26 Apr

Ornamental and Hardy Flowering Succulent: Kalanchoe tubiflora

Kalanchoe is a genus of more than 125 flowering succulents offering a wide range of interesting colors, textures, size and flowering pattern. Ideal of xeriscaping or just as ornamental plants, Kalanchoe make quite hardy and unique plants that can be grown in containers, landscapes, or rock gardens. They add very interesting textures and formations to gardens and landscapes – highly recommended, if you are an experimental gardener.

Kalanchoe tubiflora

Kalanchoe tubiflora, The Chandelier Plant

As most of the Kalanchoe species come from tropical and arid climates of Madagascar and Africa, these hardy succulents grow easily without requiring any special care. As a general rule, grow them in a well-drained soil, provide moderate watering, protect from frost and provide sunny exposure. Kalanchoe starts booming in early spring and continue to bloom till later summer. Most species require a good hibernation period in winter. Avoid watering much during this period.

Kalanchoe species have many different growing habits. Some of them grow as tall as 1 meter where as some grow quite low and hardly grow over 1 foot. Some produce fleshy, showy leaves where as some produce inconspicuous foliage but dense clusters of colorful flowers.

Kalanchoe prefer a warm, outdoor, and sunny spot where they propagate themselves from leaf-bus, cuttings or divisions.

One of the most popular and easy growing species of Kalanchoe is K. tubiflora which is commercially described as Chandelier plant. It is characterized by erect, cylindrical leaves and dense clusters of tubular flowers of red color. The plant propagates itself rapidly from leaf buds. When given appropriate conditions, it tends to become invasive and requires extensive pruning.

Megan has shared a nice picture of Kalanchoe tubiflora in bloom at Far out Flora.

23 Apr

Unique and Ornamental Cut Flower: Sandersonia aurantiaca

Sandersonia aurantiaca, the only species in its genus, is a very ornamental but less cultivated perennial from South Africa. Though, it is has been grown as ornamental houseplant for many years, it has not been grown commercially until recently when it has been recognized as a good commercial crop and a good alternative to orchid.

Sandersonia aurantiaca, Christmas Bells Flower

Sandersonia aurantiaca, Christmas Bells Flower

Sandersonia aurantiaca produces urn-shaped flowers of orange color usually at Christmas, that is why, it is also known as Christmas Bells. Sandersonia flowers appear in later spring and continue to bloom until mid summer. These lovely flowers can be used as nice cut flowers that last for about two weeks or more. The plant itself grows up to 1 meter and usually has climbing habit. The lance-shaped leaves have traditionally been used by Zulu people as an aphrodisiac. Leaves grow on along a thin stem or rootstock that produces new growth in spring.

Sandersonia aurantiaca is easy to grow from seeds, tubers or divisions of rootstock. When grown from seeds, make sure that they are properly stratified. The plant prefers moist but well-drained conditions to grow. Overwatering or excessive humidity causes the rootstock to rot. Sandersonia aurantiaca flourishes well when it is provided with moderate water, bright sunlight and protection from frosty winter.

20 Apr

Meet Master Gardener: Interview with Izhar-ul-Haq

I started interviewing master gardeners last year and posted nice conversations with a couple of gardeners. To resume the activity, I am posting a candid interview with Izahr ul Haq. He is a gardening enthusiast and an active member of Gardening Pakistan forum.

Here goes the conversation –



Tell me something about your garden (is it a lawn, terrace garden, rooftop garden, backyard, and what grows there, vegetables, perennials etc.)?

I started my gardening from balcony pots as I used to live in an apartment, we used to get eastern sun exposure so many of the plants did pretty well there. I am partial toward ornamentals and I learned that key to success is the potting mix that you use, mixing the soil initially with well rotted manure plus adding a little NPK fertilizer kept my plants green, healthy and blooming. Many seasonal plants tend to decline their blooming cycle quiet early in small pots as their nutrients level drops, I solved this issue by dissolving small quantities of NPK fertilizers with watering and it made a lot of difference.

Cosmos Flowers Bed

Cosmos in Izhar's Garden

We shifted to another place where I had three gardening places, one was an 11’ x 22’ lawn, another was 11’ x 5’ bed and the third one was 70’ x 2’ long bed containing 6 tall Asoka trees. The lawn and small beds were eastern sun exposures with some parts in shade and the long bed had a south west sun exposure. Careful selection of the plants was necessary according to the sun exposure they prefer. During the winter season in the eastern sun exposure area, I planted Dahlias, Asters, Petunias, Pansies, Shirley Poppies, Nasturtiums and Chrysanthemums while in the shadier spot I planted Impatiens, all these plants did beautifully, in the long bed I planted Salvias, Coleus, Ti-plants and Mirabilis jalapa (4’O clocks) and I was rewarded with some beautiful blooms and  foliage.  In the summer season the eastern exposure area was filled with Cosmos, Zinnias, Portulacas, Vincas, Tuberose and Cocks comb (Celosia plumosa) the shadier spot I planted Caladiums, plants looked gorgeous until the mid of season in July when portulacas and Celosia started to die but Zinnias, Cosmos and Vincas became more gorgeous with time and covered up the space. In the longer bed I planted multicolored Sunflowers and Gaillardia.

Salvias in bloom

Salvias in Izhar's Garden

The Sunflowers grew tall and had to support them with thin bamboo canes, the problem arrived when they started blooming as lots of birds trying to feast on the seed heads destroyed many blooms and plants, so it proved to be a not-so-good choice, while Gaillardia did well and bloomed entire season. The Mirabilis which were planted in winter season were still growing but they haven’t produced any blooms, by August end we left that house so the watering and nurturing was ended for these plants, after a month later in October I went to the same place and was amazed by the flower power of Mirabilis as each of the plant was literally covered with hundreds of blooms and it was an amazing sight.

In the present place I have made 11 beds in an open area in front of my house each bed is 10’ x 3’ and has south eastern sun exposure, the plants I am growing nowadays include Dahlias, Cosmos, Petunias, Hibiscus (from seeds), Antirrhinums, Marigolds (French & African), Rudbeckias, Holly hocks, Daturas, Mirabilis, Begonias, Ranunculus, Gladiolus, Gazania, Salvia, Geranium, Impatiens, Sweet peas, Nasturtiums, Pentas, Bellis, Poppies and some others. Dahlias, Cosmos, Petunias, Hibiscus, Daturas and French Marigolds have started blooming.


What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)?

Gardening has become my major hobby (as I have other hobbies of pets keeping and fish keeping). As the size of my garden is increasing the involvement is also increasing my father supports me in this and we do not acquire services of any gardener and do all the work by ourselves. It’s been a great hobby and I love acquiring more knowledge about the plants and their needs through internet and books. Being member of international and national gardening forum helps me greatly in understanding the how-to stuff. Growing plants makes me feel the sense of accomplishment and I feel great pleasure just watching my garden and plants.


When and how did you start gardening?

I started gardening very early during my early school days, I use to save my pocket money to buy potted plants from nursery near my school.




What is blooming in your garden today?

Dahlias, French Marigolds, Petunias, Pentas, Mirabilis, Impatiens, Begonia, Salvia, Hibiscus and Cosmos


What type(s) of plants do you grow (flowering, fruits, cacti)?

I am partial towards ornamentals including annuals and perennials, but right now with some larger space I am growing Bell peppers, Tomatoes and Spinach as well.


What grows in your dream garden (if climate allows, what would you love to grow in your garden)?

Flowers and lots of flowers… including Tuberous Begonias, Daffodils, Bearded Iris etc


Name your favorites?

I love almost everything I grow, so nothing but all are favorites


Why is it your favorite?

Any plant growing healthy and vigorously becomes by favorite


How much personal time do you spare for your garden every week?

One hour daily and 8 hours on weekends


Who/what inspired you the most towards gardening?

Gardens of home gardeners around the world inspire me most, like if they can do this why cant I.


Do you have a specific monthly budget for your hobby?

No not specifically


What is you take on organic and inorganic gardening?

For Vegetables I stick strongly to organic and for ornamentals both.


What is your major challenge as a gardener?

Workforce, with expansion of garden we sometimes think to have an additional hand as it takes a big chunk of time in cleaning and watering the beds


What was your last purchase (gardening item)?



Do you remember your first plant?

Jasmine sambac (Motia)


Are you an experimental gardener?

No but like trying techniques referred by other gardeners.


What is your most memorable achievement as a gardener?

Nothing as such


What is the mission behind gardening forum that you run?

The forum encourages every gardener to be successful in the hobby by learning techniques and sharing experiences, it leads to a sense of satisfaction and relaxes mind. Displaying the pictures of garden and blooms creates a feeling of pride and accomplishment, the complimentary remarks encourages the gardeners to pursue more in this field creating a pleasurable sight for themselves and acquaintance around them.

14 Apr

Lovely Perennial for Cold Climates: Bulbinella

Bulbinella is a genus of perennial rhizomatous plants from winter rainfall areas of South Africa and New Zealand. Naturally, these plants are able to withstand spells of frosty cold climate, that is why, they make good landscape plants for many cold climates.

Bulbinellas are known for their long spikes that bear densely packed flowers around them. These tiny and star-shaped flowers are usually white, orange or golden-yellow. Most species of Bulbinella produce flowers in later winter or early spring. These lovely perennials can be propagated from seeds or divisions.

Bulbinella Hookeri

Bulbinella Hookeri

Bulbinella are usually propagated as outdoor landscape perennials where they prefer somewhat dry conditions during dormancy followed by a prolific flowering season. Some of the popular species of Bulbinella include:

Bulbinella floribunda – Also known as Cat’s tail, this lovely perennial makes a good waterside plant. Flowers are golden-yellow.

Bulbinella eburniflora – Prefers sandy soil and produces white flowers in early spring. Flowers are ivory-white and have a hint of fragrance.

Bulbinella caudafelis – Mostly growing in rocky or sandy soils in South Africa, this lovely perennial produces white flowers from August to December.

12 Apr

Cantaurea montana, the Bachelor’s Button

Mountain Cornflower, Bachelor’s Button or Mountain Bluet, as it is known commonly, are popular names of Cantaurea montana, which is an evergreen plant for cold climates of Europe British Isles and parts of North America. It is fairly easy growing plant that requires a regular but well drained soil mix and some exposure to the sun.

Centaurea montana

Centaurea montana, Image by Irma Kallio

Cantaurea montana is better known for its blue flowers that appear in abundance in flowering season that usually starts in spring and lasts till early summer. When the plant is in bloom, it produces a thick mound of attractive blue flowers. These lovely flowers provide a very nice show against the background of bright and velvety foliage.

Cantaurea Montana can be propagated from divisions as well as seeds. Other popular species from this genus are Cantaurea cineraria and C. cyanus. The latter is known for its flowers of many different colors including blue, pink, mauve, crimson, white and pink.

11 Apr

Evergreen Flowering Tree: Calpurnia aurea, The Wild Laburnum

Calpurnia is a small genus of shrubs and trees from the family of Fabaceae – which is the family of many popular genera of flowering trees like Cassia, Wisteria, Robinia and Mimosa. Like its cousins, Calpurnia is known for its prolific flowering habit and ornamental foliage. Among popular species of this genus, the most commonly found is Calpurnia aurea. It grows as a small evergreen tree which is perfectly suitable for small gardens or as hardy street tree.

Calpurnia aurea, Wild Laburnum Tree

Calpurnia aurea, Image by Tony Rodd

Calpurnia aurea is quite fast growing tree and starts flowering quite early. It can grow in almost any soil as far as it provides good drainage. It produces golden-yellow flowers that closely resemble the flowers of Laburnum, that is why Calpurnia aurea is commonly described as Wild Laburnum. It usually blooms in mid-summer and provides a long flowering season. Flowering is followed by fruition which is in the form of thin pods. These pods soon dry into dry and brownish texture. The tree is easy to prune and maintain and can be grown is a sunny or partially sunny spot. A healthy tree of Wild Laburnum can grow as tall as 12 feet.

Calpurnia aurea or Wild Laburnum is widely distributed across Pakistan, India, South Africa and parts of African continent. It is drought and frost tolerant and thus makes a good choice for gardens and landscapes.

09 Apr

Flowering Shrub for Warm Climates: Ruellia brittoniana

Ruellia is a small genus of flowering shrubs from warm and humid climates of South America and Mexico. The most popular plant from this genus is Ruellia brittoniana which is usually grown as perennial shrub. It is quite fast-growing and sometimes self-seeding shrub that grows up to 3 feet. The lance-shaped leaves are dark green, and flowers are purple, violet or showy blue though some varieties do bear white or pink flowers. These lovely flowers do not last more than a day but they are quite attractive and have prolific growth in spring. Flowers of Ruellia brittoniana have close resemblance with those of Petunia, that is why, it is also known as Mexican Petunia or sometimes as Wild Petunia.

Ruellia brittoniana, Mexican Petunia

Ruellia brittoniana, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad

Mexican Petunia is quite easy to grow from seeds as well as cuttings. It requires moist but well-drained and fertile soil. It also prefers sunny exposures which encourage growth of flowers – plant in sunny location would flower profusely whereas plants that do not receive direct or bright sunlight often bloom frugally.

The best way to use Mexican Petunia or Ruellia brittoniana is growing it as border plant or as background plant in landscape designs. A few dwarf varieties of Ruellia brittoniana are also available; they make good container plants for indoor locations where they receive bright sunlight. Generally, Ruellia brittoniana should be protected from frost and freeze.

08 Apr

50 Popular Plants and Their Common Names

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose – By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Shakespeare)

True! But sometimes names really help. Names usually tell a lot about a plant’s shape and growing habits, that is why, gardeners and horticulturists often remember plants by their common names. These names are either derived from historical facts, formation, color or sometimes shape of the plant. The following is a list of common names of 50 popular plants.

1. Red-hot cat’s tail or Chenille is common name of Acalypha hispida. The plants gets its name from drooping red spikes of red or purple color.

2. Century plant is common name of Agave americana. The plant is named so because it is believed to bloom after one hundred years; however, actually it takes about ten years to bloom.

3. Agave attenuata takes its common name, Foxtail plant, because of its tall and curved flowering stalks.

Agave attenuata, Foxtail Agave

Agave attenuate or Foxtail Agave, Image by Forest Starr and Kim Starr

4. Allium christophii  is popularly known as Stars of Persia because it produces starry lilac flowers.

5. Elephant’s ear is common name of Alocasia macrorhiza. The plan produces huge yellow-green leaves.

6. Love-lies-bleeding is popular name of Amaranthus caudatus; the name is given because of red spikes that it produces in summer.

7. Lace plant is common name of Ammi majus. The name is given because of delicate, feathery foliage of the plant.

8. Anigozanthos flavidus is popularly known as Kangaroo paw.

9. Aphelandra squarrosa is a nice foliage plant that produces striking ornamental leaves. The dark-green leaves of the plan have broad silver-white veins that give the plant is common name, Zebra plant.

10. Dutchman’s pipe is popular name of Aristolochia durior. It is a woody climber that produces brownish-purple flowers shapes like curved pipes.

11. Spiral Grass is common name of Moraea tortilis. The plant is named after its twisting and curly leaves.

Moraea tortilis, Spiral Grass

Moraea tortilis, Spiral Grass, Image from duitang.com

12. Bishop’s cap is common name of Astrophytum myriostigma.

13. Orchid tree is common name of Bahuinia variegata.

14. Brachychiton acerifolium is a beautiful tree with bright-red, bell-shaped flowers that give the tree its common name, Flame tree.

15. Angel’s trumpet or Moonflower (Buy online) is a small tree that produces very fragrant flowers that hang on this tree and look like trumpets. Scientific name of the plant is Brugmansia.

Brugmansia, Angel's Trumpet

Brugmansia, Angel’s Trumpet – Image by Arria Belli

16. Like its popular name, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Brunfelsia pauciflora is an interesting plant. The name is given because its produces violet-mauve flowers that fade into pale-mauve and then white on successive days.

17. Ladies purses is popular name of Calceolaria crenatiflora because it produces fleshy flower of the shape of a small purse.

18. The flowers of Bottlebrush actually resemble a bottle brush. Horticultural name is Callistemon.

19. Fishtail palm is common name of Caryota mitis.

20. Snow-in-Summer is common name of Cerastium tomentosum; it is a low growing plant usually grown as ground cover. The plan produces tiny white flowers in summer.

21.  Cordyline terminalis is known as Good luck plant or sometimes as Tree of kings.

22. Falling stars is common name of Corocosmia paniculata.

23. Dicentra spectabilis produces heart-shaped flowers that hang on long arching stems. Popular name of this plant is Bleeding hearts (Buy seeds online).

Dicentra Spectabilis

Dicentra Spectabilis – image from Wikipedia.org

24. Breath of heaven is popular name of Diosma ericoides because its flowers emit very delightful fragrance.

25. Dragon lily is common name of Dracunculus vulgaris; the plant produces really large and unusual flowers.

26. Pineapple flower is common name of Eucomis autumnalis; the name given to the plant because of its long spike of flowers resembling a pineapple.

27. Indian rubber or Rubber plant is common name of a popular foliage plan – Ficus elastica.

28. Morning glory is a common name given to plants in the family of Convolvulacease. These include many genera like Ipomoea, Rivea and Lepistemon.

29. Ghost plant is common name of Kalanchoewaldhrimii.

30. Kochia scoparia is popularly known as Summer cypress (Buy seeds online).

Kochia scoparia

31. Four o’ Clock is common name of Mirabilis jalapa because it opens its flower in afternoon.

32. Moss rose is popular name of Portulaca grandiflora (Buy seeds online).
9198 Portulaca Pot in June 2015 Flickr

33. Traveller’s tree is the name given to Ravenala because its stores rainwater in its leaf base which travellers in old times often found very useful.

34. The common name Royal palm is given to Roystonea regia.

35. Mother-in-law’s tongue is popular name of Sansevieria trifasciata (Buy online).
Abstract planting

36. Mother-of-thousands is common name of Saxifraga stolonifera.

37. Spanish broom is common name of Spartium junceum.

38. Rose apple is popular name of Syzygium malaccense.

39. Chocolate plant is the popular name given to Pseuderanthemum alatum.

40. Screw pine is popular name of Pandanus utilis; the name is given to the plant because of unusual shape and formation of its large leaves.

41. Golden swans is common name of Crocosmia masonorum.

42. Indian shots is popular name of Canna indica.

43. Sacred Fig or Bo tree is common name of Ficus religiosa.

44. Peltophorum africanum is also known as Weeping wattle.

45. Lamb’s tail is the name given to Sedum morganianum because of its trailing stems.

46. Parrot flower is popular name of Heliconia psittacorum.

47. Firecracker flower is popular name of Crossandra infundibuliformis.

48. Toadflax  (Buy seeds online) is common name of Linaria maroccana.

Linaria Vulgaris

Linaria Vulgaris, Image by J. Bakker (flickr)

49. Spanish dagger is common name of Yucca gloriosa.

50. The scientific name of Lipstick Palm Tree, is Cyrtostachys renda.