What big leaves you have, Medinilla ‘Kinabalu’

Last fall I spent a bit of time on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. If you’ve ever been there, you know that the island is covered in plants. Awesome, big leaved, shiny green plants… my kind of thing.

The landscape next to this dumpster on Kauai is completely untended, and it still is as lush and exciting as anything you’d find in a botanical garden.

Anyway, I visited a nursery or two, and you had to assume that something was coming back home with me. One of those things was a tiny Medinilla ‘Kinabalu’. The nursery had a very large specimen on display, and a couple of small pots with seedlings for sale underneath it. I thought that if I could manage to keep it alive long enough to get it in my greenhouse, and if I could get leaves only half the size of what their specimen plant had, I would be happy.

For the first few months Kinabalu lived in a large plastic bag in an attempt to retain humidity and a little bit of heat. It grew some, but the leaves were small and twisted. The leaves looked nothing the green parasols I saw back on Kauai. Being from the Philippines, I was guessing that when exposed to the 30% humidity of eastern Washington my poor Medinilla would shrivel up like wrinkled tissue paper. Needless to say, I was very hesitant to get rid of the plastic force-field. After I began noticing exudates (sugar-like crystals on the outside of the plant) I knew something needed to change.

Medinillas don’t like waterlogged roots, much like most other terrestrial plants. However, they don’t like to be dry. I decided to bite the bullet and take the bag off the plant. I repotted it, at the same time, into a much larger orchid pot with holes in the sides. I was back in western Washington, so the humidity was a little higher.

Closeup of Medinilla ‘Kinabalu’

Much as I expected, I noticed leaves start to curl inwards and dry to a brown crisp. However, the only leaves that showed this were the newest set of leaves, that had grown during the bagged period. Within a few days the crispy edges had stopped advancing. New growth started pushing out. It had decided to forgive my rookie mistakes and survive despite my less than ideal conditions!

New growth starts out a coppery red tone, and eventually melts into a deep, vibrant green.
The latest set of leaves to show up have started looking a lot like the vibrant green and copper tinted wings that I saw on Kauai. Whatever I’m doing, I’m going to have to continue doing. These leaves are huge!

Each leaf is large by itself, but when two leaves sit next to each other, this plant really takes up some space. You can see the smaller disfigured leaves to the right, which grew inside the plastic bag.

I’ve noticed a few branches shooting out of the leaf nodes at the base of the plant. Hopefully it’ll get a little thicker. It could use a few more branches.

The start of another stem for Medinilla ‘Kinabalu’.

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