Know your: Unicorns

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3 Mar 2020

The houseplant community has christened its collectible rarities ‘unicorn plants’. Linda is a unicorn hunter and grows her burgeoning collection in her indoor tropical jungle. She grows them easily inside in her light and bright lounge room and will often take them outside during the summer holidays and keep them under the banksia tree. Rare houseplants are highly sought by indoor plant enthusiasts. Here are a few more to add to your collection.

Words: Linda Ross


Anthurium veichii

The King Anthurium from Columbia is the most collectible ‘trophy’ anthurium, grown for its pendulous, ribbed, heart-shaped leaves that hang 50-90cm down from the pot.

Anthurium warocqueanum

Known as the Queen Anthurium, this tropical beauty has elongated leaves with distinct ivory veins. Constant humidity is required.

Anthurium clarinervium

On my must-find list for its fat, heart-shaped leaves, this treasure is from the tropical jungles of Mexico so humidity is the key to its survival. Mist frequently and evenly with lukewarm water and keep mix moist but not soggy. A rare prize which as alluded me thus far.

Philodendron plowmanii

This one doesn’t climb like other Philos but creeps slowly across the ground: great for a kitchen bench or office desk. It grows to 50cm high, and its flattened, elliptical stems hold up quilted and veined leaves that unfurl spectacularly.

Philodendron squarmiferum

The Red Bristle philodendron, from French Guiana and Brazil, is an easy ‘unicorn’ to start with, fast-growing and happy with fortnightly watering. Its cascading habit, distinct five-lobed leaf and striking red bristly stems are best displayed in a hanging basket.

Licuala mattanensis

Not an aroid, but a rare variety of fan palm found in deep shade in the jungles of Sarawak, the sharply cut spherical fronds make this highly sought after, especially in its spotted form. Will withstand temperatures no lower than 20 degrees.

Philodendron pastazanum

This stunning Philo creeps along the ground in valleys and along stream edges in Eastern Ecuador and Peru. Loved for Its giant, heart-shaped leaves sit proudly on tall erect stems and are amazing to watch unfurl. Likes a position with full morning sun.

Alocasia amazonica, African Mask

A beginner houseplant which is very popular and easy to find and grow, a good plant to start with. Can disappear during winter only to reshoot in spring. Water fortnightly, mist weekly. Needs good light levels and must be brought inside during winter. Slow to grow and slow to sucker but glossy black leaves with white veins and an eye-catching purple reverse make the wait worthwhile.

Cyrtosperma johnstonii

A pretty heart shaped leaf with magenta colouring with prickly stems and mottled leaves in pink and purple. Water loving plant from the Solomon Islands. They only indoor plant I know that happily sits in water.

Anthurium dussii

Heart shaped, big floaty elephant ear leaves with a mottled appearance. Loves to climb. A lush jungle plant to add to your collection. Loves misting and high humidity. From the West Indies.

Rhapis excelsa variegata

Although variegated forms of Rhapis species do exist, the majority of the variegated Rhapis are cultivars of Rhapis excelsa. Most of the latter never get more than one metre tall although some may reach 2m. These dwarf, slow growing plants are used on patios or inside a home or business office. A fantastic indoor pot plant. In tropical and subtropical climates it can be grown in sheltered positions in the garden.

Monstera adansonii

The Swiss Cheese plant gets its name from its large, heart-shaped leaves, which as it ages, become covered with holes that resemble Swiss cheese. The houseplant, which is part of the Araceae family that's native to South and Central America,is easy to grow and loves to climb. If you give it a stake or trellis to grow upward, you'll enjoy larger leaves with those unique holes. Or allow it to spill down from a hanging basket. Good for the bathroom or kitchen.


Commonly called the arum family, or the aroids, the Araceaeare a family of monocotyledonous flowering plants in which flowers are borne on a type of inflorescence called a spadix. The spadix is usually accompanied by, and sometimes partially enclosed in, a spathe or leaf-like bract. Aroids remain one of the world’s least known botanic families. Seeds cannot be frozen or stored, so a living plant collection is the only way to conserve them.


These unicorn plants and many more indoor plants at Collectors’ Plant Fair, Hawkesbury Race Club, Clarendon, NSW.