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How to Grow Graptophyllum — Caricature Plant

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 Graptophyllum–commonly called caricature plant–is an erect evergreen tropical shrub commonly grown as a foliage houseplant in temperate regions. It grows to several feet tall in its native habitat Australasia and Southwest Pacific. Only one species is grown as a houseplant. 

Graptophyllum has glossy green leaves spotted, mottle, or banded with various colors, often yellow. Indoors it is best grown in full light or bright filtered light. In warm-winter regions, Graptophyllum can be planted to brighten shady borders outdoors.

Graptophyllum is a genus of 10 species of evergreen shrubs. Only Graptophyllum pictum is grown as a houseplant.

Get to know Graptophyllum 

  • Plant type:  Evergreen shrub
  • Growing zones and range:  Zones 13-15
  • Hardiness:  Tender
  • Growing temperature: Where temperatures fall below 55°F (13°C) grow in a warm greenhouse or as a housplant.
  • Height and width: 3 to 6 feet (1-2m) tall and 24 to 36 inches (60-90cm) wide 
  • Flowers:  Crimson to purple tubular 2-lipped flowers in raemes or panicles at the end of shoots.
  • Bloom time:  Summer
  • Uses:  Houseplant, tropical shrub
  • Common name:  Caricature plant
  • Botanical name:  Graptophyllum
  • Family name:  Acanthaceae
  • Origin:  Australasia and Southwest Pacific
Caricature plan, Graptophyllum pictum 'Tricolor'
Caricature plan, Graptophyllum pictum ‘Tricolor’

Where to plant Graptophyllum 

  • Light: Semi-shade outdoors; bright light indoors, 
  • Soil: Fertile, moist but well-drained soil outdoors; peat-based soilless mix indoors. 

When to plant Graptophyllum 

  • Set Graptophyllum outdoors any time of the year in tropical and subtropical regions.

Planting and spacing Graptophyllum 

  • Space  Graptophyllum 24 to 36 inches (60-90cm) apart.

How to water and feed Graptophyllum 

  • Water: Graptophyllum wants an evenly moist potting medium. 
  • Feeding: Fertilize Graptophyllum once a month during spring and summer. 

Graptophyllum care  

  • Water Graptophyllum sparingly in winter.  

Growing Graptophyllum as a houseplant

  • Give Graptophyllum bright light, high humidity, a warm temperature, and evenly moist potting soil.
  • Fertilize Graptophyllum once a month during spring and summer.

Graptophyllum pests and diseases  

  • Graptophyllum is vulnerable to mealybugs and spider mites. 

Graptophyllum propagation  

  • Propagate Graptophyllum from stem cuttings and repot in a peat-based soilless mix.  

Graptophyllum varieties to grow  

  • Graptophyllum pictum, caricature plant. Grows to 3 to 6 feet tall outdoors, indoors to about 30 inches tall; glossy green leaves variegated with yellow are oval, pointed at the ends and grow to 6 inches long.  Cultivar ‘Tricolor’ has oval, purplish green leaves, mottled yellow and rose-pink with red talks and midribs.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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