's not even the most shocking part about it. The BG regale sanseviera hybrid cost over a million pesos, and a wealthy collector even offered him 10 times this amount to make it his own. Boyet refused. (However, the most heartbreaking part about this plant's story is that it was stolen late last year, and it was never returned).
As a silver lining, Boyet has other hybrids and a multitude of species for sale, and you can visit his greenhouse-turned-plant museum located in Silang, Cavite that opened just this May.
Where Boyet's hybrids and other offerings are sourced: Boyet has always loved native Philippine plants above all, but you can always inquire about species in his care that were imported. He'll be happy to tell you about how to care for each plant you purchase, too, and if you don't have the time to visit his greenhouses personally, you can always send a message on his Facebook page (@AridsAndAroids).
Check out Boyet's tour of one of his plant nurseries in the video below.
Meet The Tibatib
Monsteras are, without a doubt, a star of the pandemic plant craze. You'll see them on Instagram, on vlogs, in interior design magazines, or in fashion editorials. However, most of monsteras are actually sourced from Central America and they make it safely to Philippine homes because of the similarity of our country's climate to their natural habitats. But, there is a monstera-like species (it's not actually a member of the monstera family) native to the Philippines and it's called tibatib, nicknamed "dragon's tail plant," scientific name Epipremnum pinnatum. Tibatib is found in many forests around the Philippines.
How to care for it: Bright, indirect sunlight will mimic how it's naturally found in forests—underneath bigger and taller plants that filter the light that reaches it. Watering is simple too; allow the top soil to dry in-between waterings. Fertilizer is a good idea if you want your plant to grow large leaves.
Bitaog, the Philippines' answer to the fiddle leaf fig
The bitaog is loved for its almost architectural allure; its leaves grow evenly and it has a slender main trunk to support its growth. Leaves are a long oblong shape and mostly come in a medium green shade. To the untrained eye, it could be confused for Africa's fiddle leaf fig, yet another plant that skyrocketed to fame in 2020 thanks to its popularity as a decorative indoor and outdoor plant. It's become a rarity of sorts over the years because of the spread of human habitats; the bitaog once thrived along the seashores of Central Visayas, and in 2012, there were only 10 mature treers found in Siquijor.
How to care for it: Thankfully, it's not at all as sensitive as the fiddle leaf fig plant, but it does require you to observe whether it's getting daily adequate and proper sun. You want it to get hours of sunlight, but preferably morning sunlight. As for its watering regimen, it's not a thirsty plant, so wait for soil to dry out before watering. Soil should allow good drainage. (Note: The bitaog is a tree, so it will grow! It's not going to be a houseplant forever, so make sure you have somewhere to transfer it once it's time to become an outdoor plant).
Hoya plants—the more the merrier
As of 2009, there were at least 50 hoya plant varities listed as native to the Philippines. They're found in all altitudes, from Luzon to Mindanao. Collectors love them because they're a pretty, yet easy to maintain, addition to a flowering plant collection. Hoya flowers are rather small, and come in many different shapes and colors, and arguably, the most popular ones are those that emit a light, pleasant scent. When your hoya plant collection is at its prettiest, you'll be treated to flowers that blossom in round bunches at a time. There are many plant collectors that actually focus on hoya plants alone!
How to care for it: Three to five hours of diffused light every day will encourage flowers to bloom (it's a sensitive plant that burns with too strong a light source), and they require a moist environment. Humidity is good for hoyas, but so is ventilation; if you're keeping them indoors, make sure the dampness of their environment is tempered by fresh air.
The queenly anahaw
The Philippines' national leaf is a regal one. The anahw, what with its fan-shaped leaves often used as décor in special occasions, is a total beauty when allowed to grow to its full size. It's not a very tall tree, but its leaves are magnificent, growing meters from tip to stem. In the wild, its found in low to medium altitude forests across the country. The anahaw, when found in city homes, is usually kept small or medium-sized and in a pot. It shines brightest when it's the only plant in the room that calls all the attention to itself. If you're a homeowner with plans of placing an anahaw tree outdoors, it'll make a lovely addition to a patio or poolside where you can play on the tropical, boho vibe it gives off that designers love. (Some breeders grow mini anahaws too!).
How to care for it: The anahaw is a hardy tree and forgives watering and lighting mistakes. It works well with bright light (but can survive in lowlight conditions, too, with the condition that it gets good light on occasion, perhaps once or twice a week), and its leaves don't droop with underwatering. You'll want to invest in a good fertilizer, though, because the anahaw's real beauty is in the size of its leaves. It might not reach its full potential without the help of quality plant food.
Variegated plant species
Variegations in plants are little breaks in colors that come in lines, spots, splotches, or even dots! There are white, cream, ivory, light green, golden, red, and even pink variations, but many of variegations occur very rarely in nature. Most variegated plants for sale are actually the work of experienced gardeners or horticulturists that expertly bred parent plants to create a variegated plant. As you might expect, naturally variegated plants are more valuable to collectors, because if you propagate them yourself, you're more likely to end up with a baby plant that exhibits the same variegation pattern (as opposed to a plant that was bred by people).
Some plant species that have natural variegated varieties native to the Philippines are the Hibiscus diversifolius (think of a gumamela plant, but with variegated leaves), the breadfruit plant, the midnight blue tree, bagambang plant, and the Mussaenda philipica (more commonly known as Doña Luz/Doña Aurora/Doña Evangelina). (This page illustrates more examples of variegated plants native to the Philippines).
Note that there are many variegated plant species that sell for thousands of pesos in the local plant market today, but most are imported. Variegated monsteras, philodendrons, and calatheas always sell out, but do know that although these plants thrive in our tropical climate, they're not actually Philippine plants, originally.
Where they're sourced: These plants might not be as easy to find, so you will have to go to serious plant breeders to locate those for sale. The UP Los Baños nursery might be a good place to start, and they too can direct you to the right sources should they not have what you're looking for.
Opening images from @thehoyacollective