30 Sep

Lovely Waterside Foliage and Flowering Plant: Gunnera

Gunnera is one of the most unusual botanical creations of nature. Suitable for large gardens, bogs or waterside landscapes, these herbaceous plants can grow to enormous size. Almost all species of Gunnera come from tropical parts of Brazil though some of them grow natively in Colombia and New Zealand.

Gunnera, Foliage Plant

Gunnera

A typical Gunnera plant is characterized by gigantic leaves (up to 10 feet wide). These large leaves grow on thick, succulent stems that usually grow as long as 9 feet. Because of massive foliage, Gunnera plants are not suitable for small gardens. The best place for Gunnera is a waterside bed where they receive ample moist which is very important for their survival.

Of all species, Gunnera Manicata is relatively easy to grow and maintain. Like other species it requires a lot of moisture and temperature between 23° C and 28° C. These plants are sensitive to frost and cannot withstand hot, dry season which is why they are usually cultivated alongside water reserves where they look quite spectacular. Besides their ornamental foliage, almost all species of Gunnera produce attractive and unusual blooms that appear from mid-summer and last till early fall.

Gunnera can be propagated from divisions. Leaves of Gunnera plants usually have spines and sharp edges that should be handled with care. Handling these plants can also cause allergy or irritation on skin.

These plants are also known as Giant Rhubarb.

29 Sep

Tropically Yours: Hawaiin Sunset Vine

Native to Africa and widely cultivated in Pacific and other tropical regions, Stictocardia Beraviensis or Hawaiin Sunset Vine has many lovely things to offer to gardeners: colorful and scented flowers, large ornamental leaves, quick growth, and ability to grow at many different locations in the garden.

Hawaiin Sunset Vine or Stictocardia Beraviensis is a fast growing tropical vine usually grown as evergreen climber in gardens. The plant closely resembles Morning Glory in habit. It bears heart-shaped leaves that usually grow wide (up to 12 inches) and fleshy, and feel velvety to touch. The trumpet-shaped flowers are quite showy and appear almost year round. These scented flowers have all the shades of the setting sun: orange, pink, yellow, red and crimson. Thus they justify the name ‘Sunset Vine’.

Hawaiin Sunset Vine

Hawaiin Sunset Vine

How to Grow Hawaiin Sunset Vine

Stictocardia Beraviensis or Hawaiin Sunset Vine is quite easy to grow. It can grow under full sun as well as shade. For prolific flowering, grow Sunset Vine under full sun. Provide ample water and a rich but well drained soil. It can be grown as container plant but the best results are achieved when it is grown in ground where it gets sufficient room to flourish.

Stictocardia Beraviensis grows easily from stem cuttings as well as from seeds. When in bloom, this lovely plant attracts a lot of birds and butterflies.

28 Sep

Lovely Shade Tree with Scented Flowers: Cape Ash

Ekebergia is a genus of lovely trees and shrubs from tropical regions of Asia and Africa. Belonging to the Mahogany family, this genus is best represented by Cape Ash (Ekebergia Capensis). It is a fast growing and evergreen tree; perfectly suitable for large gardens or as street tree for its ability to provide shade in sunny days.

Cape Ash Tree

Cape Ash Tree

Cape Ash bears bright glossy leaves and sprays of sweet scented flowers. These flowers are usually not showy but emit a light and very sweet scent. Flowers usually appear in spring followed by berry-like fruits in summer or autumn. Fruit is quite ornamental and serves as food for garden birds specially barbets and bulbuls. Ekebergia Capensis or Cape Ash tends to form wide canopy of dense foliage which makes it a good plant for landscapes and large gardens. In Africa, the tree is used in several herbal remedies; the bark is used to treat dysentery whereas roots are used to treat headache and heart burn.

How to grow Cape Ash tree

Cape Ash propagates easily from seeds or hardwood cuttings. Young plants require bright, filtered sunlight and regular watering. Mature plants however can be grown under full sun with moderate watering. The tree can grow up to 15 meters in height and withstands occasional dry spells and some frost. Cape Ash grows into a healthy shade tree when provided with ample room to grow. Hence, the best spot to grow a Cape Ash plant is a well-lit, airy and good room for roots in ground.

24 Sep

Lovely Shrubs for Your Garden: Euonymus

If you are looking for hardy, versatile and lovely shrubs for your garden, look no further. Try Euonymus; it is a genus of lovely and versatile shrubs and small trees. It comes in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Both evergreen and deciduous species of Euonymus are available for gardens as well as container gardening. From more than 170 species of Euonymus, there are plenty of choices. They can be grown as border plants, hedges, small foliage plants and some as ground covers.

Most species of Euonymus offer glossy evergreen foliage, conspicuous blooms and ornamental fruition. Originally native to south Asia, Australia and Madagascar, Euonymus has been successfully grown in almost all parts of the world as ornamental plants. Some of the species have medicinal benefits whereas some have been used traditionally for making wooden spindles for the textile industry. That is why Euonymus is commonly described as ‘Spindle Tree’.

Euonymus Japonica

From many popular species, Euonymus Japonica is perhaps the most popular and widely grown plant. It is quite hardy and easy to grow. This shrubby plant can be pruned easily for growing as border plant, shrub or topiary shapes. Euonymus Japonica grows as evergreen shrub up to 5 meters and bears glossy green leaves. Flowers are insignificant but fruits (showy pink berries usually produced in autumn) are attractive. There are several variegated species of Euonymus Japonica available at nurseries.

Euonymus Japonica, Evergreen Shrub

Euonymus Japonica, Spindle Tree, Image by John (Puzzler4879@flickr)

How to grow Euonymus Japonica

Euonymus Japonica is capable of growing in many different conditions without much fuss. It can tolerate poor soil and light conditions. The best place for Euonymus Japonica is a well-lit spot where it receives full or filtered sunlight for most time of the day. Water moderately; do not overwater (young plants, however, require moist soil). Propagation is easy from cuttings.

22 Sep

Butea Monosperma: Flame of the Forest

Butea Monosperma or Flame of the Forest is a mid-sized tree from tropical and sub-tropical regions of South East Asia especially Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and farther across Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. Irregular branching habit, racemes of large bright orange-red flowers and pinnate leaves are typical characteristics of this beautiful tree.

Butea Monosperma usually grows as a mid-sized tree (up to 12 meters) and bears soft velvety leaves of bronze green color. Old leaves feel stiff and leathery. The tree sheds most of its leaves in winter to exposes branches. However, spring season brings foliage and abundance of flaming red-orange flowers that stand out in any landscape for their unusual shape and bright colors justifying the name ‘Flame of the Forest’. These bright and unusual flowers attract birds and butterflies that act as pollinating agents.

Butea Monosperma, Flame of the Forest

Butea Monosperma, Flame of the Forest

Butea Monosperma is useful not only for ornamental purposes but also for its timber and medicinal benefits. The wood is soft and durable under water. Flowers are used to extract dyes whereas the gum excreted by stems is used by druggists in herbal medicine for its astringent qualities.

How to grow Butea Monosperma

Butea Monosperma or Flame of the Forest is a good choice for gardens as it does not grow vigorously and makes a mid-sized tree that can be pruned easily to manage space. Flame of the Forest prefers good exposure to sun and moderate watering.

Butea Monosperma is also recognized as Butea Frondosa.

20 Sep

Lovely Flowering Tree for Shady Spots: Yellow Ashoka

Saraca is a genus of small, evergreen trees known for their lovely foliage and flowers. These plants belong to tropical regions of South East Asia where they are grown as ornamental trees. Most species of Saraca are small trees (8 to 10 meters in height) that prefer warm and damp climates in a shady spot.

Saraca Thaipingensis or Yellow Ashoka is a popular ornamental tree grown for its lovely foliage and flowers. The tree is named for its bright yellow and fragrant flowers that gradually turn to orange and then red as they mature. Flowers are rich in nectar and attract butterflies and garden birds. New growth of leaves is glossy green, limpy and soft to touch (often hanging in long pendulous form) that is why, the tree is also called ‘The Handkerchief’ tree.

Yellow Ashoka Flowers

Yellow Ashoka Flowers, Image by Lip Kee (flickr)

How to Grow Yellow Ashoka

Yellow Ashoka grows up to 10 meters and requires rich and moist (but well drained) soil in a shady spot; preferably under a big tree where they receive bright but indirect sunlight (grow under full sun where summer sun is not harsh and scorching). Yellow Ashoka produces bunches of small yellow flowers that emit pleasant fragrance.

Yellow Ashoka is easy to propagate from seeds. Another popular species of this group is Saraca Indica or Ashoka Tree.

19 Sep

Living Stones of African Deserts: Lithops

Lithops are some of the most fascinating and unusual plants from the most dry and arid regions of Africa. In fact, they are an excellent example of survival for their ability to grow under extremely dry conditions and camouflage themselves for protection from animals. Lithops are so good at blending themselves with their surroundings that one can hardly spot these unusual plants in their native habitat where they grow among pebbles and rocks. For this reason, they are also known as Living Stones.

Lithops, The Living Stones

Lithops, The Living Stones, Image by yellowcloud (flickr)

Typically, Lithops (Buy seeds online) consists of two fleshy leaves with fissures on their top. The pair of leaves dries up every winter giving way to a fresh pair of succulent leaves. The leaves usually stray buried in the soil with only the top surface exposed to the climate. This top surface varies in colors and patterns according to the climate and distribution of plants.

Growing Lithops could be challenging but with a bit of practice you can grow them as ornamental plants in your dish gardens or as container plants. When growing at home, be very careful when watering. Since these succulent plants have a lot of water stored in their leaves, they do not require regular watering. If you living in regions of mild climate, keep your plants completely dry during winter since plants would extract sufficient water from drying pair of leaves. Water barely enough to wet the soil surface in summer. In hotter climates, Lithops go dormant during summer. At this time, they should be kept dry (water slightly only when leaves start shrinking). In tropical climates, allow Lithops plants to stay dormant in summer and start watering in winter.

The name ‘lithops’ is derived from two Greek words ‘lithos’ (stones) and ‘ops’ (face).

Lithops generally bloom and grow in autumn or spring. Flowers are white or yellow and emit sweet fragrance. These small yet attractive flowers appear from the center of the pair of leaves.

How to grow Lithops ‘Living Stones’

Unlike in their native habitat, Lithops (Buy seeds online) do not adopt easily to climate outside their native habitat so it is important to understand specific requirements of each species. Generally, it is advised to provide them with filtered but ample sunlight. Grow them in porous and well-drained soil and provide just barely sufficient water in growing season. Lithops can be grown from seeds or off springs.

18 Sep

Striking Landscape Plant: Opuntia Ficus Indica, Prickly Pear

Opuntia Ficus Indica or Prickly Pear is an excellent plant for beginners, master gardeners and professionals alike. It makes a striking accent plant and adds dramatic effects in gardens, landscapes and plantation schemes. The plant is known for typical wide, succulent, pad-like leaves that bear needle-like spines. Large spines have tufts of tiny bristles at their base that are usually known as glochids.

Opuntia Ficus Indica

Opuntia Ficus Indica, Image by Catalina Gracia

Opuntia Ficus Indica can be grown as ornamental plant in containers, landscapes or rock gardens where it grows as unusual shrub up to 6 meters. Cup shaped flowers of yellow, red or purple colors appear at edges of succulent pads. Flowering is followed by fruition. The fruit is called ‘tuna’ and is covered in a thick, spiny skin which is why the plant is called prickly pear. Fruits are edible and taste like watermelon. Opuntia Ficus Indica is grown in many parts of Mexico as a crop as both leaves and fruits are used in many traditional recipes (leaves serve as vegetable and are also used in preparation of jams and jellies) and medicines (for diabetic patients). In fact, Mexico is the largest producer of Opuntia Ficus Indica.

How to Grow Opuntia Ficus Indica ‘Prickly Pear’

Opuntia Ficus Indica has been acclimatized in almost all parts of the world where it grows without requiring any special care. Opuntia Ficus Indica grows in a well drained soil under bright sunlight. The plant can withstand long spells of drought and cold. Water only when the soil is completely dry. When growing on containers or garden, handle Prickly Pear plant with care for its spines and bristles.

Opuntia, Prickly Pear Fruit

Prickly Pear, Image by Tomás Castelazo

17 Sep

Tropical Flowering Shrubs for Poor Soil: Convolvulus Cneorum

Convolvulus is a genus of annual and perennial shrubs from tropical and Mediterranean regions. These easy to grow plants vary from climbers or trailing plants to shrubs and mound forming bushes. Plants and flowers also vary in size and spread. Flowers of Convolvulus plants are trumpet shaped and vary from white and pink to purple and mauve in color. These sun loving plants grow quite easily and survive very well in sandy, chalky and dry soil.

Convolvulus Cneorum, Flowering Shrub, Morning Glory

Convolvulus Cneorum, Image by Jessie Hirsch

Convolvulus Cneorum which is commonly known as Silver Bush grows as low growing plant and usually forms a think carpet of evergreen foliage. Because of its capacity to withstand drought and grow in poor soil, Convolvulus Cneorum is a good choice for rock gardens or as ground cover for sandy or poor soil. It is easy to maintain and should be pruned back after flowering.

How to grow Convolvulus Cneorum

Convolvulus Cneorum or Silver Bush grows well in sunny positions where it is protected from frost and long, dry spells of cold. These plants are easily propagated from seeds and require just sufficient water; do not over water.

Convolvulus Cneorum is generally related to the family of Morning Glory. Other popular species include: Convolvulus Mauritanicus, Convolvulus Tricolor and Convolvulus Arvensis.