Syngonium podophyllum

Syngonium podophyllum

This plant is a member of the Araceae family of plants, sometimes known as aroids. Many of these plants come from tropical climates and were traditionally used as houseplants. However, in Sydney we can grow many of them outdoors as permanent plantings, or in pots. On the whole, they are best suited to shadier parts of the garden, with sufficient moisture: many can actually grow well in ponds. They can introduce an element of bold contrast with their distinctive leaves and flowers, and mix in well with other warm-climate plants that grow well here, creating the ambience of a tropical rain forest.

Syngonium podophyllum used as a climber on a frame indoors at Transformer Café, Fitzroy, Melbourne

There is a huge variety of foliage forms in the family, but many, like the Syngonium, which hails from Central and South America, have striking arrowhead-shaped leaves. The basic form has plain green leaves; the one I grow has cream-variegated foliage. Some of the aroids have aerial roots, which allow the plants to climb up trees, and my Syngonium is ascending a tree at the moment, giving an interesting effect. I admired the plant growing on wire frames in a Melbourne café, as shown above. Keep an eye on them if they start climb outdoors in a warm climate - they can become a bit rampant, and they seem to change personality, sporting much larger, plain green leaves. But it also grows along the ground and can be used as a groundcover (ht 60cm) in a shaded site. Keep it in check by trimming back every so often The flowers are insignificant. Propagation is by division of the tubers. I have a dwarf-leaved cultivar, called 'Pixie'.