of 300 or so species of evergreen perennials of the arrowroot
family, native to Central and South America and the West Indies,
this genus is prized for its decorative foliage.
At least one species is grown as a food crop, yielding small starchy
tubers. The long-stalked, mostly upright leaves are usually large
and often beautifully variegated in shades of green, white, pink,
purple and maroon, and usually purplish on the undersides.
The flowers are interesting but rarely showy, in short dense spikes
with overlapping bracts that may be white or variously colored and
often partly hidden beneath the foliage.
Cultivation: Attractive foliage plants for outdoor landscaping in
shaded areas beneath trees or in courtyards.
Many will thrive in low light levels.
Plant in humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil. Water freely and
Propagate by division of rhizomes.
The sheathing leaf bases often harbor mealybugs, and the foliage is
affected by aphids, spider mites and thrips.