Dischidia Care Guide
Dischidia, sometimes called ‘Ant Plants,’ are a genus of epiphytic plants native to Indo-China. Some species such as Dischidia cleistantha have “ballooned” leaves with large hollow spaces inside which ants colonize and use as shelter. In return for this protection, the ant waste and any dead ants decompose inside the plant and offer a slow-releasing fertilizer.
Typically growing on tree branches or trunks, Dischidia roots are usually well-aerated and may be exposed to light. For this reason Ant Plants are somewhat tolerant of short droughts, particularly those varieties with succulent leaves. To keep these tree-climbing plants happy, a fast-draining medium is key. We recommend an orchid potting mix that is primarily shredded bark or coconut husk.
When watering, soaking the entire pot is recommended rather than pouring water over the top. Allow the roots to saturate completely and then remove and place on a drip tray, Dischidia are very sensitive to waterlogged roots and prone to root rot, so we recommend waiting until the substrate has mostly dried before soaking again (note some species prefer to stay slightly more moist, so we always recommend googling your particular variety or emailing us for species-specific care instructions!)
Ant Plants can be left to trail in hanging baskets (particularly popular for varieties such as dischidia nummularia) or given a moss post or other surface to climb. Some species such as dischidia cleistantha will do well when mounted on cork or tree fern, much like epiphytic orchid species (live in Canada? Buy cork tiles for mounting here) . To replicate the dew and high humidity of their natural habitat, plants can be misted or kept near a room humidifier.
Since these plants typically grow in the shade of trees, they prefer bright indirect light and aren’t too fond of sunlight on their leaves. However in Northern climates such as here in Canada, a few hours of sunlight will likely not burn them. A south-facing window covered by a sheer curtain would be a great location for most varieties. Try to keep Ant Plants away from cold breezes and avoiding keeping them too close to windows in the colder months.
We don’t fertilize our Dischidia with any packaged fertilizers, however every few months during the warm season we soak them in old aquarium water which contains dissolved nutrients from fish waste. Room temperature pond water could be used as well.