23 May

Evergreen, Tropical Shade Tree: Schinus, Pepper Tree

Schinus is a genus of ornamental trees and shrubs from tropical and subtropical climates, mainly from South America. Plants in this genus are known for their fine evergreen foliage, ability to survive drought and strong winds, and ornamental fruit.

Most species in the genus of Schinus grow into tall and shady trees which are rich in fresh-green foliage. These are quite fast growing plants (sometimes, invasive) and make excellent choice for gardens and landscapes where they can be grown for shade or breaking strong winds. One of the commonly grown plants from this genus is Schinus terebinthifolius that grows as a tall shrub and later turns into a hardy tree. It grows up to 6 meters as a self-seeding plant and produces ornamental pink berries after flowering season. The sap from its stem is fragrant and might cause irritation on skin. Schinus terebinthifolius is also known as Brazilian Pepper Tree.

Schinus molle

Schinus molle, Pepper Tree, Image by Petr Kosina

Another popular plant from this genus is Schinus molle which is usually descried as Pepper Tree because of peppery fragrance of its leaves. The plant grows up to 20 meters and provides a nice shady spot under its dense foliage. The red berries that are produced after flowering season and very attractive because of shiny red color and spicy fragrance.

Almos all species of Schinus are drought-tolerant and can be grown in a regular soil where they receive sufficient sunlight, moderate water and a rich but well-drained soil.

07 May

Winter Flowering, Ornamental Shrubs: Phylica

Phylica Pubescens

Phylica Pubescens - Image by faroutflora.com

These lovely and unusual flowers grow on winter-flowering plants in the genus of Phylica. Most species in this genus are small shrubs from winter rainfall areas of South Africa. However, a number of species of Phylica are grown in many parts of the world for their ornamental flowers.

Phylica are good plants to grow in landscape, as border plants or simple outdoor ornamental shrubs. Flowers of Phylica are fluffy because of dense silvery hairs that give these flowers the appearance of feathery pompons.

Phylica are drought resistant plants and thus make good choice for xeriscaping. Propagation is easy from seeds. Popular species include:

Phylica plumosa: Low growing, evergreen shrub with feathery flowers in winter.

Phylica pubescens: Small and erect, evergreen shrub. Grows up to 1.5 meter and produces yellow-green flowers in winter.

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.

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.

05 Mar

Agave Attenuata, The Foxtail Plant

Agave attenuata is an excellent specimen plant for ornamental and landscaping purposes. Unlike other species of Agave, this beautiful Agave does not have sharp teeth or terminal spines on its leaves, instead its leaves are softer and more succulent. A healthy Agave attenuata would usually grow as tall as 4 to 5 feet and produce broad and fresh-green leaves (50-70 cm long and 12-16 cm large) that spread up to 4 feet. Mature plants have stout and curved stem, thus giving the plant its common name ‘foxtail’.

Agave attenuata comes from the plateau of central Mexico and thus requires similar growing conditions. It prefers lightly moist and loamy soil thought it can grow in poor soil and withstand drought. Protect this agave from direct scorching sunlight in summer and from long spells of frost and freeze.

Agave Attenuata, The Foxtail Plant

Foxtail, Image by Forest Starr and Kim Starr

The plant produces beautiful inflorescence of white or cream color on a long stalk in spring followed by bulk of seed pods or small plantlets. The stalk is often drooping with flowers, that is why, the plant is also called Swan’s Neck Agave. Agave attenuata can be grown easily from these seeds, plantlets, or suckers.

Foxtail or Agave attenuata makes an excellent plant for both landscapes and containers.