24 Apr

Lagurus ovatus, Bunny Tails Ornamental Grass

Lagurus ovatus or Bunny Tails Grass is a lovely ornamental grass known for its puffy white flowers that resemble a bunny’s tail. This beautiful annual grass can be grown along garden borders or pathways, as an accent plant in the garden or an ornamental grass in xeriscapes.

Lagurus ovatus

Lagurus ovatus / Image via faroutflora.wordpress.com

Bunny Tails grows as a compact ornamental grass growing up to 20 inches high and about 1 foot wide. The blades are soft and about 1.5 foot in length. The ornamental value of this lovely grass is because of its fluffy, white oval flowers that start appearing in early summer. Bunny tails flowers assume tan color as they enter the fall season arrives. The flowers start to dry out at this time. You can keep them on the grass for winter interest. Stalks with dried fluffy flowers can also be removed and used in dry flower arrangement.

How to Grow Bunny Tails Ornamental Grass

Bunny Tails Grass

Bunny Tails Grass / Image by Mollivan Jon (flickr)

Bunny Tails can be propagated from seeds (Buy Seeds Online) collected from dried flowers. Seeds can be sown in spring. Plants grown from seeds take 1 to 2 year to attain the maximum size.

Bunny Tails grass comes from Mediterranean climates where it thrives in a rather dry climate. When grown in gardens or landscapes, provide it sunny exposure and water moderately. Bunny Tails prefers sandy soil that does not retain water. It is a drought-tolerant grass. Water it thoroughly in summer and then allow the soil to completely dry before watering next. When temperature falls, water sparsely.

18 Mar

Unusual Caudiciform Plants – Fat Plants

Caudiciform plants is a large group of plants that form caudex – a fat stem or root. The caudex in most Caudiciform plants is prominent and gives these plants a uniquely unusual shape and character.

Caudiciform plants make excellent specimen plants. Take the example of Adenium obesum, Beaucarnea gracilis, Cycas revoluta, most Cyphostemmas, and Dioscorea elephantipes. Like other Caudiciform plants, these attractive plants form caudex to store water and food so that they can survive long spells of drought therefore these are generally low-maintenance plants.

How to take care of Caudiciform Plants / Fat Plants

Caudiciform plants do not require much maintenance. Because they are able to store water for dry periods, you do not need to water them regularly. During the months of active growth, water sufficiently only when the soil is completely dry. Avoid watering when the plant is hibernating.

Grow your plants is a well-drained soil and feed them when they show active sign of growth. With a little experience with caudex forming plants, you will understand that most of these plants quick adopt to the surrounding climate. You can grow them outdoors as specimen plants, indoor on a window sill, or in a greenhouse (if you live in a colder region). Generally, they prefer dry conditions and good exposure to the sunlight.

Types of Caudiciform Plants / Fat Plants

Caudiciform plants come in all sizes. Some grow into tall trees, some have shrubby growth, some of them are vines and some of them are small succulents. The size, location, and shape of caudex in most plants vary greatly. Therefore, these caudex forming plants are further grouped in four categories.

  • Phanerophytes: These Caudiciform plants form succulent base which appears prominently above the soil level. Most Adenias, Beaucarneas, and some Pachypodiums are good examples of Phanerophytes.
  • Chamaephytes are Caudiciform plants that form caudex at their base. The caudex in these plants may or may not be prominently visible. Dioscoreas belong to this group of caudex forming plants.
  • The caudex in Hemicryptophytes is usually formed below the ground but the growth is usually above the soil level.
  • Geophytes are caudex forming plants that form both their caudex and the growing point underground. Ibervillea is a good representative of this group.

Popular Caudiciform Plants / Fat Plants

Some popular species of caudex forming plants include:

Adenium obesum /Desert Rose (Buy seeds online)
Adenium obesum

Jatropha berlandieri (Buy seeds online)

Jatropha berlandieri

Jatropha podagrica (Buy seeds online)
Jatropha podagrica

Pachypodium brevicaule
Pachypodium brevicaule

Dioscorea elephantipes (Buy seeds online)

Caudiciform Plants, Dioscorea elephantipes

Gerrardanthus macrorhizus
Gerrardanthus macrorhizus (Bigfoot)

Euphorbia cylindrifolia (Buy seeds online)
Euphorbia cylindrifolia ssp. tuberifera Rauh

Yucca rostrata
Yucca rostrata-Beaked Yucca

Tylecodon paniculata
Tylecodon paniculata

01 Mar

Xerosicyos danguyi, the Silver Dollar Plant

Xerosicyos danguyi or Silver Dollar Plant (Buy seeds online) is an evergreen climber from arid regions of Madagascar. It is a drought tolerant and hardy succulent that can survive really high temperatures and long spells of drought. If you are new to the world of houseplants, Xerosicyos danguyi is a nice plant to start with.

Xerosicyos danguyi belongs to the family of squash, cucumber, and watermelon and shares many characteristics with its cousins. Hobbyists like the Silver Dollar Plant for its round, succulent, and silver-green leaves giving the plant its common name, ‘Silver Dollar Plant’. These unusual round leaves grow along a cylindrical stem that usually grows up to 20 inches. In wild, Xerosicyos danguyi uses its tendrils to hook up with surrounding plants to keep it from falling on the ground. Clusters of tiny flower of pale-green color appear in spring.

Xerosicyos danguyi, the Silver Dollar Plant

Xerosicyos danguyi, the Silver Dollar Plant / Image Source

How to Grow Xerosicyos danguyi, the Silver Dollar Plant

Xerosicyos danguyi can be easily grown in a well-drained soil and under sunny conditions. Being a drought-tolerant succulent, the Silver Dollar Plant requires only occasional watering. If you are growing it in a pot, water it thoroughly and then allow the soil to dry out completely before the next watering. In colder climates, Silver Dollar Plant can be grown indoors in hanging baskets. Xerosicyos danguyi can be propagated from seeds and cuttings. Plants grown from seeds tend to form caudex on maturity.

15 Feb

Lovely Ground Cover: Moss Phlox

Phlox subulata (Buy online), also known as Moss Phlox, is an excellent ground cover for low-maintenance landscapes. Known for its ability to survive under various conditions, Moss Phlox makes an excellent plant for covering unsightly patches. It can be grown as a bordering plant, as a ground cover in rock gardens, as cascading plant against walls, or as a charming creeper in gardens and landscapes.

Moss Phlox

How to Grow Moss Phlox

Consider Moss Phlox when you are looking for a ground cover that does not require much care and performs well in a sandy, rocky or low-fertility soil. Phlox subulata is propagated from seeds, layering or stem cuttings (cuttings especially shorter ones root quickly).

Young plants require moderate watering in a well-drained soil. They also benefit from a little application of fertilizer in early spring. Once established they do not require much maintenance. Except for annual pruning (preferably in winter to encourage better growth in the following season), this lovely ground cover will thrive under full sun and require occasional watering.It usually spreads 1 meter across and gain a height of up to 10 cm. Depending on the climatic conditions, a young plant may require 2 to 5 years to reach this size.

Moss Phlox bears flowers of magenta pink-purple, red, fuchsia, violet, cream and white colors appear in mid-spring.

Popular varieties include: Phlox subulata ‘Candy Stripes’, Phlox subulata ‘Snowflake’, Phlox subulata ‘Red Wings’, Phlox subulata ‘Drummonds Pink’, and Phlox subulata ‘Emerald Cushion’. Buy Moss Phlox online.

Moss phlox

19 Dec

Ornamental Shrub: Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Cotinus coggygria or Purple Smoke tree as it commonly known is a wonderful ornamental shrub. I love it for its colors, and ability to grow in almost any soil and survive drought or a little neglect.

Cotinus coggygria is recognized by its purple leaves that change many colors throughout the fall season. While the season changes from summer to fall, you can spot purple, red-orange and scarlet colors in foliage. The beauty of this wonderful shrub is enhanced when its flowers pop to produce plum-like clusters of seeds. These plumes give this beautiful shrub a hazy look (and of course the common name, Purple Smoke Tree) that adds charm to its colorful foliage.
Smoke Bush

How to Grow Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria can be grown as a hedging plant or a specimen plant in garden. It is usually propagated from softwood cuttings taken in summer or seeds sown in fall. The plant does not require much care and only requires a regular or slightly fertile soil under bright sunlight. It is a drought-tolerant plant and can easily survive long spells of drought making it a good choice when you are designing a xeriscape.

Cotinus coggygria usually grows up to 4 meters but it can be easily pruned in early spring to keep it in desired shape and size. To encourage flowering, it is advised that you prune it in late spring.

Popular varieties of Cotinus coggygria include C. coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and C. coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’. A number of other hybrids varying in size and foliage colors are also sold commercially.

28 May

Carex eburnean: The Bristleleaf Sedge

Carex eburnean is a versatile plant. Commonly grown as a tough ground cover, this nice little plant performs very well under shade or sun and in moist as well as dry areas. You can grow it as a ground cover, companion plant in a rock garden or as alternative to ornamental grasses in Xeriscape. It can also be grown as a nice specimen plant in containers.

Image from Houzz.com

Carex eburnean or Bristleleaf sedge forms small mounds of needle-shaped tufted leaves. The plant can grow up to 8 inches and width. The soft tufted leaves of Carex eburnean hide a very hardy and adaptive plant that does not require much maintenance. Typically, it performs very well in a slightly moist but well-drained alkaline soil under partial shade. However in urban settings, Carex eburnean can adapt to different growing conditions. When grown in urban settings Carex eburnean can be used to fill spaces where most plants fail – under shady trees, lands that are not frequently irrigated, and soil that is too sandy to grow your favorite plants.

Flowers, though not prominent appear in spring followed by formation of small, fluffy seed heads. Carex eburnean is propagated from seeds and division of rootball from spring to autumn.

Common names of Carex eburnean are: Bristle-leaved sedge, Ebony sedge, and Ivory sedge.

28 Apr

The Ultimate Guide to Designing Beautiful Xeriscapes

Though the word sounds complicated, Xeriscaping is a simple and practical technique of designing water-efficient landscapes. Xeriscaping involves preparation of soil, selection of plants and design of landscape layout to minimize the use of water.

In a nutshell, an efficient xeriscape is a low-maintenance, high impact and water-wise landscape.

Useful Tips for Designing Efficient Xeriscapes

Following are some basic pointers to designing an effective xeriscape:

Improve Soil

Soil is the first thing you should analyze when planning a xeriscape. Make sure that the soil is able to retain moisture by adding organic matter to the soil. See: Tips to improve sandy soil organically

Select the right plants

Select native plants; they are low on maintenance and do not usually need frequent watering. There is a wide variety of drought-tolerant plants that can be used in xeriscapes. See: 100+ xeriscape plants.

Design effective layouts

Design your xeriscape layout to ensure minimum waste of water. You can use terraced layout, pathways, and slopes to ensure that water can easily flow through your garden and irrigate most parts of the xeriscape.

Use planting techniques

Be creative when planting. Plants with similar requirements can be grouped together to ensure efficient use of water. Plant xerophytes on slopes.

Irrigate efficiently

Irrigate in evening or early morning to reduce evaporation. Contain rainwater for irrigating your xeriscape. Replace sprinkler system with drip irrigation system.

Mulch the bare soil

Use a lot of mulch. Topping up the bare soil with two to four inches of mulch prevents water evaporation, maintains an even, cool soil temperature and prevents the germination of weed seeds. The best time to apply mulch is in late spring after the soil has warmed, but before summer’s heat begins. A late autumn mulching helps avoid the alternate freezing and thawing of soil.

Suitable Plants for Xeriscapes

Selection of plants greatly depends on your climate. I have listed about 100 drought-tolerant plants along with their culture, growth requirements and USD zones here. You can also browse the following list of popular plants that can be used in most xeriscapes.

Perennials

  • Artemisias
  • Asters
  • Columbine
  • Coreopsis
  • Delphinium
  • Echinacea
  • Gaillardia
  • Iris
  • Lavender
  • Pansy
  • Sages
  • Sedums
  • Tulips and crocuses
  • Yucca

Annuals

  • Cosmos
  • Ganzania
  • Marigold
  • Mexican Sunflower
  • Phlox
  • Portulaca
  • Vinca
  • Zinnias

Succulents 

  • Cotyledon
  • Crassula
  • Dudleya
  • Kalanchoe
  • Sedum
  • Aloe
  • Agave
  • Bulbine

Ornamental Grasses

Useful Xeriscape Resources

xeriscape

How to determine cost of your xeriscape project

Do’s and Don’ts of Xeriscaping

[Pocket Guide] Xeriscaping at Home

[Book] Creating the Prairie Xeriscape by Sara Williams

Step-by-Step Guide to Practical Xeriscaping

[Photos] 15 examples of xeriscaping with succulents

[Photos] 9 examples of xeriscaping with cacti

[Free PDF Guide] Basics of Xeriscaping

Examples of Beautiful Xeriscape Design

10 Mar

Kalanchoe beharensis, the Feltbush Plant

Kalanchoe beharensis is an evergreen bush known for its distinct looks and unusual foliage. Gardeners and horticulturists like this plant because of its ability to grow in poor and sandy soil where it can be grown as an ornamental plant.

Kalanchoe beharensis

Kalanchoe beharensis / Image by Far Out Flora

This lovely bush is characterized by knotted stem that bears large foliage of olive-green color. Each leaf is covered by velvety brown ‘hair’ underneath that make its felt-like surface. These succulent leaves assume triangular shape with crumpled edges. Because of their shape and furry shape, Kalanchoe beharensis is also known as Feltbush or Velvet Elephant Ear.

How to Grow Kalanchoe beharensis

Kalanchoe beharensis is native to Madagascar where it grows in warm and humid climate therefore it should be provided similar conditions to thrive well. In cold climates, it requires protection from frost and long spells of freeze. If you are growing it in areas that get a lot of frost, it is advised to move your plant in a greenhouse, or to a spot where it gets sufficient light but protection from frost and extremely cold conditions in winter.

Kalanchoe beharensis can be propagated from stem or leaf cutting. A mature plant can transform from a bush to a small succulent tree of 4 to 5 meters. Generally it is an easy plant to grown and maintain. Whether grown in a planter or ground, make sure that you water it only when the soil is completely dry.

14 Feb

Alliums: The Ornamental Onions

Alliums, commonly known as Ornamental Onions, are popular perennials among gardeners because of their graceful flowers and ability to grow in many different conditions. Most Alliums are characterized by their tall flower stalks (up to 3 feet) that stand like sentries with big, round flower heads (up to 5 inches). Their prominent flower heads make Alliums very useful for providing a nice and attractive background to low-growing bloomers in flower beds.

Allium globemaster

Allium globemaster – Image by PKdon50 (flickr)

Growing Alliums should not be a big challenge even for beginners. They are drought-tolerant, resistant to pests, and low on maintenance. They also come in a wide range of variety in terms of heights, blooming period, and form and color of flowers. Alliums are grown from bulbs planted in the fall. Bulbs should be planted at a depth of four times the diameters of bulb. Alliums generally prefer a rich and well-drained soil under sunny conditions. If you are growing them in poor soil, feed them with a general fertilizer in early spring or top up the soil with a layer of compost [Also read: How to prepare your own compost].

Most varieties start blooming from late summer to early summer. Flowers, especially of late blooming verities, last longer. Both fresh and dry flowers make excellent addition to flower arrangements. As end of season approaches, leaves start straggling and should be cut back, if required. Once flowering is over, bulbs can be lifted and stored for the next harvest.

Popular varieties of Allium include:

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ produces large (3 inches or more) purple flowers on tall (up to 3 feet) stalks.

Allium Purple Sensation

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ / Image by Farrukh

Allium caeruleum or ‘Blue Allium’ produces very attractive flowers of sky-blue color in spring and summer.

Allium schoenoprasum or Chives is a useful herb that produces nice pink flowers from mid to late spring.

Allium ‘Globemaster’ is a popular variety known for its huge flowers of purple color.

Allium ‘Millennium’ is a great bloomer for the late summer season. This variety is known for its long lasting lavender flowers.

Allium tuberosum or Garlic Chives are attractive border plant because of their delicate form and nice white flowers.

Allium aflatunense is known for its large and prominent pink-purple flowers that sit on tall flower stalks.

Other popular species are: Allium moly (Golden Garlic), A. cristophii (Stars of Persia) and Allium ‘Mount Everest’.

 

Blue Allium

Blue Allium / Image by Joe Shlabotnik

09 Dec

9 Beautiful Examples of Landscaping with Cacti

Cacti are very useful plant for landscaping. They are hardy, do not require much maintenance and grow in many different climatic conditions. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes making them nice accent plants in a landscape design.

Browse these beautiful examples of landscaping with cacti and see how unique a landscape design can be.

A beautiful example of cacti being used as living fence.

Cacti can be used to fill empty spaces along pathways.

Cacti can be used as a design element to cover boring walls.

Potted cacti make nice accent plants in small landscaping schemes.

You can also use potted cacti in larger landscape schemes.

A beautiful example of cacti being used as border plants.

Tall cacti can add a vertical angle in tight spaces.

Another use of cacti as border plants.

Most cacti can be grouped together to make a nice rock garden.