We love caudex plants (swollen trunk usually above ground that stores water for dry season) because they're drought tolerant and their growth habit and leaves are so unique and interesting!
Jatorpha podagrica (aka Buddha Belly plant, gout plant, Guatemala rhubarb, bottlelant shrub) has a special plant in my heart. It has been in our family garden since the 70s and has been passed on to another family member and still lives 40 years later. Their slow growth is well suited for container gardening but can be planted in the yard where they can reach 5 -10 ft. tall. In a container, expect them to reach 2- 3 ft. tall.
Leaves resemble Fig trees and can get quite large in shade. In a sunnier spot, leaves will tend to stay small and compact. Flowering is sporadic but quite showy with bracts of orange blooms that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Caution: all parts of the plant is toxic.
You'll often see these indoors in business entrances where their fat belly caudex is said to attract prosperity, abundance, and good luck. Who doesn't need that?! Their "fat belly" is basically a water storing unit that allows them to be quite drought tolerant making these an even better houseplant for the forgetful waterer. Don't worry if leaves drop, it's just a way for them to conserve energy in drought conditions. New leaves will soon emerge once they get back on a watering schedule. Allow to almost completely dry between watering.
- Light: bright sunny spot with some light shade
- Soil: succulent mix. quick draining.
- Water: drought tolerant when established. allow soil to slightly dry between watering. Hold off watering in fall/winter if you live in colder areas.
- Fertilizer: spring/summer
If you collect caudex plants, this should definitely be part of your urban jungle.