The bat plant (Tacca chantrieri or integrifolia) is a rare plant native to Southeast Asia. It is so named for the white or black bracts (modified leaves) that rise like a bat's wings above the cluster of purple, black or dark red flowers. Below the flowers droop "whiskers" (also bracts) that can be up to a foot long. Care of the bat plant is similar to that of other tropical plants in that it prefers lots of water and warm temperatures.
Soil and Container
Bat plants are most commonly grown in containers. Choose a container that is two sizes larger than the one that came with your purchased plant. Make sure the new container has drainage holes in the bottom and a water catch tray. Purchase potting soil that is made for orchids, as these plants have the same care requirements as orchids. Fill the container with half of the soil, then remove the bat plant from its purchased pot and place it in the new container. Fill the rest of the container with more soil, tamping it down firmly. Water thoroughly.
Light and Temperature
In its natural environment, the bat plant enjoys warm, humid temperatures and sunlight that is filtered by the canopy of the tropical forest. Provide those same conditions for your plant in your home. Set the plant where it will receive filtered sunlight, such as by a window that filters the sun through a curtain, or a window that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Keep the temperatures around the bat plant in the low 80's (Fahrenheit) during the growing season, but cooler by 20 degrees in the winter when it goes dormant.
Keep the soil moist at all times, but do not let the plant sit in standing water. The bat plant has delicate roots, which will rot if left in water for too long. For that reason, you should empty the catch tray as soon as the plant stops draining. Watering two or three times per week should be enough. Use warm, not cold, water, and do not wet the leaves. When winter arrives, stop watering and let the plant go dormant. Water again in the spring.
Bat plants thrive in humid conditions. Place your plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water, but do not let the bottom of the pot touch the water. This is not only attractive, but the water will evaporate and provide moisture to the air around the plant. Or, mist your plant daily each morning, or place a humidifier next to your bat plant.
Bat plants have delicate roots, so use only half the recommended dose of fertilizer as instructed on the package. Choose a fertilizer formulated for orchids and one that is water-soluble. Fertilize twice monthly during the growing season, but stop fertilizing in the winter when the plant goes dormant.
In the fall, the plant will begin to die back. Remove the foliage and place the container (with the bulb still in the soil) in a warm, dark location until spring, when you can bring it back and begin watering and fertilizing it again.
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