One of the most popular flowering herbs in the Amazon rainforest is the monkey cup. In fact, it is so popular that it has become difficult to find fresh monkey cup leaves in stores outside of Brazil. Even within Brazil, the production of this popular tropical plant has become quite mechanized. The leaves are often grown in large plastic pots. Monkey cups are often shipped to wholesale retailers around the world, where they command big prices.
The main challenge faced by plant breeders is the balancing act between overall plant health and the speed at which the leaves grow. Monkey cups have a very fast growth rate. That speed, combined with its somewhat short blooming period, makes it an extremely fast growing plant, relative to other flowering herbs. Its woody stems make it ideal for use in potting media, although it does prefer a somewhat looser soil. Plant breeders who are looking for quick growth can often opt for hybrid varieties, as they tend to have a shorter overall height and shorter growing periods. Despite this, however, many of the hybrid varieties are quite vigorous and well suited to tropical environments.
Monkey cup plant care requires careful harvesting. The fast growth rate and short flowering period of this plant call for harvesting in early spring. Otherwise, the plant will stop growing altogether. The leaves will turn purple and dry out, making them suitable for removal from the garden.
When the plant starts to flower in the late summer or early fall, the leaves will turn a golden color. Harvest the leaves at this time, because they will soon turn to yellow and wilt away. Pruning should be done just before the flowers appear, or at least after the first bloom. Any green growth on the stem, called rhizomes, should also be removed at this time.
Monkey cup plants are very sensitive to frost. When growing from seed, the parent plant may survive only for one growing season. In such cases, it is best to pinch off the flowering buds when they appear, so that the younger plants do not have any competition. If you wish to pinch back any foliage that is lost by pruning, make sure you do it in the winter. Do not wait until spring, because this will encourage rapid growth and you may end up with an odd shape.
Do not prune dead leaves until all of the daytime blooms have flowered, because this will encourage new growth. A healthy plant will always have some growth, even when no blooms appear. If you do prune dead leaves before all of the daytime blooms appear, the plant will not have any growth for the winter. Monkey cup plants need to be frozen about four to six weeks before planting.
One tip for plant care, is that if you plan to move the plant from one location to another, you should prune the plant at the same time of year, while it is dormant. This will encourage new growth during the move. Don’t prune more than a third of the plant at a time, because it will produce fewer blooms. Monkey cup plants have small, strong roots, so you should never prune them more often than every four to six weeks. They do not like being crowded.
If your monkey cup plant has been growing well for a few years, it is a good idea to give it a bit of tender loving care. During the dry winter months, it is best to protect the roots from the wind and from snow. Make sure the pot is not exposed to freezing temperatures, because this can cause the plant to wilt. If you are going to be out of town for a while, give the plant some light. Follow these basic plant care tips, and you should have years of enjoyment from your monkey cup plant.