Geogenanthus: The Hot New Houseplant

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Written By Jim J Neal

Collectors are clamoring for this newcomer nicknamed “Geo,” an easy-care, show-stopping tropical that’s creating a lot of buzz.

The rumors are true: People have become crazy about houseplants.

According to the 2021 Consumer Houseplant Purchasing Report, researchers found more than 40 percent of respondents were “extremely interested” in buying a houseplant, and more than 90 percent expressed some level of interest. The pandemic also brought about a renewed interest in home décor, nature, and taking care of our environments.

One of the newest houseplants on the market, casually known as geogenanthus (more on that in a minute), is not only striking but easy to care for, too.

“People love low-care, low-water plants like snake plants,” says Katie Dubow, president of Garden Media Group. “I’m looking at one now.

“But, in the last five years, we have consumers wanting to know Latin names for plants for the first time in the mainstream. They want the hard-to-care-for, carnivorous plants. They want to get their hands on plants other people don’t have.”

Dubow says this new plant fits all those categories because it looks cool and requires little care. “They’ll realize they, too, can have a Geo,” she says.

A Geo?

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What Is a Geogenanthus?

Formally known as Geogenanthus ciliatus and colloquially as Geo, it’s a tropical plant native to the rain forests of Central and South America. A slow grower,  it features big, glossy, purple-black leaves that can spread out to a diameter of up to 24 inches.

Topping out at around six inches tall, it produces tiny purple flowers. But Costa Farms horticulturist Justin Hancock says the flowering isn’t the draw. It’s the remarkable foliage that has everyone stoked about this plant.

Why Has Geo Become So Popular?

Because it’s new and different. After Costa Farms plant hunters located it, they imported it, then ran tests to see if it would grow well and thrive in homes. It did. “Somebody bringing in a whole new genus in a mass-market sort of way is really uncommon,” Hancock says. He added Costa Farms’ seasoned plant hunter says it’s the first entry he’s seen like this in 20 to 30 years.

Then there are the accolades: The Geo won the Best New Plant award this year at the Tropical Plant Industry Expo, which generated a lot of buzz. And because consumers are currently crazy for plants, it’s being publicized more than it may have been in the past.

The Geo provides what a lot of plant owners want: A visually interesting plant that’s not fussy. “It’s a fun one to have in your plant collection,” Hancock says. “From a design standpoint, it will contrast, because it has a texture different than most typical plants. Plus, it’s really Instagrammable.”

Where Can I Buy a Geo?

Costa Farms has lots of retail partners nationwide, from Walmart to indie garden stores. Hancock says shipments from their Trending Tropicals line are heading out on trucks now, so keep an eye out. Note that Geos won’t be in every shipment.

Can’t wait? You can also order them directly from Costa Farms, and it’s likely they’ll soon be available from other online plant retailers.

How To Care for a Geo

Geo plants are similar to the easy-care peace lily (Spathiphyllum). They’ll even wilt dramatically when they’re thirsty, just like a peace lily. However, the leaf edges will turn brown if you wait too long to water, so don’t dally when the plant asks for a drink.

Here are more easy-care tips to keep your Geo in tip-top shape:

  • Light: Hancock says that Geo will do “pretty darn well” with medium indirect light. He adds that light requirements on plant tags are based on the minimum amount of light a plant needs to stay alive — not what it likes. “Even low-light plants want bright indirect light if they had their choice,” he says.
  • Water: Geogenanthus is an especially thirsty plant. Although its leaves look like they hold water, like a succulent, Geos need more than you think. If you have a self-watering system, Geo will love that, Hancock says. If not, check on your plant two to three times a week and add water every time the soil is dry to the touch. “The more light you have, the faster it will drink,” he says. “And in general, the warmer it is, the faster it will drink.”
  • Temperature: Rainforest tropicals typically need high humidity and temperatures. However, Hancock says Costa Farms tries to find plants that can withstand indoor conditions well. He says his own Geo did fine with forced-air heat during the winter at 33 percent humidity. This indicates that it’s a hardy plant. “It doesn’t need terrarium conditions,” Hancock says. “But it would appreciate it.”
  • Fertilizer: Your average potting mix should work, Hancock says. If you tend to underwater your plants, some potting mixes with polymer gels help extend the time in between watering. “If you’re good about watering, though, any general-purpose potting mix should be fine,” he says. He adds Geo will survive in a pot for a year or two without fertilizer. But if you want a showstopper, feed it in the spring or summer with houseplant fertilizer.

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