12 Oct

Tetrapanax papyriferus, the Chinese Paper Plant

Tetrapanax papyriferus is an evergreen shrub often growing in to a small tree (up to 6 meters). It is commonly known as Rice-paper Plant or Chinese Paper Plant because in ancient China, the plant was used in making paper. Today, it is well known as a useful plant in horticulture.

Tetrapanax papyriferus, Chinese Paper Plant

Tetrapanax papyriferus, Chinese Paper Plant/ Image by Bettaman (flickr)

Tetrapanax papyriferus is fast growing plant that can be grown in almost any soil and a wide range of climatic conditions. The plant produces large, green leaves that appear along a solitary trunk. The fresh green and prominent foliage of Tetrapanax papyriferus makes it a useful plant for landscapes and gardens. Fluffy white flowers are insignificant and appear in large clusters.

Tetrapanax papyriferus can be propagated from suckers. Since the plant is not fussy about growing conditions, it can be grown under full to partial sun with moderate watering throughout the year.

06 Sep

Lovely Succulent Plants for Landscapes: Dudleya

Dudleya is a small genus of rosette-forming succulent plants form California and Mexico. Grown for their lovely formation, most Dudleyas are strikingly beautiful when grown in landscapes or as specimen plants. A Dudleya is usually characterized by a green or silvery-white, succulent leaves that grow on a short stem to form a small rosette. Most species remain solitary whereas only a few of them branch. Flowers of white, red or yellow color appear in late winter or early spring from the bottom, rarely from the center, of the rosette.

Dudleyas in Landscape

Dudleyas in Landscape / Image by faroutflora.com

How to Grow Dudleya

Most species of Dudleya look similar to Echeveria which is another large genus of succulent plants but recently Dudleyas have been classified separately because of their flowering habit and growth pattern. They are winter-loving plants that usually go dormant is summer. They are quite hardy and drought resistant plants too thus making a good choice for rock gardens. When grown in landscape, most species of Dudleya tend to form thick clusters of small rosettes that add a dramatic look to the landscapes. Though, they can be grown as specimen plants, the best place to grow Dudleya plants is a tough landscape spot where very few plants can survive. Dudleyas would require good sunlight, a well-drained soil and small amount of water in winter (and barely sufficient moisture in summer). When provided with a congenial environment, Dudleya plants can grow for decades. For this reason, they are also known as ‘Live-Forever’.

Popular species of Dudleya include:

D. brittonii (Chalk Dudleya): A large rosette-forming plant with silvery-white leaves. Perfect for landscape as well as specimen plant Dudleya brittonii remains solitary and produces spectacular yellow flowers.

D. caespitosa (Sand Lettuce): A low-growing succulent plant that usually grows in to thick clusters. Yellow flowers appear in beautiful contrast to pale-green or silvery-white foliage.

D. pulverulenta (Chalk Live Forever): Another large and solitary plant known for its beautiful foliage. It is quite hardy plant and can be grown as ornamental plant in landscape and rockeries.

Dudleya pulverulenta

Dudleya pulverulenta / Image by faroutflora.com

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.

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.

23 Jul

Magnolia grandiflora, Lovely Flowering Tree for Warm Climates

Magnolia is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen trees that are popular for their beautiful and scented flowers. This is also one of the longest surviving trees on the planet dating back to about 95 million years ago, that is why mention of Magnolia is found in ancient as well as modern culture and literature. Long before it was introduced in horticulture, Magnolia has been used in China and Japan in traditional medicine.

The genus primarily belongs to Southeast Asia but grows natively in many parts of the world including the Americas and West Indies.

Magnolia Tree

Magnolia Tree, Image by serenithyme(flickr)

Today, Magnolia is popular among horticulturists and gardeners as an excellent flowering tree. The waxy flowers are known for their beautiful shape and colors and intoxicating fragrance. That is why, it has also been extensively hybridized to produce various new varieties with a broad range of colorful flowers. The most popular and widely cultivated species is Magnolia grandiflora which is an evergreen species with large leathery leaves and magnificent flowers. The plant can grow up to 6 meters in cultivation and as tall as 30 meters in wild. The foliage and flowers vary greatly according to the growing conditions. The size of leaves, flowers and the tree itself depends on the conditions of light, water and soil.

Popular Varieties of Magnolia grandiflora

A number of popular cultivars of Magnolia grandiflora are also commercially available. These include:

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Goliath’ – Nice flowering tree with bushy growth and extended flowering season.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ – Fast growing tree with green, leathery leaves. Flowers are large and strongly scented.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ – A dwarf and slow growing cultivar with a columnar shape which reaches around 4.25 m, prolonged flowering cycle in warmer climate.

Generally, Magnolias prefer fertile and slightly acidic soil, plenty of water and good exposure to sunlight. Young plants of Magnolia need protection from strong winds.

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.