Hemigraphis repanda: Dragon’s Tongue

Family: Acanthaceae
Common name: Dragon’s Tongue, Green Dragon’s Tongue, Waffle plant, Dragon’s breath, Strobilanthes sinuata

Dragon’s tongue plants can make a good groundcover for your garden, be planted as hedge plants, border plants or even placed in hanging pots and baskets. This low-height plant only grows to a height of 25 cms, with a thick foliage of purple or green leaves.

The leaves are 3-6 cms long, with rippled edges. Some leaves are deep purple, and some have tints of green and purple. And there is a variant with plain green leaves as well The lower surface of the leaves is pink or magenta in color.

When grown in good, direct sunlight, the leaves become deep purple, and these plants also flower with small white flowers. Leaves have thin, white hairs along the edges and on the lower surface. Flowers are not very conspicuous, and Dragon’s tongue plants are mostly grown for their ornamental foliage.

These plants prefer good sunlight. If grown indoors, they should be place near sunny windows and rotated regularly for even growth. Dragon’s tongue plants look pretty in hanging baskets or pots, since stems can become slightly elongated and fall gracefully over the edges of the pots.

These plants grow well in tropical countries with good humidity. They also need regular watering, especially during the hot summer months. Overwatering can cause root rot, and hence the plant should only be watered only when the soil is dry to touch.

Dragon’s tongue plants are easy to grow and maintain, and require very little attention. Occasional fertilization can keep the plant healthy, but they don’t need to be pruned or repotted frequently. Tall leggy pieces of stem can be cut with a clean pair of scissors and replanted to produce new plants.

Ensure that you plant them in moist, well-drained soil and look after them till they are established in the new soil. Dragon’s breath plants can also be grown in terrariums since they stay short. But the terrariums should be placed in good sunlight. The green variant of Dragon’s breath is often confused to be an aquatic plant, but they are not, and should not be placed in aquariums.

Another related plant that is ideal as a ground cover in home gardens is Red Ivy or Hemigraphis alternata.

If you dragon’s tongue plants are turning green and not blooming, it’s an indication of low sunlight. Move them to a sunny spot so that the leaves retain its purple hue. The plant is toxic to pets, and hence it’s a good idea to keep the plant away from cats, dogs and even small children.

Propagation is through stem cuttings, and root division.