What is Hemigraphis?

Mary McMahon

Hemigraphis is a genus of tropical plants native to Malaysia, with an estimated 30 species. This genus belongs to the acanthus family and is cultivated for ornamental purposes indoors, as well as outdoors. Nurseries sometimes carry Hemigraphis species and they can also be obtained through aquatic plant suppliers because they like extremely wet environments, although they are not actually aquatic plants. Other gardeners can also provide seeds and cuttings for people who are interested in propagating Hemigraphis for use in their gardens and homes.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Species in this genus are known by a variety of common names including waffle plant, redflame, red ivy, and metal ivy. They have generally oblong leaves that can be narrow or broad, often with scalloped or lobed edges. The leaves are dark green tinged with purple to red and can have a slightly metallic appearance in some species. Clusters of small white flowers are produced periodically from a central stalk.

These plants spread readily and potentially indefinitely if they are established in good soil. Hemigraphis can sometimes be propagated by division, as well as being grown from seed. It grows low to the ground and can make a good groundcover, border, or edging plant, in addition to being suitable for container gardening. It grows well in partial shade and pairs with companion plants that also like a boggy environment.

Members of the Hemigraphis genus need very wet conditions to thrive. They have evolved to live in boggy, marshy soil and they like rich soil that retains moisture well. However, they are not fully aquatic and cannot live very long if submerged or kept in standing stagnant water. While some people do cultivate these plants in water gardens and aquariums, they tend to change color, look sickly, and die after spending some time underwater. Like other plants from the tropics, Hemigraphis also needs very warm conditions and is highly sensitive to frost.

People in cooler climates can grow this plant indoors. It can be paired with other moisture-loving plant species to create a miniature bog or marsh garden, or it can be grown alone. It requires indirect light when grown inside and it is important to monitor the soil quality to confirm that it is wet without containing standing water. It can be helpful to use a humidifier or plant sprayer to keep humidity levels high and reduce stress for the plant if a household is very dry.

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