29 Dec

Pseuderanthemum alatum, the Chocolate Plant

Chocolate Plant is common name of Pseuderanthemum alatum, which is a low-growing shrub from the family of popular tropical plants like Ruellia and Odontonema. Chocolate Plant takes its name from coppery-brown colors of its foliage.

Pseuderanthemum alatum is usually grown as ground cover in tropical climates where it grows under full to partial sun. In colder climates, it can be grown in greenhouse. The plant requires rich, well-drained soil and regular watering though it is capable of surviving occasional droughts.

Pseuderanthemum alatum, the Chocolate Plant

Pseuderanthemum alatum, the Chocolate Plant

Pseuderanthemum alatum is usually propagated from cuttings. The plant grows up to 1 foot and bears purple or magenta flowers. The beautiful foliage of Chocolate Plant makes it an attractive plant for landscapes and gardens where it can be grown to fill large spaces or cover uncultivated ground. It can also be grown along borders to add dramatic colors to the garden.

29 Dec

Beautiful Foliage Plant for Marshy Soil: Typha, the Bullrush

Typha is a small genus of flowering plants known for their beautiful foliage and unusual flowers. The genus consists of more than eleven species that grow in wetlands or marshy areas in almost all parts of the world.

Typhas make excellent accent plants for water gardens. These fast growing plants make large clumps of stem-less foliage and brown cylindrical inflorescence. The flowers are dried and used in floral arrangements to add dramatic effects.

Typha, the Bullrush plant

Typha, Bullrush/ Image by Gertrud K.

Most species of Typha contain high levels of nutrients such as protein and starch that is why it has been used as culinary item in Europe. Because of high level starch, some species of Typha can be used to produce ethanol as biofuel. Other traditional uses of Typha as recorded in history are preparation of paper, fiber and diuretic medicine.

Typha can be grown easily near ponds and pools. The plants can be grown from seeds or rhizomes under full to partial sun in wet soil. Popular species include Typha capensis, Typha latifolia and T. angustifolia.

Commin name of Typha is Bullrush.

04 Dec

Exotic and Colorful Foliage Plants: Neoregelia

Neoregelia is a genus of beautiful foliage plants from the Bromeliad family. Native to the South America especially Brazil, these tropical plants are grown for their colorful foliage. The genus comprises of more than 100 species and many cultivars and hybrid varieties that make exotic specimen plants.

Neoregelia foliage

Neoregelia/ Image by Eric Hunt

Like most Bromeliads, Neoregelia are not difficult to grow or propagate. These are quite hardy plants that grow under filtered sunlight and do not require much water. Most species of Neoregelia would grow easily in a regular soil mix and under moderate temperatures. The coloration, however, varies according the exposure to the sun.

Neoregelia bromeliad

Image by Adam Fagen

The inflorescence of Neoregelia plants is inconcpicous as compared to the showy and colorful foliage of the plant itself.

Neoregelia plants

Image by Christoph Diewald

01 Dec

Lovely and Fragrant Flowering Shrub: Murraya paniculata

Murraya is a small genus of flowering shrubs and small trees from south Asia especially from subtropical plains of Pakistan and India. Several species of Murraya are grown as houseplants and shrubs because of their beautiful foliage and sturdy structure that makes then useful for creating hedges and screens.

The most popular species is Murraya paniculata. It is a fast growing shrub that often grows in to a small tree up to 3 meters or more. Locally it is known as Kamini and grown for lovely foliage and flowers. The glossy, white flowers of Murraya paniculata are strongly fragrant. The plant produces abundance of small and white flowers that add to the beauty of fresh green foliage and spread their fragrance all around. The flowers are followed by formation of small, oval fruits of red or orange color. The fruit serves as food for many birds.

Murraya paniculata, Kamini flower

Murraya paniculata/ Image by Tim Waters

Murraya paniculata has been acclimatized in many parts of the world where it grows in tropical and subtropical plains. The plant requires bright sunlight, regular watering and occasional pruning. It is quite easy to prune and train in to favorite shapes and topiary designs.

Murraya paniculata can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. Other popular names are Chinese box and Orange Jasmine.

28 Nov

Fragrant and Winter Flowering Shrub: Luculia gratissima

Luculia gratissima

Luculia gratissima/ Image by James Gaither

The plant in picture is Luculia gratissima – an excellent bloomer and ornamental shrub from south Asia particularly from the Himalayas. Luculia gratissima belongs to the family of popular flowering shrubs and trees including Ixora, Gardenia and Hamelia. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree (up to 5 meters) that bears beautiful glossy leaves and produces abundance of fragrant flower in fall and winter. The masses of pink flowers spread delightful and jasmine-like scent.

Luculia gratissima is a bit difficult to grow in garden in garden as it thrives in a very limited spectrum of day and night temperature (between 28 to 80 F). It also requires long exposure to indirect sunlight, higher level of moisture and well-drained soil.

Though a bit difficult to grow, Luculia gratissima is a very rewarding plant that produces long lasting and fragrant winter flowering. It is usually propagated from seeds or hardwood cuttings. Other popular species include: Luculia grandiflora and L. intermedia.

28 Oct

Lovely Flowering Shrub: Hypericum, the Rose of Sharon

Hypericum is a large genus of flowering shrubs, ground covers and annuals with a worldwide distribution. Known for their ornamental flowers and foliage, most species of Hypericum are frost-resistant plants that can be grown in landscapes as border plants or ground covers. Most species of Hypericum can be grown in shaded or semi-shaded areas of the garden where they bloom profusely in spring or summer. The flowers are bright yellow or golden. A number of hybrids have been produced for their horticultural use.
Hypericum x hidcote

Hypericum x hidcote/ Image by M. Martin Vicente

Among many useful flowering shrubs and ground covers, my personal favorite is Hypericum calycinum which is a vigorous growing plant. Usually grown as ground cover or small shrub, this lovely bloomer produces bright yellow flowers in summer. The flowers are chactrized by a mass of showy stamens that make this flower look quite unusual. H. calycinum prefers bright sunlight and moderate watering. The plant is commonly known as Rose of Sharon.
Other popular species of Hypericum include: H. perforatum (it is a popular homeopathic remedy for relieving pain and depression), H. uralum, H. pulchrum, Hypericum olympicum and Hypericum hidcote (St. John’s wort).
27 Oct

Orthosiphon labiatus – Shell Bush, Pink Sage, Pink Cat’s Whiskers

Orthosiphon is a genus of herbaceous shrubs from the family of Salvia and is known for its ornamental blooms. These drought tolerant shrubs especially Orthosiphon labiatus is a long blooming plant that forms a handsome shrub (up to 1 meter) for gardens and landscapes.

Orthosiphon labiatum

Orthosiphon labiatum

Orthosiphon labiatus is known for its pink, tubular flowers that appear on upright stems of the plant to cover the entire plant in spring and summer. Flowers are usually purple-pink and emit a minty fragrance.  This handsome shrub is perfect for mass plantation schemes to form large beds of decent foliage and spring blooms.

Orthosiphon labiatus is known by many names – Shell Bush, Pink Sage, and Pink Cat’s Whiskers. It grows best in full to partial sun and requires regular watering.

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.

14 Oct

Lovely Tropical Bloomer: Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’

Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’ is one of the many popular hybrids of Ixora coccinea. The plant is popular for its salmon orange blooms and evergreen foliage. Like other plants of the genus, Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ prefers a well-drained, loamy and slightly acidic soil. Suitable for outdoor plantation, this beautiful hybrid is a bit fussy about moisture and temperature. The idea place for Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ in a garden is a sunny spot where it receives bright sunlight but protection from frosty winters.

Ixora coccinea 'Jacqueline'

Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’/ Image by Troy Mckaskle

Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ is characterized by glossy foliage and shrubby growth that can be easily control by regular pruning. Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ does not like being moved around and often drops flower buds when moved around. Clusters of showy flowers appear almost all through the summer. The plant benefits from general purpose fertilizer every fortnight during the flowering season.

Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’ has many common names including Jungle Flame, Jungle Geranium, Flame of the Woods, Needle Flower, and West Indian Jasmine.

12 Oct

Tetrapanax papyriferus, the Chinese Paper Plant

Tetrapanax papyriferus is an evergreen shrub often growing in to a small tree (up to 6 meters). It is commonly known as Rice-paper Plant or Chinese Paper Plant because in ancient China, the plant was used in making paper. Today, it is well known as a useful plant in horticulture.

Tetrapanax papyriferus, Chinese Paper Plant

Tetrapanax papyriferus, Chinese Paper Plant/ Image by Bettaman (flickr)

Tetrapanax papyriferus is fast growing plant that can be grown in almost any soil and a wide range of climatic conditions. The plant produces large, green leaves that appear along a solitary trunk. The fresh green and prominent foliage of Tetrapanax papyriferus makes it a useful plant for landscapes and gardens. Fluffy white flowers are insignificant and appear in large clusters.

Tetrapanax papyriferus can be propagated from suckers. Since the plant is not fussy about growing conditions, it can be grown under full to partial sun with moderate watering throughout the year.