29 Aug

Ornamental, Indoor/Outdoor Plant: Pedilanthus Tithymaloides

Pedilanthus is a genus of ornamental shrubs and bushes grown for their foliage. Most of the species have succulent leaves and stems with milky sap. Originally native to tropical regions of America, Pedilanthus grows easily in most parts of the world as ornamental foliage plants for outdoor as well as indoor houseplant. The most popular species is Pedilanthus Tithymaloides mostly grown as indoor foliage plant.

Pedilanthus Tithymaloides, Slipper Plant

Pedilanthus Tithymaloides, Slipper Plant - Image by douneika (flickr)

Pedilanthus Tithymaloides is commonly known as Jacob’s Ladder or Slipper plant because of its ‘zig zag’ stem and symmetrical patterns of leaves alongside the stem. Both glossy green and variegated varieties of this lovely foliage plant are available. Variegated leaves usually have a touch of pink in winter. Pedilanthus Tithymaloides can be grown in containers as well as in rock gardens or as border plant in gardens. Flowers of pink and reddish-pink color appear on stems.

How to Grow Pedilanthus Tithymaloides

Pedilanthus Tithymaloides is not fussy about food and light. It is quite hardy plant that would withstand some neglect, however, for healthy foliage plants, provide Pedilanthus Tithymaloides with a warm and bright spot to grow. Water only when the soil is dry.

28 Aug

Fast Growing, Ornamental Ground Cover: Ajuga Reptans

Ajuga Reptans or Carpet Bugleweed is a quick solution if you are looking for a plant to cover wide empty spaces, beds or bare soil. As a vigorous growing groundcover, it would readily cover the ground to form a low growing thick mat of dark green or coppery leaves. Ajuga Reptans can also be used to control soil erosion as it spreads quickly via runners and grows almost in any type of soil with good drainage.

Ajuga Reptans Groundcover

Ajuga Reptans Groundcover, Image from wikipedia

Grown as ornamental groundcover, Ajuga Reptans is good for beds as well as landscapes where it provides a glossy dense mat of leaves and produces attractive flowers of blue or purple colors. Flowers grow on small stalks (up to 6 inches). These conspicuous flowers make a spectacular show in spring till midsummer. Ajuga Reptans can also be grown under tree or combined with shrubs in landscapes for a dramatic effect in flowering season. Rich in nectar, flowers of Ajuga Reptans attract birds, bees and butterflies.

How to Grow Ajuga Reptans

Ajuga Reptans is native to Europe and parts of Asia and Australia. It can be grown under shade or sun with regular watering. It does not have any special soil needs and grows in almost any soil with good water drainage. Propagation is done from softwood cuttings.

26 Aug

Lovely, Deciduous Flowering Tree: Cercis siliquastrum

If you are looking for a tree that is unique in shape and delightful in blooms, try Cercis siliquastrum. Commonly known as Judas tree, it is perhaps one the most beautiful species of all deciduous bloomers. It is hardy, drought tolerant, frost resistant and shaped beautifully in wild as well as in cultivation.

In its natural habitat that includes parts of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Cercis siliquastrum grows up to 30 meters, however, in cultivation it would rarely gain that much height because it grows quite slowly. This makes Cercis Siliquastrum as good choice for gardens where you have limited space. Though it is drought tolerant, Cercis siliquastrum flourishes well when waters adequately.

Cercis Siliquastrum, Judas Tree

Cercis siliquastrum, Image by Andrew Dunn

Being a member of pea-family (like Wisteria, Robinia, Cassia etc.), Cercis siliquastrum is an excellent bloomer especially in winter and spring when it bears small yet very attractive flowers of magenta or pink colors. Flowers are borne on the trunk before leaves and are followed by seed pods that last long. The beautiful pink or magenta flowers not only add to the ornamental value of this handsome tree but are also used in salads for their tangy taste.

How to Grow Cercis siliquastrum

Cercis siliquastrum is propagated form softwood cuttings or seeds. Being native to temperate regions, these deciduous plants prefer exposure to bright sunlight and average water.

24 Aug

9 Expert Tips – How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

Birds chirping in your garden or hopping about branches are a treat to watch. They add pleasure to the hobby and keep your garden free from insects and pests. However, with urban settlements expanding in all directions, the entire landscape of our metropolitan areas is becoming less favorable for wild birds – forcing them to migrate. Fortunately, gardeners still have something that can attract these wild visitors back – nectar and pollens.

Birds visit gardens for their basic needs: food, shelter and water. By fulfilling these basic needs, you can attract birds to your gardens easily but it is not going to happen tomorrow. It would take some time for birds to recognize your garden as a safe haven. Getting started is easy – all you have to do is select appropriate plants and safe environment for birds. The following is a list of things you can do to attract birds to your gardens.

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

Birds Feeding in Garden – Image by Nostaw21(flickr)

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

  1. Select appropriate plants that provide wild visitors plenty of nectar and pollens. Visits of birds depend on the type of flowers and plants growing in your gardens. You can introduce good variety of plants to attract birds to your gardens year around.
  2. Maintain a clean lawn for larger birds to hop about and feed on worms.
  3. Plant trees that bear fruits and seeds; they attract many birds who visit these trees to find their food.
  4. Grow trees and bushes. They offer good nesting sites for birds where they can stay protected from pets and predatory birds.
  5. If you have a bigger lawn, add some dense corners where birds can protect themselves from predators as well as strong winds and rainstorms. Different parts of garden attract different types of birds. For instance larger birds prefer open spaces whereas smaller birds stay near bushes and shrubs.
  6. Provide water. For bigger gardens, provide running water. It attracts more birds. If you do not have enough space for running water or you live in a dry climate, offer small drinking and bathing places for birds. Drinking locations should be safe from pets; preferably at a higher spot near trees and bushes in your garden. Keep drinking water clean and free from ice. Add some rocks to water reservoirs to allow birds to perch upon.
  7. Add some nest boxes in quiet corners of your gardens to allow birds to stay and breed. Make sure that nest boxes are ventilated and off-ground, and are protected from pets and rain and strong winds.
  8. Add bird feeders (Buy online) in your gardens to provide some extra food especially in ‘off-season’ when natural food is not sufficient. Keep bird feeders away from squirrels.
  9. Go organic. Try to avoid spraying your plants or using inorganic fertilizers. Birds detest chemicals.

Finally, understand that birds would visit your garden only occasionally at first. Most of them would come from nearby areas. When they are convinced that you garden provides them safe haven and good source of food, they would visit frequently and start making their nests.

22 Aug

Fast Growing Ornamental Groundcover: Duchesnea Indica

Duchesnea Indica is a quick growing, ornamental plant that spreads quickly to serve as a good groundcover. Popularly known as Indian Strawberry or Mock Strawberry, Duchesnea Indica bears ornamental foliage and fruit – both resemble the foliage and fruit of real strawberry plants, however the fruit of Mock Strawberry is quite tasteless.

Duchesnea Indica grows natively in south Asia and parts of eastern Asia as a low growing perennial. The plant has been acclimatized in many parts of the worlds where it is grown as ornamental houseplant. Suitable as groundcover, for container gardening and window gardens, these low growing plants do not require special care. In fact, they can withstand neglect.

Duchesnea Indica, Mock Strawberry, Indian Strawberry

Duchesnea Indica, Image by Shihmei Barger

How to Grow Duchesnea Indica

Mock Strawberry can be grown easily from divisions or seeds as evergreen groundcover. It requires full to partial sun and tolerates drought and frost – a good choice for xeriscaping. Duchesnea Indica self-seeds in favorable conditions and becoming quite invasive.

20 Aug

Ornamental Foliage Plant for Indoor Gardens: Maranta Leuconeura

Growing Maranta could be a little challenging but the beauty of these beautiful foliage plants is worth the effort. Known for their colorful foliage, Maranta are perennial plants that are usually grown indoors as ornamental houseplants. Most species are evergreen low growing plants with large oval leaves and small flowers. If you are looking for decent indoor plants for containers, do consider Maranta.

Maranta Leuconeura

Maranta Leuconeura, Image by Drew Avery

How to Grow Maranta

The most commonly grown species is Maranta Leuconeura that produces clumps of large oval leaves with green, brown or silver markings. Being native to tropical climate, Maranta Leuconeura requires moist and warm climate to grow. In colder climates, it can be provided grown indoors at a warmer spot. Maranta Leuconeura  requires filtered sunlight, and damp but well-drained soil with regular feeding.

Large oval leaves of Maranta Leuconeura tend to fold together at night, that is why, it is commonly known as Prayer Plant.

19 Aug

Evergreen, Flowering Shrub for Tropical Gardens: Tecoma

Tecoma is a small genus of sun loving shrubs and small trees from Central and South America. Grown as popular houseplants, Tecoma produces clusters of trumpet shaped yellow and orange flowers. Evergreen in warm climates and deciduous in colder climate, Tecoma is easy to grow and attract many pollinating bees, butterflies and birds when in full bloom – adding charm to the garden.

Tecoma Capensis, Flowering Shrub

Tecoma Capensis, Image from wikipedia

How to Grow Tecoma

Most species of Tecoma can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. The best media to grow these prolific bloomers is a well-drained soil watered moderately. Provide them a sunny spot to grow and prune back after flowering season which is usually in summer.

Popular Species of Tecoma

Tecoma Alata: Evergreen shrub that tends to form a small tree. Bears showy yellow flowers in summer.

Tecoma Grandiflora: A vigorous climber and produces orange or scarlet flowers during all months of the year.

Tecoma Radicans: A perfect flowering shrub for covering walls or old trees because of its climbing habit. Bears scarlet, tubular flowers.

Tecoma Jasminoides: Evergreen climber with shiny, dark green foliage and wide open trumpet flowers of white or pink colors.

17 Aug

Lovely Flowering Plant for Rock Gardens: Gaura Lindheimeri

Gaura commonly known as Beeblossom is a genus of annuals and perennials from North America where it grows natively as summer bloomer. These hardy and drought tolerant plants produce long and delicate spikes of conspicuous flowers. The most popular species of the genus is Gaura Lindheimeri which is grown commercially as popular garden plant. Suitable for borders or as background filler in landscape, Gaura Lindheimeri grows into dense clusters and bears ornamental flowers from midsummer till early fall. Flowers are white with a touch of pink and appear in frequent sprays.

Gaura Lindheimeri is a good choice for xeriscaping or rock gardens because of its capacity to withstand drought.

Gaura Lindheimeri, Beeblossom

Gaura Lindheimeri, Image by Søren Holt

How to Grow Gaura Lindheimeri

Gaura Lindheimeri performs good at both sunny or partial shady garden locations. Being a hardy plant, it requires moderate watering but protection from strong winds. Propagation is easy from divisions.

15 Aug

Easy to Grow Foliage Plant: Kochia Scoparia (Summer Cypress)

Kochia scoparia or Summer Cypress (Buy seeds online) is a hardy and drought-tolerant foliage plant grown as ornamental as well as forage plant. It is a quick growing plant that tends to form rounded or pyramid body of dense leaves and branches. Young plants of Kochia are bright green and color but turn red in colder climate as they mature. Thin and finely cut leaves of Kochia add to its ornamental value. It is useful as accent plant in landscapes and grows in almost any soil (rich, sandy, alkaline, poor etc.) except very acidic conditions. For this reason, Kochia is sometimes grown at mass level to control soil erosion, and for reclamation or re-vegetation of land.

Kochia scoparia can spread very quickly and become invasive in warm and dry climates where it breaks off from the base and is blown by winds as a tumbleweed. In landscapes and gardens, it can be contained by frequent trimming especially before formation of seed heads in spring.

Kochia Scoparia contains higher levels of protein and oxalate than most grasses and fodder plants, thus it also serves as a forage crop for livestock. However, high intake of Kochia scoparia can be toxic for most animals therefore  it should be used sparingly and mixed with other forage plants .

Kochia Scoparia, Summer Cypress Plant

Kochia Scoparia, Image by Shin Kusano

How to Grow Kochia

Kochia is fairly easy to grow and does not have any special requirements. Propagated from seeds, Kochia requires bright sunlight and moderate water.