12 Dec

Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’: the Japanese Bloodgrass

The lovely plant in the picture is Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’ – a perennial grass with beautifully colored and textured blades. Commonly known as Japanese Bloodgrass, this ornamental grass is an excellent choice for creating dramatic effects in any garden.

Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra'

Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’

Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’ (Buy online) forms dense clumps of strappy leaves that grow up to 5 feet. The silvery-green foliage has margin of bright red color that make it an excellent ornamental grass for gardens and landscapes. It is usually mixed borders or grown along flower beds to provide contrasting and colorful background throughout the year.

How to Grow Imperata cylindrica

Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’ is propagated from divisions and is grown in well-drained soil. Like most ornamental grasses it should be pruned regularly to keep it in shape and under control. Without regular pruning and control it tends to become invasive and hard to weed out completely.

The plant requires regular watering and good exposure to bright sunlight. In colder climates, it requires protection from heavy frost.

Japanese Bloodgrass

Japanese Bloodgrass/ Image by jacki Dee

28 Oct

Lovely Flowering Shrub: Hypericum, the Rose of Sharon

Hypericum is a large genus of flowering shrubs, ground covers and annuals with a worldwide distribution. Known for their ornamental flowers and foliage, most species of Hypericum are frost-resistant plants that can be grown in landscapes as border plants or ground covers. Most species of Hypericum can be grown in shaded or semi-shaded areas of the garden where they bloom profusely in spring or summer. The flowers are bright yellow or golden. A number of hybrids have been produced for their horticultural use.
Hypericum x hidcote

Hypericum x hidcote/ Image by M. Martin Vicente

Among many useful flowering shrubs and ground covers, my personal favorite is Hypericum calycinum which is a vigorous growing plant. Usually grown as ground cover or small shrub, this lovely bloomer produces bright yellow flowers in summer. The flowers are chactrized by a mass of showy stamens that make this flower look quite unusual. H. calycinum prefers bright sunlight and moderate watering. The plant is commonly known as Rose of Sharon.
Other popular species of Hypericum include: H. perforatum (it is a popular homeopathic remedy for relieving pain and depression), H. uralum, H. pulchrum, Hypericum olympicum and Hypericum hidcote (St. John’s wort).
26 Oct

Unforgettably Fragrant and Lovely: Lonicera, the Honeysuckle

Lonicera is a wonderful genus of climbers, ground covers and shrubs grown for their foliage and fragrant flowers. The plants in the genus of Lonicera are usually known as Honeysuckles. The genus includes two major types of plants – bushes and climbers.

The bush type honeysuckles make decent shrubs that can be used for hedges or garden borders. The climber type honeysuckles are often grown against walls, pergolas or trellis. Both type of honeysuckles require proper pruning to keep them in good shape. Most honeysuckles would grow under bright sunlight and in a rich, moist but well-drained soil.

Honeysuckles make good ornamental plants in small gardens as well as landscape designs where they grow under little care and produce unforgettably fragrant flowers in spring.

Lonicera periclymenum, Honeysuckle

Lonicera periclymenum / Image by nicolas_gent (flickr)

Popular species of honeysuckle include:

Lonicera japonica (Japan honeysuckle) is an evergreen climber with white tubular flowers that appear in spring. A variegated variety Lonicera japonica ‘Variegata’ is also available for cultivation.

Lonicera caprifolium (Italian woodbine or goat-leaf honeysuckle) is a deciduous perennial that grows as vigorous climber (up to 8 meters). The plant produces abundance of strongly scented flowers of white and pink colors in midsummer.

Lonicera hildebrandiana (Giant honeysuckle) is an evergreen climber with large leaves and flowers. The flowers are yellow or orange that appear in spring.

Lonicera sempervirens is an excellent climber that produces decent foliage and tubular red flowers.

24 Aug

Cytisus, the Bridal Broom Plant

Cytisus is a genus of evergreen and deciduous shrubs from the family of Wisteria and Golden Shower tree, which is popular for its ornamental flowers. The genus of Cytisus consists of small shrubs that produce white, pink, red and yellow flowers in spring.

Propagation of Cytisus is done from seeds. Young plants require regular water and partial sunlight but established plants do not have any special requirements. Most species in the genus of Cytisus are adaptable to a variety of climatic conditions. Though light shade and slightly moist soil are preferred, Cytisus can grow in poor soil or under shade. One of the popular species is Cytisus x praecox which grows up to 2 meters and bears masses of small white flowers.

Cytisus praecox 'Alba'

Cytisus praecox 'Alba', Image by Leonora Enking

Cytisus x praecox is commonly described as Bridal broom.

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.

19 Jul

Sedum album, the Coral Carpet

Sedum album or Coral Carpet is a low-growing and very attractive plant for containers as well as a mat-forming ground cover. The plant is known for its small, mossy and succulent foliage that makes this plant look like coral from the oceans. Sedum album or Coral Carpet makes an excellent ground cover because of its shiny and dark-green leaves that turn red in winter. Since it is frost hardy, it is used in rock gardens, containers or garden landscapes for a year-round effect.

Sedum album, Coral Carpet

Sedum album (Coral Carpet), Image by William Kirby

Sedum album spreads horizontally and effectively covers empty areas with its succulent growth and tiny, star-shaped flowers of white or pinkish color. Flowers usually appear in midsummer.

Sedum album is a good plant for a beginner’s collection. It only requires bright sunlight, and loamy but well-drained soil. Water moderately in summer but only occasionally in winter when it turns red. New plants can be produced from leaves that root easily and grow into small plants. When grown in containers, repot your plant every other year in spring.

15 Jul

Beautiful Flowering Plant for Landscapes, Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)

If you are looking for an easy to grow, hardy and rich flowering plant for your garden landscape, consider Alcea rosea. Commonly described as Hollyhock, a number of tall and dwarf varieties are popular among gardeners – majorly because of the variety of colorful flowers that ranges from beautiful shades of pink, white, maroon, purple, yellow and black.

Alcea rosea, Hollyhock

Alcea rosea (Hollyhock), Image by Charles Roffey

Hollyhocks make excellent ornamental houseplants because they do not require special care or climate. They can grow in ordinary soil mix under full or partial sun. These drought tolerant plants can be used to fill uncultivated spaces where they would grow up to 3 meters or more as biennial plants to produce showy flowers in the second year. Alcea rosea produces vigorous tap roots and should not be grown with plants that cannot compete for food and moisture. Hollyhock grows best when cultivated separately in background of landscape design or places where ordinary plants cannot be grown.

Alcea rosea originally comes from Mediterranean and tropical climates of Asia, thus it requires bright sunlight and moderate watering. Long stalks of flowers need to be protected from strong winds. Thus, Alcea rosea is grown against walls or in locations where they are not directly affected by strong winds or they should be provided with support of staking. Several dwarf species of Alcea rosea are also available that can be grown in windy conditions.

Alcea rosea can be propagated easily from seeds.

09 Jul

Colorful Ground Cover with Lovely Flowers: Polygonum capitatum

Polygonum is a large genus of very versatile and multipurpose plants. The genus includes several climbers, ground covers, aquatics, and small perennials and annuals that can be grown quickly and easily. Most species of Polygonum are low-growing plants that produce colorful foliage and delicate flowers of various colors.

Propagated from seeds or cuttings, Polygonums are popular urban plants. They can be grown as ornamental houseplants or attractive foliage and landscape plants. Several species of Polygonum are commercially available as ground covers or border plants. These are usually sold under their common name Knotweed. My favorite is Polygonum capitatum. It is a small and low-growing ground cover that produces attractive green foliage that turns reddish, pink or bronze when grown under bright sunlight. Flowers grow in small heads of tiny pink flowers in spring, summer and autumn.

Polygonum capitatum

Polygonum capitatum, Knotweed, Image by Christian Defferrard

Polygonum capitatum grows in a regular soil and requires moderate watering under full or partial sun.

04 Jul

Flowering Shrub for Perennial Borders: Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium is a genus of perennial shrubs that are distributed widely in tropical climates of America, Africa and Asia. These flowering shrubs are popular among gardeners as late season perennials when only a few plants bloom.

Most species of Eupatorium produce attractive and fluffy flowers of pink or mauve colors, and grow as tough and hardy shrubs. Among popular species, Eupatorium purpureum is grown widely for its ornamental flowers. The plant spreads in clumps and grows up to 2 meters.

Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium purpureum, Joe Pye weed, Image by Carolyn Willitts

Eupatorium purpureum prefers full to partial sun, slightly moist soil and regular watering. It produces purple-pink flowers in late summer or early autumn. These vanilla-scented flowers appear in large bunches and attract birds and butterflies.

Eupatorium purpureum serves as a nice ornamental shrub even when not in bloom. It can be grown in  perennial borders, landscapes or backyard garden for its fragrance and ability to attract a variety of butterflies. The plant, however, needs sufficient space to grow and bloom. For best results, prune back at the end of every flowering season.

Common names of Eupatorium purpureum are Indian Sage and Joe Pye weed.

28 Jun

Pennisetum: Ornamental Grasses for Landscapes and Gardens

Pennisetum is a genus of annual and perennial ornamental grasses from tropical and temperate regions of the world. Some popular species from this genus include millet, grain and some fodder plants. These ornamental grasses are known for their foliage and flowers that really add ornamental value to gardens and landscapes.

Pennisetum are generally tough, drought-tolerant and easily grown plants. They usually grow in small clumps and produce soft, feathery inflorescence in late summer. Most species of Pennisetum are frost hardy in tropical climates; however they need protection from long winters of cold regions. These plants prefer full sun and a well-drained soil. In their native climate, these plants can withstand drought and require only moderate watering.

Pennisetum Setaceum 'Rubrum'

Pennisetum Setaceum 'Rubrum', Image by Matt Lavin

Some of the popular species of Pennisetum include:

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (Fountain Grass) – Grows up to 1 meter and produces rose-colored flowers on long spikes in summer.

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Dwarf Fountain Grass) – Relatively smaller species (50 to 75 cm) with small clumps of grassy leaves; grows in almost any soil. Prefers full sun and a little moist soil. Flowers appear in late summer.

Pennisetum orientale (Oriental Fountain Grass) – Ornamental grass with fresh green leaves that grow up to 75 cm. This species produces white, feathery flowers and prefers partial sun, moist soil and a regular soil mix with good drainage.