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.