17 Jan

Lovely Flowering Shrub: Cuphea

Cuphea is a genus of evergreen and perennial flowering shrubs. These lovely flowering shrubs are useful for growing in garden borders where they keep blooming almost all through the year. Native to Mexico and tropical regions of Central America, these flowering shrubs produce flowers of green, purple, pink and white. Most species of Cuphea start blooming as soon as winter days are gone and continue to bloom until late summer.

Cuphea cyanea "Pink Cigar Plant"

Most species of Cuphea require a well-drained soil and indirect sun, and grow up to 1 feet. In colder regions, Cupheas will freeze to ground in winter but will emerge in early spring. Being excellent flowering shrubs, Cupheas can be used to border gardens, mixed with seasonal bloomers in a mixed flowering bed or grown as small container plants.

Several hybrids and cultivars of Cuphea are easily available at commercial nurseries. Most of them are easily propagated from seeds (buy seeds online).

Popular species include:

Cuphea ignea: Also known as ‘Cigarette Bush’, Cuphea ignea grows as a small flowering shrub and produces bright red flowers in spring and summer.

Cuphea hyssopifolia: Also known as ‘False Heather’, this small flowering shrub produces flowers of varying shades including white, green, pink and purple.
Cuphea hyssopifolia
Cuphea micropetala is known for its bright summer flowers.

16 Dec

Hypoestes aristata: Ribbon Bush

The lovely plants featured today is Hypoestes aristata. It belongs to a genus of perennials and evergreen shrubs from tropical regions of Asia and Africa.
Hypoestes aristata - Ribbon Bush
Hypoestes aristata is grown as evergreen flowering shrub that grows up to 5 feet and produces mauve, pink or white flowers. Flowers of Hypoestes aristata have ribbon-like petals, which is why the plant is also known as Ribbon Bush.

Hypoestes aristata prefers full to partial sun and thrives in tropical climates. In colder climates, it can be grown in greenhouse or as an attractive indoor plant.

Hypoestes aristata can be propagated from both seed and cuttings. Seeds can be sown in spring. Soft or hardwood cuttings can be taken in the late winter or early spring.

05 Aug

Lovely Ground Cover: Lotus berthelotii

Lotus berthelotii is an evergreen bloomer and is usually used as a ground cover in garden beds and borders or as an attractive hanging plant. The plant is known for its sickle-shaped red flowers with a prominent ‘beak’. The unusual shape of flowers give the plant its common name, Parrot’s Beak. These lovely flowers appear in clusters on trailing stems. The red flowers mature to turn in to orange-red blooms.
lotus maculatus
Lotus berthelotii is characterized by soft needle-like foliage that varies in color from light green to blue-green and silver. The bright flowers of Lotus berthelotii nicely contrast with the foliage and give a rich and delicate look to the plant. Long, trailing stems of Lotus berthelotii make it a nice plant for hanging baskets. The trailing stems can grow up to 10 inches. Prune stems ends to encourage branching.

Lotus berthelotii is usually grown from stem cuttings or seeds though the plants grown from seeds take some time to start blooming. Lotus berthelotii prefers a well-drained soil and partially sunny spot in summer. When grown indoors, place it near a sun-lit window where the plant gets 6 to 8 hours of direct or indirect light. When grown outdoors, Lotus berthelotii should be protected from cold winter by moving it to a greenhouse.

28 Jun

Lovely Summer Bloomer: Agapanthus, the African Lily

Agapanthus flowers

Image by Samantha Schipani

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.

African lily

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.

20 Jun

Tecomanthe venusta: the Forest Bell Creeper

Tecomanthe is a small genus of tropical creepers and climbers known for their exotic flowers. Though hard to find, growing a Tecomanthe is rewarding. These fast growing vines grow up to 5 meters with their twinning stem that grows around anything that supports it making it a good choice for growing around pergolas and trellis.

Tecomanthe venusta

Tecomanthe venusta / Image by Cerlin Ng

The plant in picture is Tecomanthe venusta. It is a fast growing evergreen vine that produces waxy lush-green leaves that make it an attractive plant even when it is not blooming. Flowers appear in clusters. Each cluster contains multiple trumpet-shaped flowers in spring. Flowers of Tecomanthe venusta are usually rose or mauve waxy petals.

In its natural habitat, Tecomanthe venusta grows in tropical regions therefore it requires warm and moist conditions to thrive when grown in gardens. The plant benefits from rich but well-drained soil in a spot where it receives bright but indirect sunlight. Tecomanthe venusta is sensitive to frost and long spells of cold and should be grown under cover in colder climates. Tecomanthe venusta can be propagated from cuttings and seeds though the plants grown from seeds take 5 years or more to start blooming.

Tecomanthe venusta is commonly known as Forest Bell Creeper or New Guinea Trumpet Vine.