Last updated on December 2nd, 2011
The fascinating “Piggy-Back ” or “Youth On Age” plant (Tolmiea menziesii) took indoor gardeners by storm in the early 1940s. During winter, tiny new clusters of leaves appear at the base of many old ones. If you remove an entire leaf and insert it into a pot of light, porous soil, it will quickly grow roots and produce a new plant.
Tolmiea likes to view the world from atop a tall stand or a bracket, where its soft, overlapping leaves of dreamy-green can freely cascade. Mine stands sentry on an old, cast-iron lamp bracket in the upstairs bath. There, it makes a verdant foil for the pink, purple and white African violets that grow beside it, on glass shelves.
To keep this California native looking its decorative best, give it an east or west window and cool temperatures. Mine demands water daily; it tends to faint at the slightest hint of dryness. A home-made potting mix of one-part leaf mold and a half-part each of garden soil and sand will encourage lavish growth.
In summer, give tolmiea a restful holiday outdoors. Mine cascades from a tree stump in the shady Secret Garden from June through mid-September.
You won’t find this old-fashioned charmer at a big-box garden center. Your florist, however, can probably obtain one for you.