Alternanthera is a large genus of usually low-growing annuals and perennials. Mostly evergreen most species of Alternanthera are grown for their attractive foliage. These lovely plants are ideal for growing along garden borders, as ground covers or in formal bedding.
Most species of Alternanthera do not require special care. A balanced soil, moderate watering and a sunny spot will keep them healthy. Some species of Alternanthera can be invasive and should be trimmed regularly to keep them in shape.
Alternanthera ficoidea, commonly known as ‘Red Carpet’, is a better known species from the genus of Alternanthera. Known for its colorful foliage, Alternanthera ficoidea is a low-maintenance plant that makes a good choice for both indoor (ornamental houseplant) and outdoor (ground cover) usage. It is grown from both seeds and cuttings and requires moderate watering in summer and protection from frost and overwatering in winter.
Alternanthera ficoidea is a fast growing plant and can be used to fill garden borders or empty spaces in landscapes and rock gardens. It grows from 6 to 12 inches in height and form mounds of attractive foliage.
Hellebore is a small genus of winter-hardy perennials. They are loved by gardeners for their ability to grow in shady spots and produce flowers in late winter when very few plants can bloom. The flowers are actually colorful sepals that assume the shape of star-shaped flowers. These attractive ‘flowers’ bloom in various shades of purple, white, yellow, pink and red. These lovely flowers can last for two to three months thus making these plants a good choice for late winter or early spring interest.
Hellebores can be grown easily from divisions. They prefer a rich and well-drained soil in a shady or partially sunny spot. Avoid over-watering and water only when the soil is dry. Most Hellebores are not fussy about growing conditions and can be easily mixed with common ground covers and evergreen plants in a garden bed. Mature plants will only require occasional cleaning up of withered leaves. A general purpose fertilizer can be applied to encourage healthier blooms to plants grown in containers.
Popular varieties of Hellebore include:
Helleborus x ericsmithii `Pirouette’ (rose flowers), Helleborus x ericsmithii `Ruby Glow’ (rose-pink flowers, Helleborus x ericsmithii `Winter Sunshine’ (cream flowers), Helleborus atrorubens (dark violet flowers), and Helleborus x ballardiae (burgundy flowers).
Hellebores are also sold as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose.
If you are looking for something new to try for your summer garden, consider Agapanthus. Weather grown as a pot plant or grouped in a garden border, it looks striking with its ultra bright flowers that outshine most of the common bloomers.
Many varieties and cultivars of Agapanthus that are commercially available can be divided in two grouped: evergreen species that originate from milder climates of South Africa and deciduous Agapanthus that comes from colder regions. Growing condition of all varieties are generally similar – sunny exposure, well-drained soil, moderate watering, and protection from extreme cold.
Agapanthus can be propagate easily by division in spring and early summer, or after plants have finished flowering in early autumn. Mature plants tends to divide their bulbous roots; these should be split every three to four years. Agapanthus can also be propagated from seeds however young plant grown from seeds require frequent watering and protection from winter in their first year. Once established, they should be watered only when the soil in dry. Plants grown from seeds take two to three years to flower. Flowers of violet, white, or pink hues appear in summer.
If you growing Agapanthus in the garden, they can be combined easily with other plants in flowering beds. Agapanthus also make nice plants for garden borders. In winter, protect them by mulching with straw and sand. If your soil is water-logged, grow your Agapanthus in large pots and place them in brightly-lit spot where they are protected from frost. Plants grown in pots can be fertilized with a regular fertilizer in spring to encourage flowering. Because the roots system is vigorous, plants grown in pots should be divided every two years. If your plants are reluctant to bloom, move them to a sunnier spot.
Image by Michael Coghlan
Among many varieties and cultivars of Agapanthus, some outstanding varieties include: Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’, ‘Tinkerbell’, ‘Northern Star’, Agapanthus inapertus ‘Midnight Cascade’, and Agapanthus ‘Snowstorm’.
Though it is not related to the Lily family, commercially Agapanthus is also known as Africa Lily or Lily of the Nile.
Alliums, commonly known as Ornamental Onions, are popular perennials among gardeners because of their graceful flowers and ability to grow in many different conditions. Most Alliums are characterized by their tall flower stalks (up to 3 feet) that stand like sentries with big, round flower heads (up to 5 inches). Their prominent flower heads make Alliums very useful for providing a nice and attractive background to low-growing bloomers in flower beds.
Growing Alliums should not be a big challenge even for beginners. They are drought-tolerant, resistant to pests, and low on maintenance. They also come in a wide range of variety in terms of heights, blooming period, and form and color of flowers. Alliums are grown from bulbs planted in the fall. Bulbs should be planted at a depth of four times the diameters of bulb. Alliums generally prefer a rich and well-drained soil under sunny conditions. If you are growing them in poor soil, feed them with a general fertilizer in early spring or top up the soil with a layer of compost [Also read: How to prepare your own compost].
Most varieties start blooming from late summer to early summer. Flowers, especially of late blooming verities, last longer. Both fresh and dry flowers make excellent addition to flower arrangements. As end of season approaches, leaves start straggling and should be cut back, if required. Once flowering is over, bulbs can be lifted and stored for the next harvest.
Popular varieties of Allium include:
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ produces large (3 inches or more) purple flowers on tall (up to 3 feet) stalks.
Crinum is a large genus of bulbous perennials grown for their beautiful flowers. These lovely bloomers come from tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world and are admired by gardeners for the wide range of colorful blooms.
Crinum, commonly known as Crinum lily, produces large green leaves that usually die back in winter and appear again in spring. From the center of leaves, appears a tall flower stalk in spring and summer. The flower stalk can be as tall as 60 cm and is terminated by a group of prominent flowers. Flowers last for a long time and emit a light, sweet scent.
How to Grow Crinum
Crinums can be grown from seeds though some varieties can be propagated from divisions as well. Most species of Crinum benefit from full to partial sun but protection from direct exposure to scorching sun. Provide your Crinums with well-drained but slightly moist and rich growing media in spring and summer. Keep them rather dry in winter.
Crinum lily / Image by Drew Avery
With their fresh green leaves and long-lasting flowers, Crinums make good plants for garden borders as well as excellent container plants. They also thrive well along ponds and pools.
Popular species of include:
C. bulbispermum is characterized by large green leaves and a long flower stalk that bears a bunch of funnel-shaped flowers.
C. paludosum is a rather smaller plant and produces arching green leaves and a bunch of white and pink flowers.
Crinum x powelii is a hardy plant and produces larger clusters of pink flowers in summer and continues to bloom till the early fall.
A large number of hybrid verities are also available easily. Some popular hybrids include: C.’Birthday Party’, Crinum x digweedii ‘Connor White’, and C. ‘Elizabeth Traub’.
Lapageria rosea is an evergreen perennial vine known for its beautiful and unusual flowers. Commonly known as Chilean bellflower, Lapageria rosea can be grown as a beautiful climber in shady and slightly humid parts of the garden. This lovely vine is characterized by dark-green waxy leaves that grow alternatively along wiry stem.
Lapageria rosea / Image by Eric Hunt
Lapageria rosea is a slow-growing plant. When grown from seed, the plant can take 2 to 3 years to establish itself. Mature plants can grow long twinning stems that grow up to 10 meters. Lapageria rosea belongs to mountain range of the southern Chile where it enjoys rich soil and moderate winters. In cultivation, Lapageria rosea should be provided with a rich soil in a shady and slightly humid spot where it is protected from strong winds, frost and long spells of cold. Water generously when soil is dry.
Summer is the best time for Lapageria rosea, this is the time when it starts producing beautiful pendular flowers that keep appearing on the plan till autumn. The colors of flowers can range from pink to red and orange. A number of new cultivars provide a wider range of colors. These include: Collinge (white flared with red), Nube Blanca (pure white) and Sangre de Toro (intense red).
Chilean bellflower can be propagated from cuttings, layering and fresh seeds.
The plant in pictures is Artemisia schmidtiana. Commonly known as ‘Silver Mound’, It is grown for its interesting foliage.
Artemisia schmidtiana/ Image by Quinn Anya (flickr)
Artemisia schmidtiana grows as a low-growing perennial that forms symmetrical mound of feathery and silver-green leaves – making it an excellent choice for pots, borders, and a filler plant for flower beds. It can also be combined with other annuals and perennials in the garden.
Though the plant produces small ball-like flowers of yellow color in summer, the flowers usually remain unnoticed. It is the delicate, fern-like foliage that gives this plant its ornamental value.
How to Grow Artemisia schmidtiana
The plant can be grown easily from stem cuttings or by dividing the rootball. It requires sunny exposure and survives in almost any soil type. It also requires moderate watering and thrives in a well-drained soil. It can also withstand spells of droughts easily.
Primula is a large genus of perennials known for their early-spring flowers. These lovely bloomers are usually grown in flower borders and beds under shade where traditional flowering plants cannot thrive. These shade loving plants grow nicely in shady spots and produce flowers in almost all hues of red, orange, yellow, blue and violet.
In the recent years, the genus of Primula has been extensively hybridized resulting in a large number of low-maintenance varieties. In general, all species of Primula require partial shade, fertile loamy soil, regular watering and cooler temperatures. Therefore, they make good plants to grow for early-spring when they produce a lot of flowers and continue to bloom until early summer.
If you have not grown a Primula before, you can start with Primula vulgaris which is a low-maintenance and versatile plant. It is characterized by tongue-shaped leaves and scented flowers of cream color. The plant tends to form small clumps each producing erect flower stems. When grown under shade and provided with sufficiently moist soil, Primula vulgaris does not require much maintenance and spreads 3 to 4 cm across. Usually grown for bedding, Primula vulgaris can be easily grown in containers and placed indoors under humid and slightly cool conditions.
Primula vulgaris is also known as Primula grandiflora.
Liatris is a small genus of flowering plants from the North America where they grow natively in ravines and grasslands where they can sufficiently moist soil. Gardeners and horticulturists grow Liatris for its beautiful flowers.
Most species of Liatris are characterised by narrow, grass-like foliage and long spikes of flowers that appear in later summer. The fuzzy pink or purple flowers of Liatris grow along erect spike that reminds of bottlebrush. These flowers usually bloom from top to bottom and stay fresh for quite a long time.
From a number of popular species, Liatris spicata is the one that is grown widely in gardens and landscapes. It is commonly known as Blazing Star or Button Snakewort. Liatris spicata has linear growth as it can grow up to 1 meter in height. The plant prefers full to partial sun and moist but well-drained soil. Overwatering, especially in winter, can kill these plants therefore good drainage is essential for growing these lovely perennials. Therefore, a sandy loam is the best media to grow this lovely bloomer.
Liatris spicata / Image by Drew Avery
How to Grow Liatris spicata
Most species of Liatris can be grown in containers too. So if you are looking for a low-maintenance summer-blooming perennial for your balcony or small garden Liatris spicata should be on your list.
Cornus is a genus of woody shrubs and small trees from temperate regions of the Americas, eastern Asia and Europe. Commonly known as Dogwood, the genus of Cornus offers a wide variety of flowering shrubs, foliage plants, and small trees for almost any soil type. The flowering species like Cornus kousa are grown for their showy bracts that appear in spring and early summer. The deciduous species like Cornus alba are grown for their uniquely colorful stems whereas the winter flowering species like Cornus mas are grown in colder climates.
Most species of Cornus are quite easy to grow. They are not fussy about their growing requirements and do well in almost any soil. They are frost hardy plants that grow 10 to 20 feet in height but are easily pruned to achieve desired shapes. These lovely plants can be grown from seeds or cuttings and require full to partial sun. Generally, Cornus grow well in rich, well-drained but lightly moist soil under sunny conditions.
Popular species of Cornus include:
Cornus kousa (Kousa dogwood) grows as a small deciduous tree with dense and fresh green foliage. The plant produces lovely flowers or bracts of cream color in early spring followed by formation of berry-like drupes.
Cornus alba (Siberian dogwood) is a deciduous shrub that produces woody branches and small flowers. The plant is grown for winter interest when it sheds its leaves and wears hues of bright-crimson on its twigs.
Cornus x ‘Venus is grown for its splendid creamy flowers that appear in mid-summer. The plant grows as a small tree and attains the height of 10 to 12 feet.
Cornus x rutgersensis ‘Stellar Pink’ is a lovely plant with dark green foliage that changes many colors (orange, red, yellow and pink) before falling in autumn. The plant blooms in summer and grows up to 20 feet.
Cornus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’ is a known for its dense and prominent pink flowers that appear in summer. It makes a lovely addition to the garden because of its pink flowers and autumn foliage.
Because of their flowers, colorful foliage and interesting stem colors, Cornus are popular plants among horticulturists and gardens who use them in garden borders, garden screens, and mass plantation schemes.