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.

09 Nov

Indoor Ornamental Air Plant: Tillandsia Tenuifolia

Tillandsia, commonly known as Air Plants, is a genus of evergreen epiphytic plants from tropical, sub-tropical regions of America and the Caribbean. Suitable for indoor greenhouses, terrariums or indoor gardens, these unusual plants grow without soil and obtain moisture and nutrients from air. Most species of Tillandsia grow as small rosettes or form moss-like plants.

Tillandsia are easy to grow, in fact, they are maintenance-free plants when provided with the right level of moisture and temperature. These unusual plants require bright sunlight, preferably direct sunlight in the morning, and a temperature not exceeding 26◦ C. Since these plants obtain moisture from air, just spray these plants once or twice a day. Liquid fertilizer can be added to spray occasionally.

Tillandsia Tenuifolia, Air Plant

Tillandsia Tenuifolia

Though there are a number of species sold commercially, one of the most popular and ornamental is Tillandsia Tenuifolia. It is a small ‘succulent’ rosette of grey-green leaves that produces showy pink bracts in spring followed by red or purple petals. An excellent plant for greenhouses or indoor gardens, Tillandsia Tenuifolia can be grown almost anywhere in your home or apartment where moisture level is a bit high such as bathroom, kitchen, patio garden or anywhere else in your home.

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.

20 Oct

Ornamental Plant for Dish Gardens: Haworthia Reinwardtii

Haworthia is a genus of compact and low growing succulent plants from South Africa. A number of species from this genus are commercially cultivated and sold as ornamental plants. Known for their dotted, mottled, striped and ridged leaves, Haworthia make excellent ornamental pot plants. When grown under suitable temperature, Haworthia can be grown in dish gardens, as ground cover, in rock gardens, as container plants or in window gardens.

Haworthia Reinwardtii

Haworthia Reinwardtii

Among common species, Haworthia Reinwardtii is perhaps one of the most popular and definitely easier to grow. It features compact rosettes of dark green leaves with white dots and reddish tips. Grown from offsets, it roots easily and forms thick clumps of leafy stems. Flowers, as of all Haworthias, are very small and inconspicuous.

Haworthia Reinwardtii grows in well-drained soil under partial sun. Propagated from divisions, this ornamental succulent should be watered only when soil is completely dry. Hold carefully during months of hot and high-humidity conditions.

Image source

19 Sep

Living Stones of African Deserts: Lithops

Lithops are some of the most fascinating and unusual plants from the most dry and arid regions of Africa. In fact, they are an excellent example of survival for their ability to grow under extremely dry conditions and camouflage themselves for protection from animals. Lithops are so good at blending themselves with their surroundings that one can hardly spot these unusual plants in their native habitat where they grow among pebbles and rocks. For this reason, they are also known as Living Stones.

Lithops, The Living Stones

Lithops, The Living Stones, Image by yellowcloud (flickr)

Typically, Lithops (Buy seeds online) consists of two fleshy leaves with fissures on their top. The pair of leaves dries up every winter giving way to a fresh pair of succulent leaves. The leaves usually stray buried in the soil with only the top surface exposed to the climate. This top surface varies in colors and patterns according to the climate and distribution of plants.

Growing Lithops could be challenging but with a bit of practice you can grow them as ornamental plants in your dish gardens or as container plants. When growing at home, be very careful when watering. Since these succulent plants have a lot of water stored in their leaves, they do not require regular watering. If you living in regions of mild climate, keep your plants completely dry during winter since plants would extract sufficient water from drying pair of leaves. Water barely enough to wet the soil surface in summer. In hotter climates, Lithops go dormant during summer. At this time, they should be kept dry (water slightly only when leaves start shrinking). In tropical climates, allow Lithops plants to stay dormant in summer and start watering in winter.

The name ‘lithops’ is derived from two Greek words ‘lithos’ (stones) and ‘ops’ (face).

Lithops generally bloom and grow in autumn or spring. Flowers are white or yellow and emit sweet fragrance. These small yet attractive flowers appear from the center of the pair of leaves.

How to grow Lithops ‘Living Stones’

Unlike in their native habitat, Lithops (Buy seeds online) do not adopt easily to climate outside their native habitat so it is important to understand specific requirements of each species. Generally, it is advised to provide them with filtered but ample sunlight. Grow them in porous and well-drained soil and provide just barely sufficient water in growing season. Lithops can be grown from seeds or off springs.

18 Sep

Striking Landscape Plant: Opuntia Ficus Indica, Prickly Pear

Opuntia Ficus Indica or Prickly Pear is an excellent plant for beginners, master gardeners and professionals alike. It makes a striking accent plant and adds dramatic effects in gardens, landscapes and plantation schemes. The plant is known for typical wide, succulent, pad-like leaves that bear needle-like spines. Large spines have tufts of tiny bristles at their base that are usually known as glochids.

Opuntia Ficus Indica

Opuntia Ficus Indica, Image by Catalina Gracia

Opuntia Ficus Indica can be grown as ornamental plant in containers, landscapes or rock gardens where it grows as unusual shrub up to 6 meters. Cup shaped flowers of yellow, red or purple colors appear at edges of succulent pads. Flowering is followed by fruition. The fruit is called ‘tuna’ and is covered in a thick, spiny skin which is why the plant is called prickly pear. Fruits are edible and taste like watermelon. Opuntia Ficus Indica is grown in many parts of Mexico as a crop as both leaves and fruits are used in many traditional recipes (leaves serve as vegetable and are also used in preparation of jams and jellies) and medicines (for diabetic patients). In fact, Mexico is the largest producer of Opuntia Ficus Indica.

How to Grow Opuntia Ficus Indica ‘Prickly Pear’

Opuntia Ficus Indica has been acclimatized in almost all parts of the world where it grows without requiring any special care. Opuntia Ficus Indica grows in a well drained soil under bright sunlight. The plant can withstand long spells of drought and cold. Water only when the soil is completely dry. When growing on containers or garden, handle Prickly Pear plant with care for its spines and bristles.

Opuntia, Prickly Pear Fruit

Prickly Pear, Image by Tomás Castelazo

14 Sep

Ornamental Flowering Plant for Gardens: Torenia Fournieri

Whether you are a beginner or a master gardener, you just cannot resist Torenia in your garden for its beautiful flowers and versatile usage. It is an excellent choice for hanging baskets and window gardens, as ground cover or as trailing plant in landscape borders, raised beds or indoor containers.

Torenia forms tender branches of usually 6 inches that can trail up to 30 inches which makes it a good plant for hanging baskets. Native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Africa, most species of Torenia require humid and moist conditions to thrive. These herbaceous plants are grown for their unusual flowers that are commonly known wishbone flowers. Each flower has a unique wishbone shape. These beautiful flowers come in purple, violet, pink, white and yellow colors.

Torenia, Wishbone Flowers

Torenia, Wishbone Flowers, Image by Kelly Teague

How to Grow Torenia Fournieri

Torenia has a lot of hybrid varieties and cultivars that grow as annuals (though some of them are perennials). These plants are best grown under partial shade in a fertile soil. Provide your Torenia plants with regular watering and do not allow the soil to dry out completely for long periods.

Torenia are easy to grow both from seeds or cuttings. Regularly pinch back Torenia to keep these plants in shape.