19 Jul

Sedum album, the Coral Carpet

Sedum album or Coral Carpet is a low-growing and very attractive plant for containers as well as a mat-forming ground cover. The plant is known for its small, mossy and succulent foliage that makes this plant look like coral from the oceans. Sedum album or Coral Carpet makes an excellent ground cover because of its shiny and dark-green leaves that turn red in winter. Since it is frost hardy, it is used in rock gardens, containers or garden landscapes for a year-round effect.

Sedum album, Coral Carpet

Sedum album (Coral Carpet), Image by William Kirby

Sedum album spreads horizontally and effectively covers empty areas with its succulent growth and tiny, star-shaped flowers of white or pinkish color. Flowers usually appear in midsummer.

Sedum album is a good plant for a beginner’s collection. It only requires bright sunlight, and loamy but well-drained soil. Water moderately in summer but only occasionally in winter when it turns red. New plants can be produced from leaves that root easily and grow into small plants. When grown in containers, repot your plant every other year in spring.

20 Jun

Fancy and Flowery: Scilla

Scilla is a genus of low-growing and bulbous perennials that make excellent container or border plants. Most plants form this genus come from summer rainfall regions of Europe, South Africa and Asia. Though, not common in cultivation, Scilla are nice and easy-to-grow plants that produce clumps of lovely blue or purple flowers in spring.

Scilla flowers

Scilla flowers growing in a landscape, Image by Roger Bruce

Being low-growing plants, Scilla can be grown as border plants, or to fill empty spaces in landscapes and flower beds where they can grow up to 3 feet.  Most species of Scilla grown under partial sun and prefer slightly moist but rich, loamy soil. Late summer or early autumn is the best time to plant bulbs. Young plants produce fresh foliage in winter and spring. Pale blue or purple flowers appear in spring but they do not last long.

Popular species of Scilla include: Schilla peruviana, S.madeirensis, S. greillhuberi, and Scilla messeniaca.

11 Jun

Lovely Ground Cover for Coastal Climates: Armeria maritima

Armeria maritima is a compact, low-growing plant, which is known for its prolific and long-lasting spring flowers. The plant is commonly known as Thrift or Sea Pink – the latter is perhaps the more appropriate name for this lovely plant because of its ability to produce large clumps of grassy growth which is topped with vigorous pink flowering – thus making a ‘sea’ of pink flowers in its native habitat.

Armeria maritima, Sea Pink, Thrift

Armeria maritima, Image by Randi Hausken

Though the plant belongs to the coast lines of Northern Hemisphere, especially Europe but it has been grown successfully in many parts of the world as an excellent ground cover. The plant can grow in almost all types of soils with good drainage and under bright sunny exposure. In fact, Armeria maritime can grow quite easily in poor soil conditions and spots where very few plants would survive.

As a compact and low-growing plant, Armeria maritime is a good choice for edging, border fronts, rock gardens or wall pockets. The plant requires moderate watering and can be grown easily from seeds. Flowers are useful for both ornamental as well as cut-flower arrangements.

22 Jan

Small, Lovely and Hardy Flowering Plant: Hypoxis

Hypoxis or Star Flower is a genus of more than 90 species that grow in most climates and conditions – from summer rainfall areas to marshy forests and from sunny grasslands to rocky landscapes. Hypoxis are identified by their typical star-shaped flowers and usually hairy leaves. Flowers are usually yellow or white that bloom in late spring till early summer.

Hypoxis are tough plants that survive drought and frost. They can be grown easily in landscapes or as small ornamental plants in containers. Most species of Hypoxis are low growing, thus, they can be used a ground covers as well.

Hypoxis, The Yellow Star Flower

Hypoxis, The Yellow Star Flower, Image by Scott Zona

Hypoxis are grown from seeds or by dividing rhizomes. They thrive in a sunny location where they receive moderate water in a well-drained soil.

Common species include: Hypoxis Rooperi, H. Argentea, H. Costata, and H. Angustifolia.

05 Jan

Natural Insect Repellent: Nepeta Cataria, the Catnip Plant

Nepeta is a large genus of perennial plants that grow naturally in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. Commonly known as Catmint or Catnip, Nepeta grow as small shrubs or subshrubs and herbs. One of the commonly grown species is Nepeta Cataria, which is a good candidate for a nice border plant or ground cover. The plant produces heart-shapes leaves and tiny flowers (of white or lavender shades) that usually bloom in summer. Flowers are fragrant and have purple spots on them.

Nepeta cataria, The Catnip Plant

Nepeta cataria, The Catnip Plant/ Image by Isabelle Blanchemain

Because of a chemical compound called Nepetalactone naturally found in it, Catmint has long been used in traditional medicine as a sedative. It also acts as natural insect repellent which particularly keeps mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. The chemical also affects cats and makes them drooling, sleepy or growling.

Nepeta Cataria or Catmint is very easy to grow. Generally, it prefers sunny conditions, moderate watering and a well-drained soil.

24 Dec

Miniature Succulents for Dish Gardens: Conophytum

Conophytums are my personal favorites ever since I was introduced to these miniature succulents. Though a bit tricky to grow, they are excellent plants for dish gardens. These miniature plants grow in small spreading clumps and usually form thick mat of succulent leaves. Each Conophytum plant consists of a pair of leaves that withers out to make room for a fresh pair in growing season. Some species also branch out – each branch consists of a pair of leaves.

Miniature Conophytum Succulent Plants

Conophytum Plants, Image by Manuel M. Ramos

Conophytums are usually grown in dish gardens where they spread slowly but make good ornamental plants for window gardening. They also do well in rockeries where they can be grown in crevices.

Conophytums come from winter rainfall regions of South Africa and Namibia where they grow vigorously in winter and go dormant in summer. Thus the best way to grow Conophytum plants at home is to provide them with the same climate – generous watering under bright sunlight in winter, and barely moist in shady spots in winter. Grow Conophytums in a loose, PH-balanced and a well-drained soil. They are not hungry plants and occasional supply of water-soluble fertilizer in winter in usually sufficient. Ideal temperature for Conophytums is 10 to 25 ◦C.

Most species of Conophytum bear yellow, white, purple or orange flowers in winter with a hint of fragrance. Usually grown from seeds, popular species of Conophytum include: C. obcordellum, C. truncatum, C. pellucidum, C. meyeri, and Conophytum gratum.

 

22 Dec

Lovely Plant for Hanging Basket: Callisia Elegans

Callisia is a genus of low growing plants with delicate and lovely foliage. Native to dry climate of Mexico,these sprawling plants server as excellent ground covers for dry as well as moderate climates where they are protected from long spells of freeze and frost.

Most species in this genus produce velvety, green leaves and small white flowers. The most popular and easy to maintain plant from this genus is Callisia Elegans. It can be grown easily in beds or in hanging pots. The plant produces olive-green leaves with purple edges. This ornamental plant requires a moist soil at all times and performs very well when grown under partial shade. Fertilize regularly and repot every spring in a rich but well-drained soil mix.

Callisia Elegans

Callisia, Inch Plant

Though popular for its beautiful foliage, Callisia Elegans produces small yet beautiful and fragrant flowers of white color. Propagation is done from cuttings or divisions.

Common name of Callisia Elegans is Inch Plant.

22 Nov

Lovely Bloomer for Cold Climate: Leucojum, Spring Snowflake

Leucojum Vernum or Spring Snowflake, as it is usually known, is a lovely flowering plant ideally suited to cooler and Mediterranean regions. This bulbous plant originally belongs to Europe and Russia and grows very well under trees or near ponds where soil is moist or boggy.

White Flowers of Leucojum, Spring Snowflake

Spring Sowflake, Image by Louisa Billeter

The plant produces clumps of narrow, lily-like leaves of dark green color. Flowers are small and inconspicuous but fragrant. These bell-shaped flowers appear on drooping stems. Each flower has white petals that are tipped with green. Flowers appear in winter or early spring.

How to Grow Spring Snowflake

Spring Snowflake can be grown in containers, flower beds, borders or as ground covers. It reproduces itself quickly and can be propagated from divisions planted in spring. Though Leucojum would grow in almost any soil, provide it regular watering and feed in a well-drained soil under full or partial sun for best results.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance winter bloomer for your cold climate garden, Spring Snowflake is a good choice – both for beginners as well as master gardeners.

04 Nov

Lovely Companion Plant for Your Vegetable Garden: Phacelia

Phacelia is a genus of annual and perennial herbaceous plants from the Americas. These quick growing plants are usually used in massive plantation schemes for cover empty spaces and for their attractive spring blooms. These sun loving plants are easy to grow and require moderate watering in a well-drained soil.

One of the commonly known species is Phacelia Campanularia or California Bluebell. It is a fast growing plant with fresh green foliage and blue flowers that appear in spring or summer. Like most species of Phacelia, it attracts bees and hoverflies that kill aphids thus making it a good companion plant in vegetable gardens.

Phacelia, Companion Plant for Vegetable Gardens

Phacelia, Image by Wayfinder_73 (flickr)

Phacelia Campanularia can be grown as ground cover or border plant near lettuce, tomatoes, roses or other flowering plants or fruit trees that are prone to aphid attack.

24 Oct

Evergreen, Ornamental Plant for Beginners: Baby’s Tears

Baby’s Tears or Soleirolia Soleirolii is an evergreen and low growing ground cover known for its round cascading leaves. A good candidate for a beginner’s must-have list, Baby’s Tears can be grown as a maintenance-free hanging basket or pot plant. When confined in containers or hanging baskets, this vigorous grower would soon outgrow its container and form dense mound of fresh-green and delicate leaves. These attractive plants can be grown indoors at shady spots or near bright sunlit windows or patios.

Baby's Tars, Soleirolia Soleirolii

Baby's Tars, Soleirolia Soleirolii

Baby’s Tear is equally good for rock gardens and landscapes where it can easily take up empty spaces and form thick mounds of attractive foliage. It can also be used as alternate of grass because it would survive cold and shady spots easily and serve as nice ground cover throughout the year. When grown with other plants, Baby’s Tears proves to be a bad neighbor as it tends to cover and take up the space of surrounding plants very soon. Therefore it should be pruned back regularly to keep this vigorous grower under control.

How to grow Baby’s Tears

Native to parts of Europe and some Mediterranean climates, Bab’s Tears grows easily in almost all parts of the world. It is easy to grow, in fact, difficult to kill plant. You can grow it under shade as well as under sun. The plant requires moist soil all the time and performs well is a well-drained, sandy or boggy soil. Baby’s Tears can be propagated easily from divisions. Water it regularly and protect from long dry spells.

Soleirolia Soleirolii is also known as Mind-Your-Own-Business or Angel’s Tears.