Graptophyllum pictum (Caricature Plant)

  • TropPlant Accession Number (TPAN): 0002
  • Botanical Name: Graptophyllum pictum
  • Common Name: Caricature Plant
  • Cultivars: 'Igneum', 'Lurido-sanguineum', 'Tricolor'/'Waimea', 'Eldorado'
  • Family: Acanthaceae  (Acanthus Family)
Graptophyllum pictum 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Graptophyllum pictum 'Igneum' 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Graptophyllum pictum 'Lurido-sanguineum' 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Graptophyllum pictum 'Eldorado' 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Graptophyllum pictum 'Tricolor' (believed to be the same as Graptophyllum pictum 'Waimea')
Photo by Matthew Gaston

  • Native To: New Guinea

Landscaping Information

  • Plant Type: Shrub, Small Tree 
  • Texture: Dense
  • Form:  Upright-broad
  • Height (on average, in landscape use):  4' - 20'
  • Height to Spread Ratio: 3:1
  • Growth Rate: Medium
  • Landscape Values: Accent, Background, Border, Color, Edging, Facer, Filler, Foundation, Hedge, Quick Effect, Screen, Specimen, 
  • Outstanding Quality: Spectacular color of leaves. 
Graptophyllum pictum (Left) and Graptophyllum pictum 'Igneum' (Right) pruned somewhat improperly.
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Botanical Descriptions

  • Flowers: 1.25"-1.6" long, pink, purple, maroon, reddish-brown, small lobes, shrivel rapidly, no fragrance, adds minimal color and rather insignificant compared to the foliage, but stands out more in cultivars other than 'Tricolor'/'Waimea'.
  • Fruits: 0.75"-1.25" long and slender. Fruit has not been detected in Hawaii.
  • Foliage Color:  Young/immature: Bronze, Reddish, Light Green, Yellow Green. Mature: Bright medium green, dark green, gray green, blue-green,  yellow-green, bronze to red, variegated. 
  • Foliage Tip: Acuminate
  • Foliage Base: Acute
  • Petiole: 0.1"-0.4"
  • Stipules: none
  • Margins:  Smooth
  • Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
  • Leaf Shape: usually lanceolate or oblong
  • Leaf Type: Simple
  • Leaf Texture: Waxy, firm, fleshy
  • Leaf Special Notes: Outstanding, vibrant colors should be used carefully as to not overwhelm a landscape. The 'Tricolor'/'Waimea' colors provide the splash of tropical colors. 
  • Bark and Trunk: Square stemmed

Horticultural Information

  • Light Preference: Full Sun
  • Light Tolerances: Semi-Sun
  • Soil Preferences: Acidic, Organic, Moist,
  • Tolerances: Acidic, Poor Drainage, Humidity, Regular Watering, 
  • Water Requirements: Needs to be moist, especially when young. Does not like soil going dry.
  • Notes on Maintenance: Notable pests include nematodes and scale.
  • Propagation: Cutting, Layer
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 11a and above
  • Weed Risk Assessment Score (WRA): -5, Low Risk
  • Botanical Illustrations:
Rheede tot Drakestein, H.A. van, Hortus Indicus Malabaricus, vol. 6: t. 60 (1686)
Illustration Contributed by Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, U.S.A.

Panhuys, L. von, Watercolours of Surinam (1811-1824) [unpublished], () [Louise von Panhuys]
Illustration Contributed by Universit├Ątsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Pressed Graptophyllum pictum leaves and flower. One of these is not like the other (that is to say it is not Graptophyllum pictum.) 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

The Caricature Plant gets its name from the appearance of silhouettes of faces along the variegation. Can you identify any faces?

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