Ribbon Plant

Post last updated: December 17th, 2017

My sister stood at the edge of my front flower bed and pointed to a low, frothy bush full of flat, paper-thin leaves. “What is this alien thing?” she asked.

“According to the lady I bought it from, it’s a Ribbon Plant.”

Assuming I had purchased it off the Down-and-Out-but-Not-Quite-Dead table at Lowes, she asked, “Didn’t it have one of those identifying plant markers?”

“Well, nooooo.  I went to one of those plant sales you hear about. In somebody’s back yard. It was just a couple of dark green stalks when I got it a few months ago. Look how nicely it has filled out.”

She raised a warning eyebrow at me.  “Remember that time you and Momma bought Mexican Petunia at a garage sale and it turned out to be invasive?”

Unwilling to admit that I might have, yet again, done something stupid, I slapped at one of our B54 bomber mosquitos and we moved on. After she left, I crept back out to the Ribbon Plant and pulled it back to look at the underside. Oh my. It had a lot of new stalks that looked suspiciously like bamboo.


I tore into the house and threw myself in front of the computer. For someone who has never spent a minute in jail, I get into a lot of trouble. It would be just like me to buy a plant someone had potted up because it was taking over their yard.

I visited several websites. Ribbon Plant/Bush is also known as a centipede plant or tapeworm plant. Isn’t that an ugly thought? The scientific name is homalocladium platycladum. One site said it was from the knotweed family, another said it was a member of the rhubarb and buckwheat family. That’s the way it is with websites. Nobody knows what they’re talking about. Almost all of them agreed it was from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Davesgarden.com said it “may be a noxious weed or invasive.” Other sites said planting it in pots kept it in the 3 to 4 feet range but, out in the yard where I planted mine, it had a tendency to take over and grow to heights of 12 feet. Still, they claimed it could be pruned to any size you wanted.

I read just enough to give me pause. I’ll keep my eyes on it but, at this point, I don’t plan to snatch it out of the ground. It’s a perennial and that’s what I’m after – plants that come back year after year.  It’s also drought tolerant and likes high humidity. But don’t tell my sister that my “alien” plant may prove to be trouble. I’m not keen on hearing, “I told you!”

UPDATE: Ultimately, I did snatch it out of the ground and got rid of it. I don’t want any plant, other than a canna lily, that I have to dig out every year to keep it in check.

8 thoughts on “Ribbon Plant”

  1. Once again you made me smile at your predicament. Mainly because I have done the same thing so many times and have lived to rue the day that I was enamored by an innocent looking plant. Hope it will work out for you.

    Did you get any rain yesterday. We had a nice downpour.

  2. I truly think you should dig it all up and put it in a pretty pot for your front porch. Just in case.

  3. I have had several homalocladium platycladum, for many years in my garden. Not a problem, remains in place, but in very cold winters it almost disappears, reminds me of an aquatic plant living in the Mediterranean, is the “Posidonia oceanica.”

    un saludo

  4. Only you. It gave me more than a smile. I threw my head back and gave out a HA and then snickered that evil snicker of mine because I knew if I kept reading your blog, you would get into trouble and true to my prediction, here you are in trouble again. I just love the way you pick up all these plants and plant them real pretty and then they end up causing you to smack your own self upside the head because they aren’t exactly what you thought. I’m just shaking my head laughing. I can’t wait to see what you’ve done. I’ll try to sneak out your way in the next week or 2.

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