03 Aug

Tropical Flowering Vine: Clytostoma callistegioides

Clytostoma is a small genus of evergreen vines and shrubs from tropical parts of South America. These lovely plants are known for their showy flowers that grow abundantly on creeping stems.

Most species of Clytostoma grow quite fast and creep up trees, walls or whatever support they can find. Growing as creeping vines, Clytostomas are drought resistant pest free plants thus making a good choice for beginners. Clytostoma grows in a well-drained soil where it gets moderate watering and bright sunlight. Fertilization boosts their already fast rate of growth.

 

Clytostoma callistegioides

Clytostoma callistegioides/ Image by PL Tandon

The most popular and widely grown species is Clytostoma callistegioides which is characterized by glossy green leaves and pale lavender flowers. Generally it is a maintenance-free vine that grows up to 3 meters and looks pretty even when not in bloom.

Common names of Clytostoma callistegioides are Violet trumpet vine and Argentine trumpet vine.

01 Aug

V is for Verbena

The letter ‘V’ reminds me of two things – Vendetta and Verbena. I love both: Vendetta for its dramatic and thought-provoking effect, and Verbena for its small fragrant flowers.

Verbena (Buy seeds online) is a genus of small annual and perennial shrubs from tropical parts of the Americas. These lovely plants are known for their colorful and long lasting flowers.

Verbena are multi-purpose plants – the low-growing and sprawling varieties can be used as ground covers whereas the compact varieties can be grown in flower beds or containers. Flowers in most species of are fragrant and have a variety of colors ranging from red, pink, purple, lavender, white and mauve. Most varieties produces groups of rounded heads each containing dozens of small fragrant flowers.

Verbena rigida

Verbena rigida/ Image by Arthur Chapman

How to Grow Verbena

Verbenas can be propagated easily from divisions or seeds. Some varieties are self-seeding. Most species of Verbena would happily grow in an ordinary soil under bright sunlight.

Among many hybrids, popular species of Verbena include: Verbena canadensis, and V. peruviana.

31 Jul

Lovely Flowering Shrub for Sandy Soil: Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba is an Australian native plant where it is grown for its brilliant and colorful flowers. Though not found in common cultivation, the plant makes an excellent choice for rock gardens and landscape designs in sandy soil.

Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba/ Image by Margaret Donald

As an ornamental plant, Lechenaultia biloba offers attractive flowers of blue, yellow, red and orange colors. Since it comes from Western Australia, the plant is quite capable of enduring spells of drought and neglect.

Gardeners can use Lechenaultia biloba  as an ornamental dwarf shrub that can be easily pruned to keep it in shape. It makes an excellent choice for growing in containers or along pathways.

When not in bloom, Lechenaultia biloba looks attractive because of its grey-green fleshy leaves. The plant can be propagated from cuttings. For successful cultivation, it should be provided with bright sunlight and moderate watering in a well-drained soil.

Lechenaultia biloba is commonly known as Blue Lechenaultia.

31 Jul

Beautiful Shade Tree for Tropical Climate: Smodingium argutum

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow and maintain shade tree for tropical climate, consider Smodingium argutum. It is an attractive foliage tree with splash of fresh green leaves with fine cuts. Similar to Rhus, in appearance and habits, Smodingium argutum makes an excellent tree for small as well as large landscapes. The plant usually grows quickly when grown tropical climates where it only requires moderate watering and bright sunlight.

Smodingium argutum is commonly known as African poison ivy, because of the poisonous milky sap that emits from its damaged trunk or branches.

Smodingium argutum

Smodingium argutum

The foliage of Smodingium argutum changes interesting colors in autumn and turns fresh green in spring and summer. Though not conspicuous, spray of creamy-green flowers appears in summer.

Smodingium argutum can be grown in a well-drained soil and requires care in initial years. Mature plants can survive a variety of weather conditions and growing conditions. However, size of the plant may vary diversely according to the growing conditions. You may find Smodingium argutum growing as a shrub or as a tree as tall as 5 meters.

Smodingium argutum originally belongs to South Africa from where it has spread to many tropical climates across the globe.

08 Jul

Dwarf, Lovely and Hardy Flowering Plants: Romulea

Romulea is a genus of dwarf plants known for their attractive and colorful flowers. These excellent bloomers belong to South Africa, parts of Europe and the Mediterranean region where they grow in wild and bloom in fall and early spring.

Most species of Romulea are quite easy to grow from seeds. These lovely bloomers are low-maintenance plants that require a sunny exposure and a well-drained soil. In colder climates, Romulea can be grown successfully in a greenhouse where they are protected from long spells of cold.

Romulea are specially known for their lovely flowers that have all the shades of violet, lavender, white, orange, yellow and pink.

Romulea ligustica

Romulea ligustica / Image by bathyporeia (flickr)

Some popular species of Romulea include: Romulea obscura (pink flowers), R. pearsonii (yellow flowers), R. rosea (magenta flowers), R. saldanhensis (golden-yellow flowers) and Romulea setifolia (peach flowers).

Romulea can be propagated by dividing rhizomes. They look best when grown in containers or in rock gardens.

28 Jun

Unusual Living Rock of South Africa: Titanopsis calcarea

Though I have not had much success with growing it, Titanopsis is one of my favorite succulents any day. My recent purchase was a couple of Titanopsis calcarea from Uwe Beyer a few months ago. So far they are doing well.

Titanopsis calcarea

Titanopsis calcarea/ Image by Manuel M. Ramos

Titanopsis is a small genus of dwarf succulents from the family of Aizoaceae. Naturally growing in the Upper Karoo in South Africa, Titanopsis is an attractive but quite unusual plant because of its formation. The plant grows as a dwarf succulent and produces thick truncated leaves that have crumpled surface. These unusual leaves display all the hues of red, purple, green, cream and blue throughout the year. Flowers appear in late fall and winter. Like its cousins in the Aizoaceae family, Titanopsis produces small daisy-like flowers of yellow color.

Titanopsis grows to form clumps. These clumps can be divided for further propagation of the plant. Titanopsis calcarea, like other species, requires moderate watering during the growing season (late fall to early spring) and almost no water the rest of the year. These succulent plants prefer porous soils with excellent drainage. They are capable of tolerating both high (45° C or more) and low temperature (up to -10° C).

The best place to grow Titanopsis calcarea is a sunny spot where it gets bright sunlight in summer and direct exposure to the sun in winter. Other popular species of Titanopsis include: Titanopsis fulleri and Titanopsis primosii.

19 Jun

Lovely Summer Bloomer for Cold Climates: Phygelius

Phygelius is a small genus of ornamental bloomers from South Africa. These cold hardy plants make excellent border plants that grow up to 1 meter and produce and produce long spikes of fuchsia-like flowers. They can also be grown in large pots and hanging baskets in semi-shaded or sunny spots.

Phygelius

Phygelius/ Image by faroutflora.com

Phygelius are grown as evergreen shrubs or as perennials in colder climates for their ability to produce abundance of tubular flowers that usually appear in summer and stay for a long time. Flowers are orange or red.

In their natural habitat, Phygelius grow in shade near water. Therefore, they prefer slightly moist and semi-shaded spots.

Though only two species, P. capensis and P.aequalis, are found in nature, a number of interesting cultivars and hybrids of Phygelius are commercially sold. The popular varieties include:

Phygelius x rectus ‘African Queen’, Phygelius x rectus ‘Sunshine’, and Phygelius x rectus ‘Salmon Leap’. These varieties are usually easy to grow when grown in a slightly moist and fertile soil.

16 Jun

Lovely Aquatic Plants for Pots and Small Ponds: Nymphoides

Nymphoides is a genus of aquatic plants grown for their lovely white or yellow flowers. These plants are commonly known as Floating-Heart plants because of their heart shaped leaves that float on the surface of the water. The heart-shaped leaves have their roots submerged in the water and small white flowers that nod along the floating leaves.

Nymphoides cristata

Nymphoides cristata/ Image by Mary Keim

Nymphoides is widely grown across Africa, Asia, Australia and America in ponds, aquariums and ornamental water gardens. Most of the species vary in shape and size but their basic structure and growing habit is similar. Unlike other aquatic plants, they do not sprawl much and can be grown in rather small ponds. They can be grown along the margins of ponds in about 12″ of water, or in a pot in open water in up to 20″ of water where they can form small colonies.

Flowers usually appear in mid spring through the summer, and frequently into the fall. Propagation can be done from divisions or runners.

Popular species of Nymphoides include:

Nymphoides indica or Water Snowflake: Fast-growing perennial with white flowers that have feathery edges.

Nymphoides cristata: Beautiful aquatic plant with heart-shaped green leaves that have purple veins. White flowers appear in spring or summer.

Nymphoides pelata: Easy to grow and low-maintenance aquatic plant with lovely yellow flowers.

21 May

Brunfelsia pauciflora: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Brunfelsia is a small genus of flowering shrubs and small trees native to tropical climates of the Americas. The plants in this genus are known for their exotic flowers. Most plants in the genus of Brunfelsia are evergreen and drought tolerant.

Brunfelsias make good specimen plants in sunny or partially shaded parts of the garden where they can grow up to 4 meters and produce abundance of colorful flowers that exude sweet fragrance. Among many popular species, Brunfelsia pauciflora and its various hybrids are perhaps the most common and widely cultivated plants.

Brunfelsia pauciflora

Brunfelsia pauciflora / Image by Tony Rodd

Brunfelsia pauciflora grows as an evergreen shrub that can gain the height of 4 meters. The plant is known for its scented and colorful flowers that change their hues from violet-mauve to pale-mauve and then white on successive days. Thus giving the plant its common name – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Other popular species include: B. grandiflora, Brunfelsia australis, Brunfelsia isola (Lady of the Night), and B. nitida (Raintree). Most of these species can be easily propagated from hardwood cuttings and grown in a shaded or sunny spot where they are protected from heavy frost.

14 May

Artocarpus heterophyllus: the Jackfruit tree

Artocarpus heterophyllus or the Jackfruit tree, as it is popularly known, is an evergreen tree from tropical lowlands and rainforests of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is also grown in some parts of Africa, and the Americas for its foliage and fruit.

The jackfruit has a special significance in the history, culture, flora and lifestyle of the Southeastern countries of Asia where it is known by many names including Katthal, Pila and Panos. The tree has been grown in this region for several hundred years as an excellent source of food and timber. Even today, it is an important part of the local flora mainly because of its edible fruit which is one of the biggest tree-borne fruits. The round or oblong fruit grown on trunks and weights as heavy as 36 kg. Typically, the fruit has green skin dotted with small spikes. Inside the fruit is found jelly-like pulp that tastes like banana, apple and pineapple.

Jackfruit Tree, Artocarpus heterophyllus

Jackfruit Tree/ Image via flickr

The fruit is consumed ripe or unripe and eaten raw or cooked in several traditional recipes. Besides its fruit, the jackfruit tree is a good source of timber that is used in the manufacturing of furniture and other wooden items. The timber, when seasoned and polished, gives a rich mahogany-like look. Flowers of the jackfruit tree are quite unusual in shape. Both male and female flowers appear on the same tree in early spring.

Artocarpus heterophyllus grows into a large tree and produces dense foliage thus making it a good shade tree. Usually it prefers a rich soil under bright sunlight. In native rainforest, the jackfruit grows quickly to form a sturdy structure.