07 Jan

Ornamental and Edible Plants for Tropical Climate: Colocasia

Colocasia is a genus of around 25 tropical species of lovely foliage plants known for their large, ornamental leaves. These tropical plants are suitable as waterside plants where they provide a spectacular show of fresh green leaves and fill empty spaces. Colocasia can also be grown as border plants, in mass plantation schemes or just as ornamental patio plants.

Colocacia Leaves

Colocacia Leaves, Image from wikipedia.org

Native to tropical climates, Colocasia requires moderate temperature and protection from freeze and frost. Most species keep producing new leaves throughout the year except in winter when they go dormant. This is the time to replace these plants with winter plantation and store the tubers for next cultivation. The leaves and tubers are used in a number of traditional recipes as food items in many parts of Asia. These edible tubers have many names – Taro, Dasheen, Eddo and Arvi.

Colocacia Esculenta or Elephant’s Ear, being the most popular species, is grown widely in tropical climates as ornamental plants – majorly for their large leaves. Flowers are white insignificant spathe and are produced in summer.

Most species of Colocacia prefer sunny climate and plenty of water.

06 Jan

Evergreen Shrub for Beautiful Fences and Hedges: Pyracantha

Pyracantha is a genus of evergreen shrubs from the family of rose. These thorny shrubs produce dense growth of branches and foliage making them a good choice for fencing. Species of Pyracantha are known for their lovely white flowers and ornamental berries that can be yellow, orange or red. White flowers that appear in late spring or early summer are followed by a rich growth of colorful berries that mature in autumn. At this stage, almost these beautiful plants get loaded with berries and present a spectacular show thus justifying their common name Fire ThornPyros (fire) Acanthos (thorn).

Pyracantha Flowers

Pyracantha Flowers, Image by Bambo(flickr)

Native to parts of Europe, China and south-east Asia, most species of Pyracantha grow easily in a dry and moderate climate. These plants require bright sunlight, moderate watering and a slightly rich and limy soil. Gardeners usually grow Pyracantha as a hedge for fencing purposes or train them against walls or trellis for their ornamental foliage and fruits that attract birds and bees to the garden. They are easy to propagate both from seeds and cuttings.

Popular species include Pyracantha Coccinea and P. Angustifolia though a number of cultivars are also grown as sold commercially as ornamental houseplants. Some of these include: Golden Charmer, Orange Glow, Santa Cruz, Firelight and America.

Pyracantha Berries

Pyracantha Berries, Image by Liz West (flickr)

05 Jan

Natural Insect Repellent: Nepeta Cataria, the Catnip Plant

Nepeta is a large genus of perennial plants that grow naturally in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. Commonly known as Catmint or Catnip, Nepeta grow as small shrubs or subshrubs and herbs. One of the commonly grown species is Nepeta Cataria, which is a good candidate for a nice border plant or ground cover. The plant produces heart-shapes leaves and tiny flowers (of white or lavender shades) that usually bloom in summer. Flowers are fragrant and have purple spots on them.

Nepeta cataria, The Catnip Plant

Nepeta cataria, The Catnip Plant/ Image by Isabelle Blanchemain

Because of a chemical compound called Nepetalactone naturally found in it, Catmint has long been used in traditional medicine as a sedative. It also acts as natural insect repellent which particularly keeps mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. The chemical also affects cats and makes them drooling, sleepy or growling.

Nepeta Cataria or Catmint is very easy to grow. Generally, it prefers sunny conditions, moderate watering and a well-drained soil.

01 Jan

Winter Blooming Plants for Landscapes and Gardens: Ixia

Ixia is a genus of winter blooming plants from the family of Iris –this sharing many attributes with its cousin: grassy leaves, stalks of colorful and fragrant flowers, and generally low maintenance plants. Originally native to South Africa, Ixia has been grown in Europe for a long time from where a number of popular hybrid varieties have been propagated that spread in many parts of the world.

Winter Blooming Flowers of Ixia

Ixia Paniculata, Image by dracophylla (flickr)

Ixia are cormous plants that usually bloom in winter and go dormant in summer. These plants are characterized by grassy leaves and rich stalks of star-shaped flowers. Flowers are bi-colored, that is, red, mauve, pink, yellow, white, cream or purple flowers with a contrasting color in center. These richly colored flowers have a hint of fragrance that attracts pollinating bees.

Ixia are sun-loving plants and prefer a well-drained, sandy soil in rocky landscapes or containers. The best place to grow Ixia is a sunny corner of the garden where they receive bright sunlight in winter and moderate water throughout the season. When grown in flowering beds, Ixia present a spectacular show when they are in bloom. Corms should be picked, treated with a fungicide powder and stored for the entire summer season.

Ixia are grown from seeds or corms that divide themselves every year.