If you’ve read many of our plant articles, you know I’m partial to pink. And while pink flowering plants are pretty easy to come by (as evidenced by our yard every summer!), houseplants that sport pink on their leaves — like the triostar — are truly special! (The pink polka dot plant is also a fave!)
The triostar has beautifully colored, pointed green leaves that are variegated with paler green, creamy white, and pink. But that’s just the top of the leaf! The undersides— which reveal themselves when the plant lifts its leaves up at night — are a dark purple/pink and burgundy, as if the plant changes moods for the evening.
The lifting of leaves to the heavens at night puts the triostar squarely in the prayer plant (Marantaceae) family, along with marantas and calatheas. (Marantas are the plants people are usually talking about when they use the common name “prayer plant.”) Triostar’s botanical name is Stromanthe sanguinea, and it’s also called the Stromanthe triostar, tricolor, or magenta triostar.
Triostars are native to the Brazilian jungle, where they enjoy warm, humid conditions. Can’t you just imagine those long, striped leaves along the jungle floor? As houseplants they can grow up to about a foot or so across and two or three feet tall. In some very warm climates (zones 10 through 12), they can grow outdoors — and even bloom with showy red flowers.
All this specialness requires a bit more careful houseplant tending than, say, a pothos or jade plant. But don’t let that stop you! Yes, the trio star can be a tad tricky, but it’s absolutely within reach — and so worth it! (Bonus: The trio star is non-toxic to animals and humans.)
The triostar gets bright, dappled light on that jungle floor, and that’s just what it needs in a home — bright, indirect light. So if you put it in a south-facing window, be sure to keep it a few feet from the glass and/or place a sheer curtain between the plant and the grass. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves!
Although the plant will survive in lower light, the colors will be less striking. To maximize the colors without burning the leaves, an east-facing window is probably your best bet. Experiment to see where your triostar looks happiest over time.
Turn the plant now and then (when you water is a good time), so that it grows evenly toward the light.
Temperature and Humidity
Keep your triostar away from drafts — from an air conditioner or heat vent, for example. While it prefers warm temperatures, it will do fine anywhere between 65 and 80 degrees.
Triostars love humidity (it’s tropical!). In fact, the bathroom — if you have good indirect light in yours — would be a good place for one. Options for adding humidity for your triostar include:
- Misting now and then with a spray bottle between waterings.
- Setting it on a humidifying tray. To make one, simply place a layer of pebbles in a tray. Add water to just below the top of the pebbles, and place the plant on top. Refill the water as it evaporates. Make sure the bottom of the pot isn’t sitting in the water, but above it.
- Grouping your plants close together. As they release moisture into the air, they’ll create their own little humid environment.
Okay, here’s the tricky part. Keep the soil for your triostar evenly moist but not wet. As with most plants, the worst thing you can do is overwater it. The best way to make sure you’re not giving your plant too much water is to let the top inch dry out between waterings. For most plants, I dip my finger in about an inch (to the first knuckle after the fingernail, called the distal phalanx or DIP for short. Appropriate, right?). If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water.
It depends on the pot and the climate, but watering once a week should do it for most triostar houseplants. Yours may need more water in the summer and less in the winter. Or it may need more if it lives in a clay pot and less in a plastic pot. Pay attention to it, and use your DIP test to decide!
One more watering tip: Triostars can be a little picky about their water. (I can relate.) Don’t shock your triostar by watering it with cold water. Room temp is better. And be careful about using tap water, because the triostar can be sensitive to the chemicals in tap water. It’s best to use filtered water, or let your tap water sit out overnight so that the chemicals evaporate before watering.
Feeding and tending
- Fertilize a Stromanthe triostar once a month in the spring or summer, using half-strength fertilizer. Don’t overdo the fertilizer, or you’ll burn the roots and leaves. More is not better when it comes to fertilizing plants! Like most plants, the triostar is dormant in the winter, so you don’t need to fertilize it then. Let it rest until spring.
- Dust the leaves regularly with a damp cloth. This allows them to breathe, it makes them look nicer, and it lets them know you care. (Give them a pep talk while you’re at it!)
- Trim off blemished areas by cutting the leaf on an angle. If the entire leaf is in sad shape, remove it by cutting it at the base. Don’t remove more than 25 percent of the leaves at a time, though.
BTW, your triostar will shed its old leaves (which may become yellow) as it grows new ones. This isn’t a sign that anything is wrong!
Repot your triostar if you notice roots growing out the bottom of the pot or if the soil needs refreshing. (Old soil won’t provide nutrients for your plant.)
Choose a pot that has good drainage and is only about 2 inches bigger than the current pot. (Resist the temptation to go much larger to save yourself time in the long run. Plants generally don’t like feeling lost in too-big pots!) Use a light potting soil so it’s not inclined to stay soggy (add some peat to your soil if it’s heavy).
Spring is the best time to repot a triostar (and most other houseplants).
Is your triostar giving you some trouble? Catch the problem early enough, and you can easily turn it around! Here are some triostar maladies and likely causes:
Pale, yellowing leaves — overwatering or not enough light. Don’t let the plant roots sit in water (if the saucer has water in it, for example), and don’t water your plant until the top layer of soil has dried out. Try moving it a little closer to a light source. Try a sunnier window (but not direct sunlight).
Browning edges of leaves— underwatering, low humidity, or chemicals in tap water. Don’t let the soil completely dry out between waterings. Use filtered water. Increase humidity by misting or using a humidity tray or giving your plant some neighbors to cozy up to (see “Temperature and Humidity” above).
Dry, withered, brown leaves — lack of humidity and/or too much sun. Mist your plant more often, and move it to a location that’s just a bit shadier.
Want more triostar plants? You can propagate the one you have, assuming it’s in good shape and large enough to be divided (you’ll need at least a couple of leaves for each pot). Cuttings (propagated in water) don’t work with this plant, but it’s easy enough to divide it. The best time to do this in the spring and summer.
Here’s how to divide a triostar:
- Remove the plant from the pot.
- Loosen the soil from around the tuberous roots.
- Pull apart into clumps, with each clump containing at least two or three leaves and tuberous roots. (You can include as many more as you like.) If you need to, you can use a clean knife to cut through the roots.
- Plant in separate pots, in rich, light potting soil.
- Place in indirect, bright light in a warm spot.
- Water well, then drain off any water in the plant’s saucer.
Give your plants a few weeks to recover from the shock, and they should start growing happily again! Wouldn’t your baby triostar make a sweet gift?
I’ve been purchasing plants online this past year. I’m thrilled that my local plant shop delivers its vibrant plants to my door! I’ve also ordered plants — both houseplants and garden plants — via the mail, with great success.
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Here are a couple of sources for triostar plants:
If you’re a triostar fan, you might also — like me — love these prints, watercolors, and other triostar-inspired items!
Earrings (Aren’t these great?)
Keychain (This would make a sweet teacher-appreciation gift or stocking stuffer!)
Art work (watercolor, prints):
Do you have a triostar? Do you find it a little finicky or no? Share your tips with us!
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