28 Jun

Ginkgo Biloba – The Ultimate Survivor

Ginkgo Biloba belongs the Ginkgophyta division of the Plant kingdom. This is one of the oldest surviving species and the only plant of its kind having no relative plants, that is why, it is also called living fossil or fossil tree. The oldest known living tree of Ginkgo about 3,000 years old and is located in Shandong province of China. Fossilized Ginkgo trees dating back 200 million years prove that they have survived various ice ages.

ginkgo biloba leaves

Photo © www.parks.It

Habits

Ginkgo Biloba is a hardy plant and can be grown easily as it is capable of surviving in various conditions. They are said to have survived nuclear explosions at Hiroshima. Ginkgo Biloba trees prefer moderately hot climate and grow well under full to partial sun. The growth is somewhat slow; on average it takes thirty years to reach maturity. A fully grown Ginkgo Biloba tree can attain an average height of about 120 feet in its natural condition.

Ginkgo Biloba is dioecious – meaning they have separate male and female plants. They usually bloom in March and April. The female plants bear flowers whereas male plants produce yellowish catkins. Fruits are smelly and grow on female plants therefore most commercial cultivators grow male plants. The leaves are fan-shaped and have a span of around 3 inches. They turn yellow in the fall before dropping off.

ginkgo biloba fruits

Photo © efloras.org

Tips for Growers

Since Ginkgo Biloba is resistant to severe environmental conditions and soil. It can be grow easily as a house plant or garden tree as compared to other tree species. Commercially, Ginkgo Biloba is grown for medicinal purposes but it can also be grown as ornamental plant or lawn tree as well. It can also be turned in to an excellent bonsai tree.

ginkgo biloba tree

Photo © Kevin C. Nixon

When growing Ginkgo Biloba as house plant, provide it with loamy soil with good drainage (the soil can be supplemented with organic manures and compost) and select a place where it gets good sunlight for a couple of hours. Plants that grow in a sunny condition develop better foliage and fruits. Seeds can be sowed in late fall. Young seedlings should be protected from frost and harsh environmental conditions. Seedlings can be planted in garden soil during spring. Young plants should be watered carefully as they cannot tolerate excessive moisture.

The growing cycle starts in May and ends around September. A young plant can gain approximately 30 cm of height each year. The plants in my collection are two years old.

ginkgo biloba young plants

Photo © The Lovely Plants

Medicinal Uses

Ginkgo Biloba is known for its medicinal value and is used to cure a number of medical conditions and diseases including loss of memory, circulatory problems, premenstrual syndrome, alzheimer, asthma , hypertension and high blood pressure.

Self-medication or any use without medical supervision, however, is never recommended.

Culinary Uses

Nuts from Ginkgo Biloba seeds are considered a delicacy in China and other Asian countries. They are served roasted or boiled with meal and also used in oriental dishes, soup and porridge.

Origin

Ginkgo Biloba is considered native of Eastern China.

16 Jun

Unusual Plants and Forms of Agave Victoria Reginae

This is sequel to my previous post on my favorite agave plant, Agave Victoria Regina. The plant in undoubtedly one of the most beautiful among agave plants. In this post, I am showing some unusual varieties of Agave Victoria Reginae. All pictures are taken from the collection of Cok & Ine Grootscholte from Netherlands. They have a nice collection of unusual and collectible nursery plants including some rare species.

Agave Victoria Reginae variegated, Kizan

Agave Victoria Reginae variegated, Kizan

08 Jun

Victoria Regina, Agave for Container Gardening

One of my all-times-favorite agaves in Agave Victoria Regina – the globular form, the smooth white lines across its shiny, striking green leaves, and the contrast of rigid black terminal spines make it a perfect ornamental and container plant. This is one the earliest plants in my collection since I started liking and collecting agave plants. The plant that I am showing in this post is about 36 cm in diameter growing in a large container under partial sun.

agave-victoria-regina-plant

Photo © The Lovely Plants

Habits

Agave Victoria Regina is a very slow growing plant. Usually it forms a dense rosette of up to 45 cm and does not grow taller than 22 cm. The leaves are trigonous, green to dark-green in color, 15 to 20 cm long and up to 3 cm broad with white margins and smooth lines on the surface. There are a dozens of varieties of Agave Victoria Regina – most of the varieties are hybrids or sub-species and are named according to different patterns of leaves and white lines. Most common sub-species are King Ferdinand’s agave, Agave ferdinandi-regis and var. viridis.

agave-victoria-close-up

Photo © The Lovely Plants

Flowers

Agave Victoria Regina has a long reproductive cycle. It does not flower before it reaches maturity; this can take about 20 to 40 years. Most agaves are monocarpic so is Agave Victoria Regina. The plant blooms in summer and dies after an exhaustive flowering period. Like all agaves, flowers on Agave Victoria Regina grow on a stalk that can grow as tall as 4 meters containing immense foliage. The flowers often have shades of pale white, cream, red, and purple.

agave-victoria-regina-flower

Photo © The Lovely Plants

Watering

Agave Victoria Regina requires a well-drained soil and careful watering; allow the soil to dry between watering. If you are growing this agave outdoor, keep it under partial sun during summer and under bright light during winter; the plant can withstand low temperature but it is advised that you protect it from freezing temperatures to keep your plant healthy.

Growing Indoor as a Container Plant

Agave Victoria Regina can be grown indoors as a container plant where fresh air, and generous filtered sunlight is available; avoid overwatering.

Fertilizing

Agave Victoria Regina is not a hungry plant and does not require frequent fertilizer. Feeding once a year in spring or summer is sufficient. When grown in a container, make sure you provide sufficient space to grow its root as the root system of Agave Victoria Regina is quite vigorous. Also re-pot the plant in a slightly wider container after every one or two years.

Propagation

Agave Victoria Regina can be reproduced from seeds. Most species remain solitary and do not produce much off-shoot. Only selected species such as forma caespitosa would produce off-shoots in abundance.

Origin

Agave Victoria Regina is a native of the state of Coahuila and south of Nuevo Leon in north-eastern Mexico. It is an endangered species in wild but grown widely in cultivation.

04 Jun

Ixora – flowering bush for gardens and hedges

Ixora is an evergreen flowering bush and belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which is one of the most important families of the plant kingdom because of its commercial, medicinal and ornamental use. Two species from this family, Coffea canephor and Coffea Arabica, are used for the production of coffee. The bark of trees of Cinchona is used to extract quinine which is widely used for the cure of malaria. Similarly, Psychotria Ipecacuanha is used to produce Ipecac syrup used for emetic purposes.

Photo © The Lovely Plants

Characteristics of Ixora

As a flowering bush, Ixora grows in to a dense and well branched shrub, commonly reaching 4 to 6 feet in height though some species can grow as tall as 12 feet. The size and color of leaves and flowers vary across 400 species. Plants have glossy leaves of dark green color and large clusters of tiny star shaped flowers of white, red, yellow or orange color that usually bloom in summer. It is also known as West Indian Jasmine, Jungle Geranium, and Flame in the Woods.

ixora flower bunch

Photo © The Lovely Plants

Ixora as a Flowering Bush

Shrubs and bushes can add a strikingly effect to your garden or indoor landscape. However, the requirements and growing habits of flowering bushes can be a little different from most of the flowering or ornamental plants. Like other flowering bushes, Ixora require a little attention, pruning to become a nice flowering bush or container plant for your home.

Though Ixora is not a popular houseplant, it can be a good candidate as a container plant in shaded porches, patios or pool sides for ornamental purpose or as a flowering bush in gardens. IxoraNora Grant‘ and ‘Super King’ are perfect as flowering bush whereas Ixora Coccinea is suitable for hedges and screens. Ixora can also be used in landscapes as annual flowering bush.

start shaped flowers of ixora

Photo © The Lovely Plants

If you are planning a bed of flowering bushes in your landscape, some of the good companions of your Ixora can be: Boxwood Wintergreen, Buddleia Bi-Color- butterfly bush, Golden Forsythia and Hydrangea Nikko.

Tips for Growing Ixora

Soil

Ixora prefers somewhat moist, peat-based acidic soil. Alkaline soils usually causes the leaves to turn dull or yellow.

Fertilizer

During Spring and early summer, feed every two weeks; feed monthly during the winter. Use acidic fertilizer containing minor nutrients and trace elements as these are important to maintain healthy foliage of this flowering bush.

Watering

Water generously during the summer, reduce watering during the winter season. Generally, they prefer regular watering in a well drained soil.

Light

Ixora loves bright light throughout the year but do not like direct sunlight of the summer. If you are growing it indoor, make sure that you place it outdoor for some time especially during the spring season. Ixora do not tolerate freezing temperature. If you plan to bring indoors for the winter, do so gradually so that the plant can adjust to the lower level of light. Once indoors, do not over water.

Propagation

Cuttings taken in the spring can be used to propagate plants, however, it is a bit difficult to root Ixoras.

Other Uses of Ixora

Red Ixora flowers are commonly used in Hindu worship, as well as in Indian folk medicine. Generally Ixoras are grown as ornamental plants in containers, as a flowering bush in landscapes and as a hedge. They make an excellent choice for bonsai as well.

Origin

Topical and sub-tropical regions across the world especially Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Florida.