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.

18 Jul

Antigonon leptopus, the Coral Vine

Antigonon is a small genus of creeping vines grown for their lovely pink flowers that appear in midsummer till fall. The most popular plant from this genus is Antigonon leptopus that comes from Mexico and Central America and is commercially known as Coral Vine or Mexican Creeper.

Antigonon leptopus, the Coral Vine

Antigonon leptopus (Coral Vine), Image by Tatiana Gerus

Antigonon leptopus is a fast growing vine that can climb supporting walls, pergolas or trees and produces small clusters of pink flowers. Ideal for growing in gardens, against walls, or over pergolas, Antigonon leptopus grows up to 40 feet. Heart-shaped leaves and vigorous growth of tendrils makes it easy for this creeping vine to cover empty spaces very quickly.

Antigonon leptopus requires full to partial sun, regular watering and a loamy soil in which it can establish its tuberous roots.

Antigonon leptopus can be propagated from seeds or cuttings.

16 Jul

Quick Tip # 3: Controlling Ants and Scale Insect

Scale appears as hard ovals of brown color on woody stems or underside of leaves and damage plants by sucking essential sap. Scale is hard to combat when it reaches it maturity. Hence it is important to get rid of it at early stage. Scale on small plants can be removed by brushing with an old tooth brush. Large plants can be sprayed with methylated spirit (50% diluted with water). Spray every ten days until scale is completely removed.

Ants are majorly responsible for the growth of scales. Therefore, it is important to combat ants as well. An easy way of dealing ants is introducing small saucers (like jam jar tops) filled with 1 tablespoon of borax with 4 tablespoons of sugar diluted in 250 ml of warm water . This solution would attract ants that would consume the liquid and then go back to die in their nests.

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.

11 Jul

How to grow moisture loving plants in dry summer

If you are living in a region where summer is long, hot and dry, growing moisture loving plants like ferns or air plants can be a bit tricky. However, there are several quick and easy ways to maintain appropriate level of humidity for your plants and keep them healthy and happy in hot and dry summer.

Summer in the region where I live is harsh and dry (reaching 104 – 116 ◦F) but I still manage to keep several moisture loving plants including Tillandsias that require higher level of moisture.

The following are some of the techniques that I use to retain humidity for my moisture loving plants:

Group moisture loving plants – Grouping plants with similar requirements tightly creates a micro climate for these plants. This micro climate can retain most of the moisture lost due to evaporation from soil and leaves of these plants. Most plants, when grouped together, would respond positively and grow healthier in their micro climate.

Mist them regularly – Plants that are sensitive to hot and dry climate benefit from regular misting. I use spray bottle to mist sensitive plants several times a day. Always avoid misting flowers while spraying your plants.

Use self-watering pots – This is quite easy and time-saving technique. If you are too busy to attend to your moisture loving plants, transfer them self-watering pots. These pots have attached water reservoirs, which helps creating a humid climate around the plant.

Moisture Loving Plants

Image by Hawkoffire (flickr)

Place them in bathroom – Bathroom is usually the most humid room in the house. During long spells of hot and dry summer, I place my air plants in bathroom where they benefit from higher level of moisture.

Use non-porous pots – Most of my plants are potted in terracotta pots, however, plants that require humidity and moist soil are grown in plastic pots. This is an easy way to slow down evaporation process and keep the soil moist.

Use moisture retaining shell – If it is not possible to move or group your container plants together, an effective way of retaining moisture is placing the container inside a bigger container and then filling the outer ‘shell’ with coco peat or peat moss. Now every time you water your plants, add some water in the outer shell. The peat would retain moisture and maintain good level of moisture for your moisture loving plants.

10 Jul

Ornamental Shrub for Gardens and Landscapes: Salvia chamelaeagnea

Salvia is a large genus of shrubs and herbaceous perennials from the family of mint, sage and several other herbs and medicinal plants. With their worldwide distribution, Salvias are grown for their attractive foliage and flowers. Most species have evergreen and often fragrant foliage with small but showy flowers.

Among many popular species, Salvia chamelaeagnea is my favorite plant. It is quite hardy and can be grown as ornamental plant in many different places and growing conditions. It makes a good border plant, a nice choice for large landscapes, or as evergreen foliage plant rock gardens or sandy soils.

Salvia chamelaeagnea

Salvia chamelaeagnea

Salvia chamelaeagnea grows as an evergreen shrub growing up to 1 meter or more. The plant produces green leathery leaves that make it a good ornamental plant for gardens and landscapes. Flowers of white or blue color appear in summer that add to the beauty of this lovely plant. Salvia chamelaeagnea has upright growth and can be trimmed easily to keep it in shape. It is propagated from seed or cuttings and grown under full or partial sun in a regular but well-drained soil.

Like many other plants in its family, Salvia chamelaeagnea has been used as a medicinal plant that relieves cough, cold, diarrhea, and colic.

Other popular species of Salvia include: Salvia dolomitica, S. farinacea, S. officinalis, and Salvia splendens.

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.

08 Jul

Spiny, Hardy, Lovely, and Flowery Cactus: Echinopsis

Echinopsis is the most popular and widely grown genus from the family of cactus. This genus includes more than 100 species varying in size, shape and growing habits. Most of the species in the genus of Echinopsis grow in clusters of globular heads. In some species, these globular heads remain solitary whereas some species produce several offspring around globular heads.

Echinopsis are fast growing plants, and with age they change their shape from globular heads to elongated succulent stems. Old plants can grow into large clumps measuring more than 60 cm in diameter. At this age, most species of Echinopsis produce profuse flowers in spring and summer. The funnel-shaped flowers come in all shades of yellow, white, pink and orange. The best known flowers are borne on Echinopsis multiplex (sometimes described as Echinopsis oxygana).

Echinopsis Huntigton Hybrid

Echinopsis Huntigton Hybrid, Image by epiforums(flickr)

Originally native to South America, Echinopsis multiplex is widely cultivated is many parts of the work for its lovely flowers. Though flowers last for a day or two, they appear in flushes several time during spring and summer – producing many flowers in each cycle. It is quite hardy plant that does not require special attention or growing conditions to thrive. Moderate watering, a regular soil mix with good drainage, and bright sunlight are more than sufficient for this hardy plant to grow. If kept dry, Echinopsis can easily withstand frost and cold.

Echinopsis multiplex

Echinopsis multiplex, Image by pizzodisevo (flickr)

Echinopsis can be propagated from offspring sown in spring or summer. The best and most sought after varieties of Echinopsis are Schick hybrids produced by the Huntington garden. These include (my favorites):

Echinopsis ‘Antares’, Echinopsis ‘Bacarole’, Echinopsis ‘Brigitte’s Beauty’, Echinopsis ‘Desdemona’ and many more.

Echinopsis Schick Hybrid

Echinopsis Schick Hybrid, Image by epiforums(flickr)

Common names of Echinopsis are Hedgehog cacti, Sea-Urchin cactus or Easter lily cactus.

05 Jul

Ornamental Houseplant for Tropical Climate: Aphelandra squarrosa (Zebra Plant)

Aphelandra, usually known as Zebra Plant, is an evergreen perennial from tropical climates. It is popular among gardeners and horticulturists for its beautiful foliage and flowers. The genus includes about 170 species of evergreen bushes; all known by the common name – Zebra Plant.

Aphelandras or Zebra Plants are characterized by large, showy and glossy green leaves with prominent veins of white or silver color that make these plants quite attractive and a good choice as ornamental houseplants. One of the common species is Aphelandra squarrosa. It produces large leaves and quite showy and colorful flowers surrounded by yellow bracts.

Aphelandra squarrosa

Aphelandra squarrosa, Zebra Plant, Image via CoffeeGeek.com

Most species of Aphelandra are frost tender and do not grow well in colder climates. They are best grown under partial shade and rich, organic soil. For best results, Aphelandras should be provided with moist soil and temperature not falling below 70 F.

Flowers on Zebra Plant appear in late summer or autumn and last for several weeks. Both the flowers and foliage make Aphelandra a good candidate for container gardening and ornamental houseplant for patios and gardens where they can be grown for seasonal displays.