Common names: Bat Plant, Bat Flower, Black Bat Flower, Black Tacca
From flowers that resemble birds when they bloom to the Bat-winged Bat Flower, plants never miss an opportunity to amaze us. They are always spectacular, haunting, and mesmerizing. The flared bracts of the plant resemble the wings of bats in flight, while the flowers beneath remind us of the animal heads. There are long filaments that look like cat whiskers. Overall, the plant itself and its flowers are nature’s mystery. All you need to do is to look and behold once the bat flower blooms in your garden.
Habitat and distribution
These oddities of nature thrive on the forest floor where the soil is humid and moist. The forest floor soil is humid and moisture-rich and has good drainage. Regarding distribution, bat flower plants grow wild in the tropical regions, from West Africa to South Asia.
Growing abundantly in Southeast Asia, this conversation starter has very broad, shiny, green leaves. The plant itself is from a few centimeters to about 4-5 ft. tall. It blooms in a spectacular whorl of purple flowers in the center of the plant just above its stem. Above this whorl of flowers is a set of two bracts that looks like bat-wings. Many beautiful, long, filamentous bracteoles hang down from the flowers, looking almost like cat whiskers.
The most abundant species of the bat flowers is Tacca chantrieri, also called the black bat flower, owing to its black wing-like bracts. However, there is a recently introduced species known as the white bat flower, because its bracts are white.
Flowers should not be cut or plucked off the plant as they will decline shortly. The best way to relish the esthetic value of bat flowers is to leave their flowers intact.
It is a type of plant that blooms very profusely and very early, will start to bloom after it has produced at least two leaves. Typically, it blooms up to 8 times in a season. It starts blooming in the early summer and continues to bloom until late fall.
Considered a collector’s item, these plants are difficult to find in ordinary gardens. Sometimes sold in the markets in pots and containers around Halloween, they require almost the same conditions to grow as orchids. Strong airflow, ample humidity, and mulch-rich soil are all that they need to grow profusely. Though it is an outdoor plant, it can be brought indoors, provided it can have some sunlight.
If you adore these oddities of nature and if you are a fan of sinister and bizarre, yet spectacular specimens, then you can adorn your garden with bat flowers.
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Bat flowers are happy in lowlight conditions or where 40-60 percent is shade. They are not very fond of direct sunlight and prefer filtered light. That is the reason that they are found growing inside shady trees. They also like humidity, so they are great to grow indoors in the vicinity of a humidifier or properly misted pebble trays.
The delicate leaves of the bat flowers will burn or tatter if they are exposed to warm and cool vents. You should plant them in a way that they are protected from the harsh winds through a windbreak.
As already said, bat flowers need rich, loamy, and well-drained soil to flourish. Generally, soil suited for orchids will also suffice for Tacca plants. You can add some perlite to enhance its drainage and moisture-retaining capacity. But be careful about the pH also. A pH of 6-7 is usually ideal. You have to be very specific if you plant this delicate specimen.
Planting a rhizome
Planting a bat flower rhizome requires utmost detail. You have to plant it in an upright position, with about an inch of it with leaves above the soil. Most of it would be buried in the ground.
Watering the plant
Water is a critical requirement for plants. In the summer months, you have to water it twice a week. On the other hand, once the fall sets in, your plant will need water occasionally. Note that humidity is the utmost requirement for bat flowers. Growing it near a humidity source, or placing pebble trays or a humidifier near them is a bonus. You should mist them occasionally.
In the winter months, it will grow slowly. You should cut back on its water during this time and let its surface dry a bit.
Since it comes from the wild, it does not need much care and grooming once it is planted and has been supplied with good soil, humidity, and ample sunlight. It will continue growing for months with a dazzling bloom. But, after several years, you can start feeding it. Liquid fertilizer will help it grow profusely and produce spectacular flowers. You should feed it once a fortnight from summer through fall.
If you have planted the Tacca plant properly, it will withstand winters without being a concern for you. On the other hand, if you are not happy with the growth it shows during winters, you can place the pot indoors where it will resume its growth like before. But, remember that this plant can cut back on its growth during winter, so you do not need to worry about it. If it is hibernating during the winter, lighten up on watering and abstain from fertilizing it, or you can kill your plant.
Bat flowers need to be shielded from direct sunlight, harsh wind, and temperatures below 4 C. The temperature below 4 C is freezing and the
bat flowers do not have mechanisms to survive chilling. The soil must be moist but not flooded with water. They are not a care-free sort of plant. But, with the proper amount of care, they provide us with spectacular displays of blooming. They are evergreen, grow profusely, and bloom prolifically. A garden with a patch of bat flower plants is mesmerizing, nearly stunning!