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.

10 Mar

Kalanchoe beharensis, the Feltbush Plant

Kalanchoe beharensis is an evergreen bush known for its distinct looks and unusual foliage. Gardeners and horticulturists like this plant because of its ability to grow in poor and sandy soil where it can be grown as an ornamental plant.

Kalanchoe beharensis

Kalanchoe beharensis / Image by Far Out Flora

This lovely bush is characterized by knotted stem that bears large foliage of olive-green color. Each leaf is covered by velvety brown ‘hair’ underneath that make its felt-like surface. These succulent leaves assume triangular shape with crumpled edges. Because of their shape and furry shape, Kalanchoe beharensis is also known as Feltbush or Velvet Elephant Ear.

How to Grow Kalanchoe beharensis

Kalanchoe beharensis is native to Madagascar where it grows in warm and humid climate therefore it should be provided similar conditions to thrive well. In cold climates, it requires protection from frost and long spells of freeze. If you are growing it in areas that get a lot of frost, it is advised to move your plant in a greenhouse, or to a spot where it gets sufficient light but protection from frost and extremely cold conditions in winter.

Kalanchoe beharensis can be propagated from stem or leaf cutting. A mature plant can transform from a bush to a small succulent tree of 4 to 5 meters. Generally it is an easy plant to grown and maintain. Whether grown in a planter or ground, make sure that you water it only when the soil is completely dry.

04 Mar

Spring Flowering Shrub: Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum chinense / Image by tk78000u

Loropetalum chinense is an evergreen shrub from the family of Witch Hazel. It is also known as Chinese fringe-flowers because of its fringe-like flowers that appear in spring and summer.

Loropetalum chinense is grown for its colorful foliage and prominent but unusual flowers. Commonly available species include a green-leafed variety that produced white flowers and burgundy-leafed variety that bears pink blossoms. Loropetalum chinense is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much attention. All it needs is a rich but slightly acidic soil, moderate watering and protection from extreme cold. Generally it would grow well in USDA zone 7 – 10. In colder climates, Loropetalum chinense should be moved to a greenhouse or provided with an indoor spot where it receives sufficient sunlight and hydrated only when the soil is completely dry.

Chinese fringe-flowers

Chinese fringe-flowers / Image by Scott Zona

Gardeners and horticulturist use Loropetalum chinense as a colorful hedge that produces abundance of nice and colorful foliage. It can also be used to build privacy screen or to fill empty spots in large landscapes. With proper pruning, Loropetalum chinense can be grown into a small ornamental tree.

Flowering season begins as early as mid-March and lasts till summer. During this season, you can see Loropetalum chinense laden with eye-catching flowers that appear in small clusters. Each flower consists of ribbon-like, wavy petals that give it an unusual formation.

Besides popular green and burgundy-leafed varieties, a number of cultivars are easily available in market. These cultivars vary in flower size, and colors of leaves and flowers. Commonly grown cultivars of Loropetalum chinense include:

Loropetalum chinense ‘Blush’,  L. chinense ‘Purple Diamond’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘Little Rose Dawn’ and Loropetalum chinense ‘Carolina Moonlight’.

14 Feb

Alliums: The Ornamental Onions

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.

Allium globemaster

Allium globemaster – Image by PKdon50 (flickr)

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.

Allium Purple Sensation

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ / Image by Farrukh

Allium caeruleum or ‘Blue Allium’ produces very attractive flowers of sky-blue color in spring and summer.

Allium schoenoprasum or Chives is a useful herb that produces nice pink flowers from mid to late spring.

Allium ‘Globemaster’ is a popular variety known for its huge flowers of purple color.

Allium ‘Millennium’ is a great bloomer for the late summer season. This variety is known for its long lasting lavender flowers.

Allium tuberosum or Garlic Chives are attractive border plant because of their delicate form and nice white flowers.

Allium aflatunense is known for its large and prominent pink-purple flowers that sit on tall flower stalks.

Other popular species are: Allium moly (Golden Garlic), A. cristophii (Stars of Persia) and Allium ‘Mount Everest’.

 

Blue Allium

Blue Allium / Image by Joe Shlabotnik

01 Oct

Beautiful Flowering Plants for Ponds and Gardens: Crinum

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

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’.

17 Sep

Lapageria rosea, the Chilean Bellflower

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, Chilean bellflower

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.

25 Jul

Liatris spicata: Lovely Summer Bloomer for Garden Borders

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

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.

12 Jan

Kalanchoe orgyalis, the Copper Spoons

The plant featured today is Kalanchoe orgyalis. It is a popular plant among landscape designers because of attractive colors and texture of the plant.

Kalanchoe orgyalis is characterized by succulent leaves that have tiny hair of copper-brown colors that gives its leave a felted substances and copper color. Fresh leaves have shiny copper color. As they grow old, they assume hues of silver making the plant even more attractive. Because of the shape and color of its leaves, Kalanchoe orgyalis is often known as Copper Spoons.

Kalanchoe orgyalis

Kalanchoe orgyalis /Image by Peter Kemmer

Native to tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa, Kalanchoe orgyalis requires average water and a well-drained soil. Therefore it makes a nice landscape plant in warmer climates because it does not require much maintenance. In colder climates, Kalanchoe orgyalis can be grown as outdoor pot plant in summer and a nice indoor accent plant in winter.

Like other plants of its genus, Kalanchoe orgyalis can be propagated easily from leaf cuttings.

30 Dec

Lovely Ground Cover for Landscapes: Aloe brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia is a low-growing succulent and is usually grown as a beautiful ground cover or lovely pot plant. The plant forms beautiful rosette of grey-green leaves that grows up to 1 foot and produces lovely orange flowers on long spikes. In winter, leaves of Aloe brevifolia turn pink to add striking colors to the garden.

Aloe brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia// Image by Gardening in a Minute (flickr)

Unlike most Aloes, Aloe brevifolia is a smaller plant that seldom grows beyond 1 foot in height and width. The succulent leaves form compact rosette. Mature plants produce suckers near the bottom to form tight clumps making it a nice ground cover for landscapes. The flowers appear on long spikes that usually appear in spring and continue to bloom till mid-summer.

Because of its compact growth and showy succulent leaves, Aloe brevifolia can be used as effective ground cover or as small specimen plant grown in pots or rock gardens.

In its natural habitat, Aloe brevifolia grows in a coastal area and thus likes the similar environment. However, it is can adapt to various growing conditions. Ideally Aloe brevifolia should be grown under full or partial sun in a well-drained soil. Though the plant can withstand light frost, it should be protected from long spells of heavy frost in colder climates.

Aloe brevifolia is propagated from seeds or suckers.

16 Dec

Low Maintenance Shrubs for Arid Climate: Myoporum

Myoporum is a small genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees from Australia and New Zealand. Because of their low maintenance growth and ability to tolerate drought,  Myoporum is widely grown in arid climates as hedge plant.

Most species of Myoporum produce attractive foliage, white flowers and colourful berries that add to the beauty of these smart plants. Known as tough and fast growing shrubs, Myoporums make good plants for hedges, screens, or along banks and slopes. Most species do best when provided with moderate watering and grown under full or partial sun.

Myoporum parvifolium is probably the most common species. It is a low-growing plant that forms dense mounds of evergreen foliage. The plant grows up to 6 inches tall and spreads to 5 feet or more. As a low-maintenance plant, Myoporum parvifolium is often grown as a ground cover in landscapes and gardens.

Myoporum parvifolium

Myoporum parvifolium / Image by Tony Rodd

Other popular species include:

Myoporum insulare is a hardy shrub that grows up to 5 meters. It is characterized by glossy-green leaves, tiny white flowers and purple-blue berries.

Myoporum laetum is a small tree with light green leaves. The plant produces summer flowers followed by formation of red berries in autumn.