Many call the it the “Chocolate Plant”, but it’s real name is Pseuderanthemum alata. Plus, I will admit you are not growing “real” chocolate in a pot. The foliage just looks like it
This image was taken at the Enid A. Haupt Garden (part of the Smithsonian Institute on the National Mall in Washington D.C) by Fine Garden Associate Editor, Michelle Gervais. What caught my eye was the palm. It looks like the Old Man Palm – Cocothrinax Crinata.
Chocolate plants for whatever reason do not seem to find their way into plant catalogs or on nursery price list. It seems the plant’s biggest fans appear are other plant lovers who pass it along. More of an heirloom plant.
Member of the Acanthaceae family, and originally from Central America and Mexico. Its modern day family members are Justicia brandegeana (shrimp plant), Strobilanthes (Persian Shield), Ruellia (wild Mexican petunia), Hypoestes (Polka-Dot plant), Barleria (Bush Violets), Megaskepasma (Chinese Hat) and Pachystachys lutea (Lollipop plant).
Across the southern states, Chocolate plants handle cold and survive better than many of those listed above.
Steal an idea from the picture! Take a plant with beautifully patterned leaves, and use it as underplanting in a larger container! They compliment each other along with the container and add pizzaz to the planting.
It does freeze and “burn down” through the winter, but comes back during the spring and lasting for several years.
The slender 12 – 18″ inch bloom stalks have carry purple-rose flowers, producing enough seed to almost guarantee a sprinkling of new chocolate plants the following spring. They can also be propagated by cuttings.
If seeds which are tiny are collected in the fall, they can be sown in spring into a light propagating media. Reports say Pseuderanthemum alata germinate best at 55-60 degrees F in 21-25 days.
Chocolate plants make great groundcovers in partially or full shaded areas. They perform best in a moist soil, but can actually tolerant of quite dry places, rebounding quickly after wilting between irrigation cycles or rainfall. Reports have it doing well in Zone 9, but also grown in Zones 6 and 7.
When used as “porch” or greenhouse plants, plant them in a good, well draining potting mixture of peat, garden loam and sand/or perlite. Fertilize weekly with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer