07 Oct

Delicate Bloomer of Borders and Flower Beds: Ornithogalum

Ornithogalum is a large genus of bulbous perennials from southern Europe and South Africa. These striking bloomers are quite easy to grow and care under full or partial sun and a little warmth. Though the genus of Ornithogalum is not very well known but it has a great horticulture value. Suitable for borders or raised flower beds, Ornithogalums produce beautiful flowers of striking colors. The flowers range from white, orange and yellow in color. These flowers grow on long stalks and serve as long lasting cut flowers. Leaves are grassy and tender to frost (except for the European varieties).

Generally Ornithogalums requite deep and rich soil with regular watering and bright sunlight. In cold climates, they can be planted indoor where they are protected from heavy frost.

Ornithogalum kochii

Ornithogalum kochii/ Image by Amadej Trnkoczy

Popular species of Ornithogalum include:

Ornithogalum thyrsoides (Star of Bethlehem) that grows up to 50 cm and produces long lasting cut flowers of white color.

Ornithogalum saundersiae (Giant Chincherinchee) produces extra-long stalks (up to 1.5 meters) of small white flowers produced in summer.

Ornithogalum arabicum forms large clumps of grassy plants and produces very prominent and delicate flowers of white color.

08 May

Justicia brandegeana, The Shrimp Plant for Tropical Gardens

Justicia is a genus of evergreen and deciduous perennials mostly shrubs or small twiggy plants that grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates. These showy perennials are good plants for mixed borders and beds where they produce masses of ornamental flowers. Most species of Justicia can be grown as container plants though they would require pinching and pruning after flowering to keep them in shape.

Almost all plants in the genus of Justicia are frost tender and need to be protected completely from frost and freeze. If you are growing them in a cooler climate, it is advised to move them indoor in frosty season. When grown outdoors, Justicia plants prefer a well-drained and fertile soil under a good sunny exposure.


The genus is usually represented by Justicia brandegeana which is grown for its showy pink flower that is of the shape of a shrimp that is why it is commonly described as Shrimp Plant. It is an easy to grow plant that is resistant to pests and diseases. The Shrimp Plant grows in clumps of weak, twiggy stems that grow up to 1 to 1.5 meter. The leaves are soft, fresh and evergreen. The plant usually blooms in summer but in mild climates it can bloom almost all through the year. Propagation is easy from cuttings.

Justicia brandegeana, The Shrimp Plant

Justicia brandegeana, The Shrimp Plant


06 May

Lovely Flowering Plant for Tropical Gardens: Impatiens

Impatiens is a large genus of flowering annuals and perennials from tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Known for their showy flowers, several species of Impatiens including many hybrids are grown both indoor and outdoor. These, usually low growing plants, grow easily and produce profuse flowers of white, pink, red, yellow purple and salmon colors. Perennial varieties grow easily from seeds whereas annuals varieties of Impatiens are usually grown from seeds.

Impatiens Walleriana, Busy Lizzie

Impatiens Walleriana, Image by Mauricio Mercadante

Impatiens offers a wide range of plants for shaded or semi-shaded spots in your garden where they would grow in a well-drained soil. These lovely bloomers usually have a long spell of flowering season before the frost season begins. Flowering is followed by formation of seed pods that explode immediately at the slightest human touch – as if they are impatient to explode. The ‘explosion’ results in distribution of seeds in all directions. For this these plants are commonly known as ‘Touch-Me-Not’.

Popular species of Impatiens include:

Impatiens balsamina: Bushy annual with white, yellow or red flowering in spring through summer.

I. wallerana: Produces white flowers almost all through the year. Grows well in as indoor flowering plant. Common name is Busy Lizzie.

I. aerocoma: Commonly found in tropical climates. Grows up to 1 meter and produces yellow flowers.

22 Feb

Easy Growing, Ornamental House Plants: Philodendron

Philodendron is a large genus of creepers and clambering plants. Widely grown as indoor ornamental plants, philodendrons make excellent container plants for difficult (dark, shady and ignored places) spots. Native to tropical climate of the Americas, these beautiful foliage plants come in a large range of sizes, colors, and growing habits. Some are good for hanging baskets, some flourish under shady trees, and some of them server as outdoor ornamental plants.

Philodendron, Ornamental Foliage Plant

Philodendron, Ornamental Foliage Plant, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad

In their native habitat, Philodendrons usually outgrow their neighbours however plants grown indoors or captivated in containers do not grow vigorously. In fact, they are quite easy to train when grown as indoor container plants.

Most species of Philodendron are characterized by evergreen lobbed leaves and aerial roots. They are easily cultivated from cuttings and prefer a damp and rich soil all the time. Avoid overwatering and place Philodendron plants in places where they receive indirect sunlight for some part of the day. When grown outdoors, protect them from direct, harsh sunlight and provide them with rich organic soil. As a general rules, all species of Philodendron should be provided with a warm environment (minimum 55 F).

Popular species include:  Philodendron Selloum, P. Squamiferum, P. Cannifolium, P. Scandens, and Philodendron Bipinnatifidum.

Philodendron Selloum

Philodendron Selloum, Image by Kahlil (flickr)

02 Feb

Lovely Foliage Plants for Pots and Gardens: Calathea

Calathea are my favorite foliage plants for decorating gardens, patios and windows. They belong to the family of Maranta and like their cousins, these ornamental plants produce very beautiful foliage in a variety of colors and sizes. Some of them form dense clumps of short-stemmed leaves whereas some produce larger leaves on solitary plants. Some of Calathea plants produce blotched leaves, some have colorful markings on their leaves, and some have colored and patterned leaves.

Calathea, The Zebra Plant

Calathea, The Zebra Plant, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad

Most species of Calathea come from tropical regions of the Americas and require warmth, higher levels of humidity and partial shade to grow perfectly. Water these plants regularly in a rich but well-drained soil. Do not overwater these plants.

Calathea can be propagated from divisions and grown as border or pot plants. Popular species include:

Calathea Concinna: Good as ground cover or border plant, this low-growing species requires regular watering and can be grown indoors.

Calathea Rotundifolia: Grows as a compact foliage plant. Produces bright, marginated green leaves with shades of red or brown beneath.

Calathea Ornata: Relatively larger plant; good for growing in containers as well as in the ground. Leaves are marked with rose-pink lines. Violet flowers appear on long spikes.

28 Jan

Ornamental Fern for Indoor and Outdoor Gardens: Holly Fern

Cyrtomium is a genus of about 20 species of fern majorly from temperature climates of eastern Asia, and parts of Africa and Madagascar. The most popular of these easy –to-grow ferns is Cyrtomium Falcatum which is commonly known as Holly Fern.

Holly Fern is an evergreen perennial fern which is suitable for both outdoor and indoor plantation. The plant bears glossy green and erect fronds with edgy margins. The plant is quite hardy and survives a bit neglect. Whether grown indoor or outdoor, Holly Fern can grow in shady or poorly-lit areas (though bright sunlight is preferred) as far as it is protected from freezing temperature.

Cyrtomium Falcatum, The Holly Fern

Holly Fern, Image by Gardening in a Minute (Flickr)

Being a native of temperate climates, Holly Fern requires regular watering, a well-drained soil and temperature range of 50 to 72 F. Propagation is done from spores that germinate in a moist soil. In its habitat, Holly Fern grows in woodlands, crevices and rocks, hence it is can be grown successfully in landscapes and gardens in similar conditions as a nice ornamental and foliage plant.

19 Jan

Ornamental, Summer Flowering Shrub: Iochroma Cyaneum

Iochroma is a genus of flowering shrubs and small trees from the family of Brugmansia. Originating from tropical zones of South America, Ichroma make good landscape plants as well as indoor patio plants when protected from frost. These plants are known for their drooping, trumpet-shaped summer flowers that usually appear in many shades of yellow, red, purple, white, scarlet and blue.

Iochroma Cyaneum, The Blue Cestrum, Ornamental Shrub

Iochroma Cyaneum, Image by Leonora Enking

Most species of Iochroma grow vigorously and require regular pruning. They are easily trained as hedges or topiary shapes. The most common of all species is Iochroma Cyaneum or Blue Cestrum. It grows as a flowering shrub up to 3 meters and produces violet-blue flowers in summer. Flowers grow in clusters and attract bees and garden birds as pollinating agents.

Iochroma Cyaneum requires full to partial sun and regular watering (avoid overwatering). It is propagated from softwood cuttings.

14 Jan

Easy to Grow Ground Cover & Landscape Plant: Liriope Muscari

Liriope is a genus of low-growing foliage plants that are grown widely in temperate regions as ground covers and landscape plants. These grass-like evergreen plants are usually associated with the lily family. Ideal for pots, baskets, pathways, borders and as patio plants, most species of Liriope are quite easy to grow and maintain.

One of the commercially popular species is Liriope Muscari which grows in clumps of narrow leaves. This beautiful plant spreads quickly and easily and is suitable for garden landscapes as ground cover. It can also be grown as indoor pot plant when provided with adequate light and temperature.

Liriopes Muscari

Liriopes Muscari, Image by Martin Vicentea

Liriope plants prefer bright sunlight and regular watering in a well-drained soil mix. Liriope Miscari, which is commonly known as monkey grass, spider grass or lily turf, propagates easily from root mass. The plant produces green, sometimes variegated foliage, and violet flowers on dense spikes in summer. Flowers last long and can be used as cut flower.

11 Dec

Indoor Ornamental Plant for Warm Climates: Schefflera arboricola

Schefflera is a small shrubby tree often found in tropical and subtropical regions almost all across the world. Most of the species perform very well both indoors and outdoors and make excellent foliage plants in warmer areas. Schefflera are fast growing plants and are typically useful for in landscapes or massive plantation schemes. The most popular of species from this genus is Schefflera arboricola  – a common indoor ornamental plant with abundance of glossy green leaves. It is commercially grown and sold as Hawaiian Elf.

Schefflera Arboricola, Ornamental Indoor Plant

Schefflera arboricola, Image via tarjeplanta.com

How to Grow Schefflera arboricola

Schefflera arboricola  like most species of this genus produces large palmate leaves in a set of seven or eight leaflets in a circular pattern. It propagates easily from seeds, cuttings or by layering. For best results, provide it with bright sunlight and water only when the soil is dry. When growing it indoors, make sure that the plant receives direct light at least in the morning. Schefflera arboricola is also available with variegated foliage. Flowers appear on long stalk but are not much significant.

It is a good subject of bonsai experiments as well. When grown indoors, regular pruning would help keep your plants is good shape.

26 Nov

Lovely Landscape and Indoor Foliage Plant: Iresine

Iresine is one of the ‘must have’ plants in my landscape schemes because of its ornamental foliage and ability to grow quickly and cover empty spaces. Native to tropical regions of the world, most species are frost tender plants and require sunny conditions to flourish. Among more than 20 species, Iresine herbstii is the most popular for its variety of colors. Usually known as Bloodleaf, this small and quick growing shrubby plant produces attractive waxy leaves of bright green or purple-red colors. When in full bloom, this beautiful plant adds splashes of bright colors in landscape, which is why, it is grown as part of massive plantation schemes – usually in mixed borders, as ground cover or for bedding purposes.

Iresine Herbstii, The Bloodleaf Plant

Iresine herbstii, The Bloodleaf Plant, Image by Leonora Enking (flickr)

Iresine herbstii grows as tall as 2 meters and can be pruned and shaped easily. Flowers are inconspicuous and should be pinched back in order to encourage healthy growth of foliage. These plants require adequate water and a well-drained soil. It can also be grown indoor at sunny positions, preferably near a well-lit window.