10 Oct

Eucharis grandiflora, the Amazon Lily

Eucharis is a small genus of tropical bloomers from South America – particularly from the rainforests of the western basin of the Amazon. These lovely bloomers are quite easy to grow and produce lovely flowers almost all through the year in tropical climates. The most popular species in the genus is Eucharis grandiflora which is supposed to be a cross of Eucharia moorei and Eucharia sanderi.

Eucharis grandiflora is an excellent plant for containers as well as gardens. It is suitable for growing in shaded parts of the garden where it requires filtered sunlight and moist soil. The plant is characterized by green and glossy foliage that makes this plant very attractive. Daffodils-like flowers of white color appear on long stalks. Flowers are fragrant and last long that is why, it makes an excellent choice as cut flower.

Eucharis grandiflora, the Amazon Lily

Eucharis grandiflora, the Amazon Lily /Image by Jan Smith

Eucharis grandiflora is commonly known as Amazon Lily because of its origin. In its natural habitat, it produces large clumps that are often found full of flowers. Since these plants come from tropical climate, they require protection from frost and freezing temperature.

08 Oct

Lovely and Colorful Foliage Plants: Coprosma

Coprosma is a genus of ornamental and very useful shrubs and small trees from New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. These evergreen plants are known for their glossy and leathery foliage that makes them attractive houseplants. Most species of Coprosma are quite easy to grow and maintain. Traditionally these foliage plants have been used to make effective hedges and borders. However, Coprosma offers a wide variety of small to large ornamental shrubs that can be grown as specimen plants in gardens and landscapes.

Coprosma 'Tequila Sunburst'

Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunburst’/ Image by Leonora Enking

Most species of Coprosma can be grown in poor and sandy soil though they benefit from rich and loamy soil as well. Young plants require regular watering until they are established and are ready to withstand drought. The best spot for Coprosma plants is a brightly lit corner where it can establish its roots and become a sturdy plant.

Popular species of Coprosma include:

Coprosma repens (Mirror Plant) – Grows as small tree and can be trimmed back to make an ornamental border or hedge.

Coprosma robusta – A quick growing and a sturdy, small tree that can grow up to 3 meters; good choice for creating borders and screens.

Coprosma ernodeoides

Coprosma ernodeoides/ Image by David Eickhoff

A number of hybrids and new cultivars are widely grown these days. Some of the popular cultivars are:

Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’, Coprosma ‘Clearwater Gold’, and Coprosma ‘Rainbow Surprise’.

02 Oct

Tropical Flowering Shrub: Odontonema strictum, Firespike

The plant in picture is Odontonema strictum which is a versatile and useful shrub for tropical climates. Known by the names of Firespike, Cardinal Guard and Scarlet Flame, Odontonema strictum is grown for its fresh green foliage and spikes of showy flowers. It is a good plant to grow in borders, landscapes or in empty spaces where it can spread quickly to fill in the space with a plenty of foliage and branches. The branches that grow from the underground can grow as high as 6 feet. However, it can be easily pruned to keep in proper shape and under control.

Odontonema strictum

Odontonema strictum/ Image by Lady_Elixir (flickr)

Odontonema strictum originally belongs to the Central America but grown widely in many tropical regions of the world for its crimson flowers. The flowers usually appear in summer and attract a lot of butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, it is any easy way to invite hummingbirds to the garden.

Odontonema strictum is quite easy to grow as it only requires a good but well-drained soil. Young plants thrive well with regular watering but once established it can easily withstand spells of drought. It also does well under all light conditions but prefers filtered and bright sunlight.

Odontonema strictum is propagated from seeds or softwood cuttings.

30 Sep

Ricinus communis, Castor Oil Plant for Gardens and Landscapes

Ricinus communis, commonly known as castor oil plant, is an interesting foliage plant for warm climates where it grows as a small tree (up to 5 to 10 meters). Castor oil plant is usually grown as specimen plant in landscapes for its striking foliage. In the growing season, the plant can be seen covered with new foliage of purplish-red color in contrast with older deep green color. The flowers are insignificant but the seeds pods are quite showy and colorful.

Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil Plant

Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil Plant/ Image by Katja Schulz

Ricinus communis originally belongs to warmer climates of Africa and the Indian sub-continent, however, it is grown is many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Though it makes a good plant for horticulture, Ricinus communis is an important medicinal plant as well. The seeds of Ricinus communis are source of castor oil which is widely used for many commercial purposes. It is used in preparation of fine quality lubricant for automobiles and other machinery. Castor oil extracted from the seeds of Ricinus communis is also used in manufacturing of paints, cosmetics and soap industry.

Ricinus communis is a fast growing plant for warmer climates. In horticulture, various cultivars are grown as ornamental plants. Some of the popular verities of castor oil plants include: Ricinus communis ‘Red spire’ (red stem and bronze foliage), ‘Impala’ (reddish foliage), and Ricinus communis ‘Gibsonii’ (reddish foliage and pinkish seed pods).

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).

10 Sep

Ornamental Red Ginger Plant: Alpinia purpurata

Alpinia purpurata, commonly known as Red Ginger, is an ornamental perennial that forms large leafy clumps. Originally native to tropical regions of the Central America and Asia, Alpinia purpurata is grown in many parts of the world as ornamental foliage plant.

Alpinia purpurata, the Red Ginger plant

Alpinia purpurata, the Red Ginger plant/ Image by Cliff (flickr)

Like other plants in this genus, Alpinia purpurata grows best in a rich soil and under partial sun. The plant benefits from plenty of water in spring and summer and dry conditions in winter. Alpinia purpurata is a nice addition to tropical gardens because of its lovely foliage and bright red plumes of bracts. These attractive bracts surround white flowers of Alpinia purpurata.

Alpinia purpurata propagates itself from offspring that branch under the colorful bracts. Once the plant has bloomed, the branches droop to the ground level allowing small offspring to develop roots and become independent plants.

Alpinia purpurata is usually grown to add colorful effect to garden or landscape design. The plant can grow up to 5 meters; however, it is usually pruned back after every flowering season to obtain fresh foliage and flowers in the following season.

09 Sep

Lovely Foliage and Flowering Trees: Melaleuca

Melaleuca is a genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees from Australia. The genus is known for its horticultural use as well as medicinal effects and soothing properties.

Melaleuca are popular ornamental plants in tropical or sub-tropical climates where they are grown for their vibrant foliage and attractive flowers. The foliage is usually fragrant, the trunk has silvery bark, and the flowers that resemble the blooms of Callistemon are white, yellow, pink or red.

Melaleuca tree

Melaleuca tree/ Image by Tatiana Gerus

How to Grow Melaleuca

The plants in the genus of Melaleuca vary greatly in their size. Some species grow as shrubs that grow up to 3 – 5 meters whereas some of the species grow into small trees that can gain the height of 6 – 8 meters. Melaleucas can be grown easily from seeds or cuttings. They prefer sunny exposure, a well drained soil and regular watering.

Popular species of Melaleuca include:

M. nesophylla (Tea Myrtle) – Small tree (up to 6 meters) with spongy bark and pompon shapes flowers of pink color.

M. lanceolata – Clustering shrub (up to 5 meters) with small and narrow leaves. White flowers resembling bottle brush appear in summer and attract a lot of birds and butterflies.

M. huegelii (Honey Myrtle) – Evergreen shrub (up to 3 meters) with dense clusters of spiky flowers of white or pink color.

M. trichophylla – Small spreading shrub with globular clusters of pink, reddish pink or purple flowers in late winter to early summer.

M. lateritia – Commonly known as the Robin Red-breast Bush, M. lateritia grows as an erect shrub (up to 2 meters) and produces attractive red flowers in summer.

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

18 Aug

Lovely Foliage Plants for Cold Climate Gardens: Tradescantia

If you are looking for easy-to-care perennials for long flowering season, try Tradescantia. Tradescantia is a genus of low-growing plants that rapidly sprawl to form clusters of beautiful foliage. Originally native to Canada and the Americas, Tradescantia is grown as foliage plant, ground cover or hanging plant is cold climate gardens (-5 C to 30 C).

Tradescantia offers a wide variety of foliage plants with a long flowering season that usually starts in early summer and extends till early fall. These clump forming plant usually have self-seeding habit that is why, they spread quite rapidly. Most species of Tradescantia would benefit from a regular watering in regular but moist soil mix.

Tradescantia virginiana

Tradescantia virginiana

Because of their sprawling habit, most plant in the genus of Tradescantia make a good choice for garden borders, hanging baskets, containers or waterside landscape schemes. In places where you do not have sufficient room for these clump-forming plants, the best way to control them is cutting them back to the ground at the end of flowering season.

Popular species of Tradescantia include:

Tradescantia virginiana – Low growing perennial with purple flowers.

Tradescantia fluminensis – Usually known as Wandering Jew, T. fluminensis is a low-growing plant which is suitable as ground cover or hanging plant. The plant is easily propagated from cuttings and produces fresh green foliage.

Tradescantia comes from the family of Wandering Jew and is commonly described as Spiderwort.

15 Aug

Small and Beautiful Foliage Plant: Peperomia carperata

Peperomia is a genus of popular houseplants used for their ornamental foliage. These slow growing plants have bushy habit and are rather easy to grow. Originally coming from tropical forests of South America, a number of species in this genus are grown widely as ornamental houseplants such as Peperomia carperata, which is known for its lovely foliage.

Peperomia carperata

Peperomia carperata, Image by Grigoris Deoudis

Peperomia caperata grows as a dwarf plant. It is usually grown in containers or mixed with other foliage plants where it complements its companion plants with attractive and textured leaves. Peperomia caperata produces inconspicuous flowers in late spring or late autumn. The flowering period is the time when the plant requires higher level of humidity and frequent watering. Once flowering season ends, water Peperomia caperata plants only when the soil is dry.

Peperomia caperata prefers bright but indirect sunlight. The best soil mix for Peperomia caperata is loamy and well-drained soil that does not retain much water. Being humidity loving plants, Peperomias tends to drop its leaves when temperature (minimum 10◦ C) or humidity level is too low. Like other plants in the genus, Peperomia caperata prefers moderate watering in summer and barely sufficient water in winter.

Peperomia caperata can be grown from leaf cutting as well as seeds.

Other popular species include: Peperomia sandersii, Peperomia prostrate, Peperomia puteolata, Peperomia obtusifolia, and Peperomia orba ‘Variegata’.