31 Jan

Ornamental & Tropical Flowering Tree: African Tulip

Spathodea Campanulata, The African Tulip Tree

African Tulip Tree, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad

These lovely flowers grow on Spathodea Campanulata which is an ornamental, evergreen tree from tropical climates of Africa. Commonly described as African Tulip tree or sometimes Flame Tree, Spathodea Campanulata makes an excellent ornamental tree for gardens and landscapes.

African Tulip is a fast growing tree that grows up to 80 feet in its natural habitat. However, in cultivation it does not grow beyond 60-65 feet. The rich scarlet flowers are very showy and appear in summer. Flowers are bell-shaped and are followed by formation of seed pods that burst to spread the seeds by wind.

African Tulip tree requires rich and moist soil where it can establish its deep roots. The plant prefers bright sunlight and protection from frost and drought. Since, it grows quite quickly, Spathodea Campanulata is an excellent choice for landscape or mass plantation projects. The tree is good for its showy flowers as well as for its shady canopy which makes it a nice shade plant in in tropical summer climates.

The tree can be propagated from seeds as well as cuttings.

28 Jan

Ornamental Fern for Indoor and Outdoor Gardens: Holly Fern

Cyrtomium is a genus of about 20 species of fern majorly from temperature climates of eastern Asia, and parts of Africa and Madagascar. The most popular of these easy –to-grow ferns is Cyrtomium Falcatum which is commonly known as Holly Fern.

Holly Fern is an evergreen perennial fern which is suitable for both outdoor and indoor plantation. The plant bears glossy green and erect fronds with edgy margins. The plant is quite hardy and survives a bit neglect. Whether grown indoor or outdoor, Holly Fern can grow in shady or poorly-lit areas (though bright sunlight is preferred) as far as it is protected from freezing temperature.

Cyrtomium Falcatum, The Holly Fern

Holly Fern, Image by Gardening in a Minute (Flickr)

Being a native of temperate climates, Holly Fern requires regular watering, a well-drained soil and temperature range of 50 to 72 F. Propagation is done from spores that germinate in a moist soil. In its habitat, Holly Fern grows in woodlands, crevices and rocks, hence it is can be grown successfully in landscapes and gardens in similar conditions as a nice ornamental and foliage plant.

24 Jan

Tropical, Flowering Shrub: Holmskioldia, The Chinese Hat Plant

Holmskioldia is a genus of flowering shrubs that are known for their colorful flowers and for the ability to grow easily. Native to tropical climates of Asia and Africa, Holmskioldia are a decent addition to gardens and landscapes where they grow as shrubs or small trees. The genus offers both evergreen and deciduous species – almost all of them produce colorful flowers from fall to spring. Flowers are red, orange or yellow. In some species dropping flowers have colors contrasting to the calyces adding dramatic colors to the garden. Flowers are shaped like a tiny hat, that is why, these plants are also known as Chinese Hat Plant or Parasol Flowers. These small and colorful flowers are often visited by bees and garden birds.

Holmskioldia Sanguinea, Chinese Hat Plant

Holmskioldia Sanguinea, Image by Douglas Sprott

Holmskioldia are not demanding plants and grow easily is almost any soil. Propagated from cuttings or layering, most species of Holmskioldia require bright sunlight and average watering.

Holmskioldia are good candidates for espalier projects because of their long, trailing branches that can be easily trained or trimmed.

Popular species of Holmskioldia include:

Holmskioldia Sanguinea – spring and summer blooming shrub (up to 3 meters) with red and orange calyces.

Holmskioldia Tettensis – summer blooming shrub (up to 2 meters) with blue and mauve calyces.

22 Jan

Small, Lovely and Hardy Flowering Plant: Hypoxis

Hypoxis or Star Flower is a genus of more than 90 species that grow in most climates and conditions – from summer rainfall areas to marshy forests and from sunny grasslands to rocky landscapes. Hypoxis are identified by their typical star-shaped flowers and usually hairy leaves. Flowers are usually yellow or white that bloom in late spring till early summer.

Hypoxis are tough plants that survive drought and frost. They can be grown easily in landscapes or as small ornamental plants in containers. Most species of Hypoxis are low growing, thus, they can be used a ground covers as well.

Hypoxis, The Yellow Star Flower

Hypoxis, The Yellow Star Flower, Image by Scott Zona

Hypoxis are grown from seeds or by dividing rhizomes. They thrive in a sunny location where they receive moderate water in a well-drained soil.

Common species include: Hypoxis Rooperi, H. Argentea, H. Costata, and H. Angustifolia.

19 Jan

Ornamental, Summer Flowering Shrub: Iochroma Cyaneum

Iochroma is a genus of flowering shrubs and small trees from the family of Brugmansia. Originating from tropical zones of South America, Ichroma make good landscape plants as well as indoor patio plants when protected from frost. These plants are known for their drooping, trumpet-shaped summer flowers that usually appear in many shades of yellow, red, purple, white, scarlet and blue.

Iochroma Cyaneum, The Blue Cestrum, Ornamental Shrub

Iochroma Cyaneum, Image by Leonora Enking

Most species of Iochroma grow vigorously and require regular pruning. They are easily trained as hedges or topiary shapes. The most common of all species is Iochroma Cyaneum or Blue Cestrum. It grows as a flowering shrub up to 3 meters and produces violet-blue flowers in summer. Flowers grow in clusters and attract bees and garden birds as pollinating agents.

Iochroma Cyaneum requires full to partial sun and regular watering (avoid overwatering). It is propagated from softwood cuttings.

14 Jan

Easy to Grow Ground Cover & Landscape Plant: Liriope Muscari

Liriope is a genus of low-growing foliage plants that are grown widely in temperate regions as ground covers and landscape plants. These grass-like evergreen plants are usually associated with the lily family. Ideal for pots, baskets, pathways, borders and as patio plants, most species of Liriope are quite easy to grow and maintain.

One of the commercially popular species is Liriope Muscari which grows in clumps of narrow leaves. This beautiful plant spreads quickly and easily and is suitable for garden landscapes as ground cover. It can also be grown as indoor pot plant when provided with adequate light and temperature.

Liriopes Muscari

Liriopes Muscari, Image by Martin Vicentea

Liriope plants prefer bright sunlight and regular watering in a well-drained soil mix. Liriope Miscari, which is commonly known as monkey grass, spider grass or lily turf, propagates easily from root mass. The plant produces green, sometimes variegated foliage, and violet flowers on dense spikes in summer. Flowers last long and can be used as cut flower.

12 Jan

Feijoa: The Pineapple-Guava Fruit Plant

Feijoa is an evergreen shrub or small tree from warmer climates of South America, Australia and New Zealand and is known particularly for its fruit and lovely flowers. Commonly known as Pineapple Guava because of its sweet and aromatic fruit, Feijoa has been in cultivation as ornamental plant for a long time.

Feijoa Flowers

Feijoa Flowers

Feijoa makes an excellent ornamental plant in landscape where it can be grown as small tree or as trimmed hedges or garden screens. Though a bit slow grower, Feijoa performs very well as ornamental plant that produces lovely flowers of pink and purple colors. Leaves are leathery green and are soft and smooth to touch. Fruit usually ripens in autumn. It is of the size of a small guava and emits a pleasant smell which is reminiscent of pineapple and guava, strawberry and passion fruit. Feijoa fruit has very short shelf life and is usually consumed locally – majorly in salads, jams, smoothies and just as edible fruit. The pulp is also used in cosmetics as exfoliating agent.

Feijoa Fruit

Feijoa Fruit

Feijoa requires partial shade and protection from scorching heat. It can withstand frost and winter drought, however, lack of water causes the fruit to drop. Thus it is advised to irrigate Feijoa with regular but moderate watering. It is usually propagated from seeds though they grow very slow while they are young. A number of cultivars are also available that produce lovely flowers and attract a lot of gardens birds and bees.

Popular cultivars include: Feijoa Apollo, F. Coolidge, F. Moore, F. Gemini, and Feijoa Triumph.

11 Jan

Tropical Foliage Plants for Beginners: Hoffmannia

Hoffmannia is a genus of evergreen foliage plants from tropical climates of South and Central America. These medium and low growing plants are known for their lovely foliage which makes them a good choice for landscapes as well as container gardening.

Hoffmannia Refulgens

Hoffmannia Refulgens, Image by Frank Vincentz

Usually propagated form cuttings, most species of Hoffmannia root easily and establish themselves quickly when provided with suitable growing conditions – warm climate and slightly moist soil. Most species would grow in cold climates when growing in greenhouses. In their native, tropical climates Hoffmannia grow as a hardy plant which can be placed outdoors as well as indoors when bright sunlight and warm temperature are provided.

Most species of Hoffmannia produce large green leaves with a tinge of red or purple. Leaves are usually ribbed and veined with white or yellow lines. Flowers not conspicuous, however, the evergreen foliage and its shades make Hoffmannia is a good ornamental plant for beginner. Commercially known as Taffeta Plant, most popular species are: Hoffmannia Refulgens and H. Ghiesbreghtii.

10 Jan

Physostegia Virginiana, The Obedient Plant

Physostegia is a small genus of herbaceous perennials that are grown for their showy flowers. Most species produce white, pink or mauve flowers that appear on long stalks from mid-summer to early autumn. Physostegia plants are commonly known as Obedient Plant because the flower heads have tendency to retain whatever position they are moved to. You can actually move each flowers of Physostegia in whatever direction you want. This makes it a useful cut flower plant.

Physostegia Virginiana, The Obedient Plant

Physostegia Virginiana, Image by Olaf (flickr)

The most popular of all species in this genus is Physostegia Virginiana. It is quite a vigorous grower and perfectly suitable for beginners. The best place to grow this excellent bloomer is a partially sunny location where it receives bright morning sunlight but protection from harsh sunlight for the rest of the day. Physostegia Virginiana, like other species, requires moderate watering in a regular soil mix. Propagation is usually done from seeds or divisions. It is quite hardy plant and does not require any special care.

Physostegia Virginiana performs well in mix borders as well as pot plants.

08 Jan

Ornamental Autumn Tree for Cold Climates: Betula Pendula

Betula is a genus of deciduous trees from mountainous regions of Europe and Eurasia where they grow as ornamental trees. These beautiful trees are known for their lovely foliage, drooping branches and slender trunks of white or silver color.

Betula Pendula Tree

Betula Pendula Tree, Image by Iain Turner

Most of the species are suitable for growing in cold climates only where they produce beautiful pale-green leaves that turn yellow in autumn and add a cheerful color to the surroundings. Betula Pendula is one of the most commonly grown species which is a deciduous tree that grows up to 20 meters and produces attractive foliage. The trunk is usually found covered with layers of silver-white flaky bark, which is why it is also known as Silver Birch. Suitable for gardens and landscapes, these trees have good growth rate and can be used for the purpose of forestation as well.

Like most trees of Betula family, these ornamental trees have shallow roots that require regular supply of water under bright sunlight. Propagation is usually done from seeds or grafting.