25 Nov

Ornamental Miniature Aloe – Aloe descoingsii x hawothioides

Aloe haworthioides as it is commonly known is a beautiful and miniature variety of Aloe. The plant is a hybrid of Aloe descoingsii and A. hawothioides.

Aloe haworthioides is an easy and fast growing plant that produces large clumps of miniature plants that grow very well in pots. The plant characterizes fresh green leaves marked with white spots and tiny bristles on their margins.

Aloe haworthioides

Aloe haworthioides

Aloe haworthioides is good as pot plant as well as an excellent choice for miniature gardens. It requires slightly moist but well drained soil. The plant can be grown propagated from divisions or seeds that germinate easily and form miniature plants quickly. Aloe haworthioides does not require much care and grows well under partial sun. Water generously when soil is completely dry in summer. In winter, keep these miniature plant protected from heavy frost and water barely sufficient to protect them from rot.

Like other species of this genus Aloe haworthioides produces small tubular flowers on a long stalk. Spring flowers are orange-pink that attract a lot of birds to the garden.

19 Oct

Hardy Shrub and Ground Cover for Tropical Climate: Kennedia

Kennedia is a small genus of small shrubs and woody climbers from tropical and subtropical climate of Australia. These useful plants are grown for their lovely and unusual flowers of red color. Kennedia originates from tropical and summer rainfall regions and thus are quite hardy to heat and spells of drought. Most species grow easily in temperate climate where they spread quickly and become good choice for covering the ground, fences or hedges. Kennedias can be grown easily from seeds. Young plants require moist yet well-drained soil, however, mature plants can withstand long spells of drought.

Kennedia prostrata

Kennedia prostrata/ Image via flickr

Popular species of Kennedia include:

Kennedia prostrate: Low-growing plant suitable as ground cover or hanging plant. Propagation is easy from seed. The plant produces showy frequent red flowers when grown under bright sunlight.

Kennedia rubicunda: Twining creeper that grows up to 5 meters and produces showy red flowers in spring and summer.

21 Sep

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, the Sad Tree

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has many popular names – Night Jasmine, Coral Jasmine, Sad Tree, Parijat and Lover’s Tree. The plant justifies all of these pretty names. Legend has it Parijataka who was a beautiful princess fell in love with the sun but the sun deserted her. The mournful princess committed suicide. From ashes of the sad princess sprung a beautiful tree. Unable to stand the sight of the lover who left her, the tree blooms only at night and sheds its flowers before the sun rises.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis/ Image by Dinesh Valke

How to Grow Nyctanthes arbor-tristis

The plant growing in my garden is now 5 years old and these days it is blooming profusely. Every day, I see a carpet of white flowers under the ‘sad’ plant. Anyway, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is a nice plant to grow in the garden. It is not fussy about soil or water. In fact, it is quite hardy and prefers a little neglect.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows as a shrub or a small tree (up to 5 meters). The coarse leaves cover straggling branches and make it a good foliage plant for filling in empty spaces in the garden. Small flowers of white color with orange center appear in summer. These scented flowers are rather short lived – they bloom at night and drop before rising of the sun.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows natively in tropical climate of Pakistan and spreads across tropical regions of India, Bengladesh, Nepal and Thailand.

Besides its ornamental value, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has various medicinal uses. The leaves are antibacterial and are used for the treatment of fungal infection, cough, and snakebite. Flowers are source of a yellow dye which is used to color clothes.  The lovely flowers of Nyctanthes arbor-tristis are also used in Hindu rituals and for preparing garlands that is why it is the plant is also known as Haar Singhar (meaning: beautification or make up).

11 Sep

Pereskia, the Rose Cactus

Pereskia is a genus of shrub-like cacti that are naturally found in tropical regions of Mexico and Brazil. The genus is believed to belong to ancient species of cacti that managed to keep their leaves and shrub like structure and did not evolve in to other cacti that we know today.

Though the genus of Pereskia is not much popular in horticulture, many members of this small genus make interesting specimen plants. They have woody stems with clusters of long and sharp spines. The leaves are fleshy and elliptic to oblong in shape. Most species produce large and showy flowers of pink color in late spring or early summer. These species vary greatly in size and growing habit. Some Pereskias can gain the height of 15 meters or more whereas some grow as small succulent shrub of 1 meter.

Pereskia grandiflora var voilacea

Pereskia grandiflora var voilacea/ Image by Erick Lux

How to Grow Pereskia

Most species of Pereskia are not fussy about growing conditions – they just require average water (though regular watering in spring and summer encourage vigorous growth), a well-drained soil, and sunny exposure (though they can survive dark shady spots as well).

Popular species of include:

P. grandiflora (Rose Cactus) – Evergreen to deciduous plant that can grow up to 5 meters. The plant produces clusters of pink flowers followed by fruits.

P. grandiflora var. voilacea – A purple flowering species that closely resembles Pereskia grandiflora.

08 Sep

Lovely, Flowering Shrub for Landscapes: Spartium junceum

Spartium junceum is an ornamental shrub grown for its yellow and sweet scented flowers. This fast growing shrub belongs to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas where it is a popular shrub in gardens and landscapes.

Spartium junceum grows from a central stem and produces long, erect branches that shoot up to 4 meters. A well-established specimen can produce a mass of rush-like branches that bear bright yellow flowers in mid or late spring and last till summer. Leaves are often insignificant and deciduous.

Spartium junceum, The Spanish broom

Spartium junceum, The Spanish broom/ Image by Manuel M. Ramos

Spartium junceum can be a useful shrub for producing a beautiful background effect in gardens and landscapes. The shrub can be easily pruned to give it trimmed or rounded shapes.

Commonly known as Spanish Broom, Spartium junceum can be grown from seeds in almost any soil with good drainage. The shrub prefers full sun and tolerates spells of drought easily.

06 Sep

Lovely Succulent Plants for Landscapes: Dudleya

Dudleya is a small genus of rosette-forming succulent plants form California and Mexico. Grown for their lovely formation, most Dudleyas are strikingly beautiful when grown in landscapes or as specimen plants. A Dudleya is usually characterized by a green or silvery-white, succulent leaves that grow on a short stem to form a small rosette. Most species remain solitary whereas only a few of them branch. Flowers of white, red or yellow color appear in late winter or early spring from the bottom, rarely from the center, of the rosette.

Dudleyas in Landscape

Dudleyas in Landscape / Image by faroutflora.com

How to Grow Dudleya

Most species of Dudleya look similar to Echeveria which is another large genus of succulent plants but recently Dudleyas have been classified separately because of their flowering habit and growth pattern. They are winter-loving plants that usually go dormant is summer. They are quite hardy and drought resistant plants too thus making a good choice for rock gardens. When grown in landscape, most species of Dudleya tend to form thick clusters of small rosettes that add a dramatic look to the landscapes. Though, they can be grown as specimen plants, the best place to grow Dudleya plants is a tough landscape spot where very few plants can survive. Dudleyas would require good sunlight, a well-drained soil and small amount of water in winter (and barely sufficient moisture in summer). When provided with a congenial environment, Dudleya plants can grow for decades. For this reason, they are also known as ‘Live-Forever’.

Popular species of Dudleya include:

D. brittonii (Chalk Dudleya): A large rosette-forming plant with silvery-white leaves. Perfect for landscape as well as specimen plant Dudleya brittonii remains solitary and produces spectacular yellow flowers.

D. caespitosa (Sand Lettuce): A low-growing succulent plant that usually grows in to thick clusters. Yellow flowers appear in beautiful contrast to pale-green or silvery-white foliage.

D. pulverulenta (Chalk Live Forever): Another large and solitary plant known for its beautiful foliage. It is quite hardy plant and can be grown as ornamental plant in landscape and rockeries.

Dudleya pulverulenta

Dudleya pulverulenta / Image by faroutflora.com

02 Sep

Small and Beautiful Shrubby Tree for Gardens: Halleria

Halleria is a small genus of shrubs and small trees grown for their attractive foliage and flowers. The genus is native to Madagascar and tropical climates of Africa. The most popular shrub from this genus is Halleria lucida – a small shrubby tree with pendulous branches and glossy foliage.

Halleria lucida is grown as evergreen ornamental and drought tolerant tree. The tree does not usually require much space and thus makes a good choice for small gardens where it can be pruned and trained in to a smart tree. Gown up plants can be used to create shady canopies.

Halleria shrub

Halleria ligustrifolia, Image by Leonora Enking

Halleria lucida grows up to 2.5 meters tall and spreads across 1.5 meters. Though it is a drought tolerant plant, Halleria lucida responds well to regular watering and shows vigorous growth when provided with sufficient watering and fertilizer. Halleria lucida can be grown under sunny or partially shady spots in gardens.

Leaves of Halleria lucida are small and glossy that turn purple in winter and provide beautiful contrast to red tubular flowers. Flowers are followed by formation of sweet berries that attract a lot of birds to the garden.

Another popular plant for the genus if Halleria elliptica. Commonly known as Wild fuschia, Halleria elliptica grows as shrubby tree (up to 2.5 meters) and produces orange-red flower in autumn.

30 Jul

Lovely Shrub for Gardens: Myrtus communis (Myrtle)

Today’s featured plant is Myrtus communis – an excellent ornamental shrub from the Mediterranean regions of the world. Commonly known as Myrtle or Greek myrtle, this beautiful shrub has been in cultivation as long as the days of ancient Roman Empire where it was an essential garden element. Today, Myrtle is known for its beautiful and fragrant foliage.

Myrtus communis

Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Image by Tim Waters

Myrtus communis has a bushy growth. The plant produces glossy green leaves that emit strong fragrance when crushed.  Summer is the time of full bloom when small clusters of small fluffy flowers are borne on Myrtle – making it the center of attraction.

Myrtus communis is good for containers as well as landscape plant. When grown in containers, it serves as a nice accent plant for patios. Besides its bushy growth, Myrtus communis can be easily pruned to any shape. That is why it is often used in designing topiary designs.

Myrtle is easy to grow as it does not have any special requirement. The plant requires a regular soil mix, full to partial sun, and moderate watering. In fact, it can be grown as a drought tolerant plant in rock gardens or xeriscapes.

Myrtus communis can be propagated from cuttings.

15 Jul

Beautiful Flowering Plant for Landscapes, Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)

If you are looking for an easy to grow, hardy and rich flowering plant for your garden landscape, consider Alcea rosea. Commonly described as Hollyhock, a number of tall and dwarf varieties are popular among gardeners – majorly because of the variety of colorful flowers that ranges from beautiful shades of pink, white, maroon, purple, yellow and black.

Alcea rosea, Hollyhock

Alcea rosea (Hollyhock), Image by Charles Roffey

Hollyhocks make excellent ornamental houseplants because they do not require special care or climate. They can grow in ordinary soil mix under full or partial sun. These drought tolerant plants can be used to fill uncultivated spaces where they would grow up to 3 meters or more as biennial plants to produce showy flowers in the second year. Alcea rosea produces vigorous tap roots and should not be grown with plants that cannot compete for food and moisture. Hollyhock grows best when cultivated separately in background of landscape design or places where ordinary plants cannot be grown.

Alcea rosea originally comes from Mediterranean and tropical climates of Asia, thus it requires bright sunlight and moderate watering. Long stalks of flowers need to be protected from strong winds. Thus, Alcea rosea is grown against walls or in locations where they are not directly affected by strong winds or they should be provided with support of staking. Several dwarf species of Alcea rosea are also available that can be grown in windy conditions.

Alcea rosea can be propagated easily from seeds.

08 Jul

Spiny, Hardy, Lovely, and Flowery Cactus: Echinopsis

Echinopsis is the most popular and widely grown genus from the family of cactus. This genus includes more than 100 species varying in size, shape and growing habits. Most of the species in the genus of Echinopsis grow in clusters of globular heads. In some species, these globular heads remain solitary whereas some species produce several offspring around globular heads.

Echinopsis are fast growing plants, and with age they change their shape from globular heads to elongated succulent stems. Old plants can grow into large clumps measuring more than 60 cm in diameter. At this age, most species of Echinopsis produce profuse flowers in spring and summer. The funnel-shaped flowers come in all shades of yellow, white, pink and orange. The best known flowers are borne on Echinopsis multiplex (sometimes described as Echinopsis oxygana).

Echinopsis Huntigton Hybrid

Echinopsis Huntigton Hybrid, Image by epiforums(flickr)

Originally native to South America, Echinopsis multiplex is widely cultivated is many parts of the work for its lovely flowers. Though flowers last for a day or two, they appear in flushes several time during spring and summer – producing many flowers in each cycle. It is quite hardy plant that does not require special attention or growing conditions to thrive. Moderate watering, a regular soil mix with good drainage, and bright sunlight are more than sufficient for this hardy plant to grow. If kept dry, Echinopsis can easily withstand frost and cold.

Echinopsis multiplex

Echinopsis multiplex, Image by pizzodisevo (flickr)

Echinopsis can be propagated from offspring sown in spring or summer. The best and most sought after varieties of Echinopsis are Schick hybrids produced by the Huntington garden. These include (my favorites):

Echinopsis ‘Antares’, Echinopsis ‘Bacarole’, Echinopsis ‘Brigitte’s Beauty’, Echinopsis ‘Desdemona’ and many more.

Echinopsis Schick Hybrid

Echinopsis Schick Hybrid, Image by epiforums(flickr)

Common names of Echinopsis are Hedgehog cacti, Sea-Urchin cactus or Easter lily cactus.