When we’re thinking of fruit plants, the last thing most gardeners would consider is house plants. Yet, bananas are becoming increasingly popular in colder climates. Another worth growing is the ceriman. This is a relative of the common philodendron, a very common indoor plant.
Originally native to the West Indies and tropical America, ceriman is also known as the Swiss cheese plant, shingle plant, splitleaf hurricane plant, fruit salad, and cutleaf philodendron. In Bermuda it goes by other names, including locust and wild honey, and tornelia. In the U.S., ceriman can be grown outdoors in areas with warm conditions, such as southern Florida and California.
In tropical areas, this creeping or climbing plant with thick stems is grown outdoors for its ornamental foliage and edible fruits. It needs a well-drained soil. Most gardeners provide it with a support upon which it can grow. This is particularly needed when it is grown as a garden plant. Ceriman is a large climber that could probably grow non-stop when it receives enough sun and water. However, for fruit production the plants are usually kept to about seven to eight feet in height. Otherwise, too much of the energy goes to vegetative growth.
This plant is also known as Swiss cheese plant for a good reason. So far as anyone knows, this is the only species that actually has naturally occurring perforations in the foliage. The deeply lobed, deep green foliage can be up to two feet across and three feet long. These are heart-shaped with perforations towards the center.
In the wild, the plant grows as an epiphyte on trees and shrubs. Under these conditions, it typically develops aerial roots along the length of the stem.
Under good growing conditions outdoors, ceriman vines will begin full fruit production in two to three years. To get the highest fruit yield, some say that it is best take away the support and let it grow directly on the ground.
When grown in the tropics, flowers tend to appear around June or July. Ceriman blossoms look like typical Aroid flowers with the yellow flowers borne on a cone-like spadix. This is covered by a leaf-like spathe that is white on the inside and yellow on the outside. .
Once the blooms appear, the cylindrical, cone-like fruits will take about 12-14 months to reach maturity and ripen. They will be about eight to ten inches long, and several inches in diameter. Those grown in the tropics can weigh perhaps two pounds. You can tell when these are ready to pick, for all the scales on the spadix will become yellow and begin to drop off.