16 Oct

Dierama, the Angel’s Fishing Rod

Dierama is a small genus of evergreen perennials characterized by drooping flower stems and bell-shaped flowers. The plant is known among gardeners and horticulturists for its dainty and graceful flowers that can be easily recognized by their colors and delicate formation.

Ideal for sunny borders or raised beds, plants in the genus of Dierama prefer fertile, loamy and moist but well-drained soil. The plants are easily propagated from corms planted in containers or raised beds. Most species of Dierama benefit from regular watering in summer but only moderate watering during winter. Flowers of all shades of pink, white and violet colors appear in later summer or early fall. The bell-shaped flowers grow delicately on a long, drooping stalk, thus giving the genus its common name Angel’s Fishing Rod.

Dierama, Angel's Fishing Rod

Dierama, Angel’s Fishing Rod/ Image by peganum (flickr)

Popular species of Dierama include:

Dierama pendulum (Wand Flower) – Evergreen, cormous plant forming large clusters of grass-like leaves. White, mauve or pink flowers grow on tall spikes.

Dierama pulcherrimum – Evergreen plant growing up to 1.6 meters; flowers of pink or reddish purple colors appear in summer.

14 Oct

Lovely Tropical Bloomer: Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’

Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’ is one of the many popular hybrids of Ixora coccinea. The plant is popular for its salmon orange blooms and evergreen foliage. Like other plants of the genus, Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ prefers a well-drained, loamy and slightly acidic soil. Suitable for outdoor plantation, this beautiful hybrid is a bit fussy about moisture and temperature. The idea place for Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ in a garden is a sunny spot where it receives bright sunlight but protection from frosty winters.

Ixora coccinea 'Jacqueline'

Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’/ Image by Troy Mckaskle

Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ is characterized by glossy foliage and shrubby growth that can be easily control by regular pruning. Ixora ‘Jacqueline’ does not like being moved around and often drops flower buds when moved around. Clusters of showy flowers appear almost all through the summer. The plant benefits from general purpose fertilizer every fortnight during the flowering season.

Ixora coccinea ‘Jacqueline’ has many common names including Jungle Flame, Jungle Geranium, Flame of the Woods, Needle Flower, and West Indian Jasmine.

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.

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).

12 Sep

Little, Lovely, and Plentiful Bloomer: Diascia, the Twinspur

Diascia is a small genus of low-growing annuals and perennials that bloom in all shades of peach, pink, mauve, magenta and purple. Most species are excellent bloomers that give stunning display of colorful flowers in spring and summer. These small ornamentals are perfect choice for containers, window boxes, borders and rockeries for their small size and prolific flowering.

Diascia Flowers

Diascia Flowers/ Image by Clive Reid

Most species of Diascia are low-growing and sprawling plants that are perfect for filling empty spaces in gardens, landscapes, containers or windows. These small plants bear small, oval leaves of dark green colors. The unusual flowers have two horns or spurs below them that give them their common name ‘Twinspur’.

Originally native to South Africa, Diascias are grown in many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world where they grow under full to partial sun. These small ornamentals are usually grown from seeds and used as container plants for summer flowering. Most species of Diascia prefer regular watering and a slightly acidic and well-drained soil.

Popular species of Diascia include:

Diascia integerrima (Pink Adobe) – A small perennial (up to 450 mm) with pink flowers that bloom almost through the warm months.

Diascia ‘Sun Chimes Coral’ – A popular variety growing up to 1.5 feet with attractive coral-pink flowers.

Diascia ‘Whisper White’ – Another popular hybrid with pure white flowers.

Diascia ‘Dew Drops’ – A popular variety among horticulturists; produces beautiful white flowers with a yellow center.

Diascia varieties

Colorful Diascias/ Image by Alwyn Ladell

21 Aug

Lovely Plant for Borders and Edges: Erigeron

Erigeron is a genus of small annuals, biennials and perennials with a worldwide distribution across many Mediterranean climates. Commonly known as Fleabane, the genus of Erigeron offers more than 400 plants that are easy to grow in almost all soil types. Most species are useful for planting in garden borders, edges, and other empty spaces in garden landscapes.

Erigeron karvinskianus

Erigeron karvinskianus, Image by M. Martin Vicente

Erigerons are generally sun-loving and hardly plants that produce small but lovely flowers. With a long flowering season, flowers of Erigeron are yellow, white and pink and appear from early to late summer. Most species of Erigeron can be planted under full to partial sun. They require average watering and usually tend to grow as low-growing plant. The most popular plant from the genus of Erigeron is Erigeron karvinskianus which is grown as perennial shrub. The plant grows up to 40 cm and produce white flowers in early and late summer.

Erigeron karvinskianus is suitable for borders, edges and rockeries as a low maintenance plant.

19 Aug

Lovely Perennials for Sunny Gardens: Penstemon

Penstemon is a popular genus of perennials, shrubs and sub-shrubs that are grown for their colorful flowers. Native to hot and sunny regions of North America, the genus of Penstemon offers a wide range of perennials that can be grown at many different spots in gardens and landscapes. The taller species (1.5 to 3 meters) mix well with other perennials in borders. The low-growing species (1 to 1.5 meter) of Penstemon make good plant for rock gardens or flower beds.

Penstemon

Penstemon, Image by M. Martin Vicente

Most species of Penstemon produce dense spikes of tubular flowers that bloom in early summer and last till mid-summer. Penstemon are easily propagated from seeds or divisions planted in spring. These sun loving plants require good sunny exposure in rich and loamy soil that gives its roots plenty of room to grow. Once established, Penstemons requires average watering.

Popular varieties of Penstemon include:

Penstemon ‘Alice Hindley’: Grows up to 1 meter and produces large mauve flowers.

Penstemon ‘Osprey’: Grows up to 1.5 meter and produces pink and white flowers.

Penstemon ‘Raven’: Grows up to 1 meter and produces lovely purple flowers.

Penstemon ‘Stapleford Gem’: Low growing plant with large lilac flowers.

Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’: Another small perennial with greyish-blue flowers.

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.

12 Aug

Lovely Flowers of Helichrysum

Helichrysum is a large genus of flowering perennials, annuals, and shrubs with worldwide distribution in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The genus is known for its glossy and papery flowers that come in almost all shades of yellow, orange, red, and pink including many double and single flowering varieties.

The genus of Helichrysum offers a wide range of ground covers, dwarf bloomers, and lovely shrubs that can be grown in flower beds, garden borders, rock gardens, containers as well as window gardens. These lovely bloomers require sunny exposure, loamy and sandy soil and average watering. In fact, Helichrysums can withstand drought and poor soil conditions thus making themselves a popular choice for gardeners.

Helichrysum acuminatum

Helichrysum acuminatum, Image by Michel Dignand

Because of diverse growing habit and variation in foliage and flowers, many members of the Helichrysum genus have been reclassified in smaller genera such as the Everlastings (Xerochrysum, Coronidium, Antennaria etc.).

The genus of Helichrysum is primarily popular for its showy and long lasting flowers. These flowers are often preserved as used in dry flower arrangements. Some of the species, especially Helichrysum italicum, are a source of essential oils that are valuable for their restorative properties, and medicinal uses in chest complaints, colic, fever, internal sores, coughs, colds, headaches, and skin treatment. The oil extracted from Helichrysum italicum is particularly used in aromatherapy.

Popular species of Helichrysum include:

Helichrysum petiolare – Shrubby plant with silvery foliage spreading up to 2 meters and producing ivory white flowers in summer.

Helichrysum bracteatum – Commercially known as Everlasting and grown as popular houseplant; several varities of H. bracteatum grow as small annuals and produce flowers of orange, red, pink, yellow and white color in summer.

Helichrysum splendidum – Produces dense foliage of silver-grey color and grows as erect shrubby perennial.

05 Jul

Ornamental Houseplant for Tropical Climate: Aphelandra squarrosa (Zebra Plant)

Aphelandra, usually known as Zebra Plant, is an evergreen perennial from tropical climates. It is popular among gardeners and horticulturists for its beautiful foliage and flowers. The genus includes about 170 species of evergreen bushes; all known by the common name – Zebra Plant.

Aphelandras or Zebra Plants are characterized by large, showy and glossy green leaves with prominent veins of white or silver color that make these plants quite attractive and a good choice as ornamental houseplants. One of the common species is Aphelandra squarrosa. It produces large leaves and quite showy and colorful flowers surrounded by yellow bracts.

Aphelandra squarrosa

Aphelandra squarrosa, Zebra Plant, Image via CoffeeGeek.com

Most species of Aphelandra are frost tender and do not grow well in colder climates. They are best grown under partial shade and rich, organic soil. For best results, Aphelandras should be provided with moist soil and temperature not falling below 70 F.

Flowers on Zebra Plant appear in late summer or autumn and last for several weeks. Both the flowers and foliage make Aphelandra a good candidate for container gardening and ornamental houseplant for patios and gardens where they can be grown for seasonal displays.