Sunday, June 26, 2011

Erythrina variegata

Coral tree is a picturesque, broad and spreading, deciduous tree that can get 60-80 ft (18.3-24.4 m) tall and spread 20-40 ft (6.1-12.2 m). It has many stout branches that are armed with black tiger's claw spines. There are curved spines (really more like prickles) on the long leaf stalks too. The leaves are compound, with three diamond shaped leaflets, each about 6 in (15.2 cm) long. Before the leaves come out in late winter or early spring, coral tree puts on a spectacular show with bright crimson flowers 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm) long in dense terminal clusters. It may flower a little during the summer, too. The beanlike pods that follow the flowers are cylindrical, about 15 in (38.1 cm) long, and constricted between the reddish brown seeds. The naturally occurring variety orientalis has the veins of its leaflets highlighted with yellow or pale green. 'Parcellii', with yellow variegated leaves, may be just another name for the same variety. 'Alba' has white flowers.

Coral tree has a very large natural distribution. It is native to tropical Asia, from Taiwan and southern China through the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, India, islands in the Indian Ocean and all the way to tropical east Africa.

Coral tree is a fast growing tree that does best in frost free climates with a pronounced winter dry season.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Coral tree is tolerant of drought, and needs almost no water at all in winter.
Propagation: Coral tree is propagated by seed or from woody tip cuttings. Seeds should be nicked or scratched with a file to break the hard outer shell before planting. Seedlings may flower in as little as 3-4 years. Take softwood tip cuttings in spring or early summer and semiripe cuttings in late summer. Root with bottom heat. Coral tree also can be propagated by layering.

Very tolerant of drought, the beautiful coral tree makes an excellent stand-alone specimen for South Florida gardens where water is becoming more valuable than gasoline. Coral tree also is salt tolerant, and often used in tropical and subtropical seaside landscapes

Passiflora caerulea

Blue passionflower is a twining vine that can grow to 30 ft (9.1 m). The shiny leaves are usually palmately lobed with five parts, but they can have as few as three lobes or as many as nine. They are evergreen in tropical climates, but deciduous where winters are cool. The white and purple-blue flowers which appear in summer may be as large as 4 in (10.2 cm) across. They are followed by egg-size deep orange fruits from late summer through fall. Of the many cultivars of P. caerulea, the most widely known is 'Constance Elliott', which has fragrant white flowers and bright orange fruits. 'Regnellii' has exceptionally long corona filaments. 'Grandiflora' produces 8 in (20.3 cm) flowers. 'Chinensis' has pale blue flowers. Numerous crosses have been made between P. caerulea and P. racemosa, P. alata, and P. 'Amethyst'.

Blue passionflower is native to southern Brazil and Argentina.

Blue passionflower likes loose sandy or gravelly soils and does best planted in old brick rubble that retains heat during cold winter weather. Too much manure or compost will result in lush vegetative growth and poor flowering. This species will flower in a small pot, but it prefers plenty of root space and will do better in a roomy container. In Zone 8-9, the ideal location is against a warm south-facing old brick wall where an overhang prevents excessive drenching by heavy rains. Go light on fertilizer and water deeply, but infrequently; passionflowers should be encouraged to reach deep into the earth for water. When motivated to do so, they are capable of developing amazing root systems to sustain them through droughts and freezes. Passionflowers love high humidity, but they are subject to fungal diseases if they don't get good air circulation in the greenhouse. Blue passionflower does better overwintered in a cool greenhouse where it can go semi-dormant as opposed to in a hothouse where it will be tempted to put too much energy into weak off-season growth. In either case, it is important to keep the soil on the dry side in the winter. Blue passionflower may be wound around a hoop support to keep it within bounds so that it may be grown as a houseplant in a sunny south-facing window. Passifloras flower on new growth, so they may be pruned early in the growing season. It is best to cut some stems back nearly to the base, rather than just trim the tips. The terminal buds may be pinched out to encourage branching. Always keep some green foliage on the plant to keep the sap rising and encourage rapid regrowth. The roots may be weakened and become subject to fungal infection if too much top growth is removed at once. Don't try to train a passionflower to be too neat and compact; branches allowed to hang loose and droop a bit will be the ones most inclined to flower. Passionflowers are subject to a wide array of pests and diseases, but most of them have minimal impact on well grown plants. Butterfly larvae are the exception; caterpillars readily devour the foliage of healthy mature plants.
Light: Passionflowers like full sun and will scramble over trees and shrubs to get it.
Moisture: Good drainage is essential.
Hardiness:  Blue passionflowers will regrow from deep roots after even severe freezes. They have been known to survive temperatures as low as 5ºF (-15ºC) when the ground was frozen over two feet deep! It is nevertheless important to keep the soil as warm as possible, especially in the winter greenhouse.
Propagation: The best way to start passionflowers from seed is just to plant them fresh, pulp and all. It doesn't even matter if they get a bit moldy looking. They can be grown from seeds that have been dried and saved for a year or more, but germination of dried seed is slow and erratic. Seedlings from such sowings may not appear until the next year. To accelerate germination of dry seed, you can either soak them overnight in warm water or, better yet, mix them with the pulp and juice of a fresh passionfruit (any species will do) and let them marinate for 24 hours before planting the whole mess. Seedlings don't like to be crowded; they should be transplanted into their own pots as soon as possible. Be careful not to yield to the temptation to prop up the delicate stems by burying them more deeply than they originally grew; they will straighten up as they grow. Blue passionflower can easily be rooted from cuttings taken in the early spring or during the rainy season in tropical climates. Tip cuttings may be used if you can find nice fat sturdy ones from near the base of the plant; long skinny shoots that are reaching out for new territory will be more inclined to wilt and die than to take root. Nodal cuttings also work well, but you have to be careful to keep track of which end is up so you don't plant them upside-down. Rooting hormones, misters and soil heating cables will facilitate the rooting process.

Blue passionflower is typically grown in tropical gardens or greenhouses for the exotic beauty of its flowers. This species is widely cultivated for its value as a hardy parent plant in Passiflora breeding programs. The fruits are also edible. They aren't very tasty raw, but they have a vaguely blackberry-like flavor and can be substituted in blackberry pie recipes.

Passionflowers and butterflies come together as a package deal. Passiflora species are the exclusive hosts for numerous species of Heliconian butterflies. This group includes zebra longwings and fritillaries, but it is the large, solid orange julia butterfly that is most fond of the blue passionflower. If you are going to grow passionflowers, and not turn into a pesticide-wielding fiend, you simply have to develop a philosophical attitude about butterflies and experiment to find strategies for sharing the foliage with them. If you are clever (and lucky!), you can figure out how to pick off just enough caterpillars to have flowers, fruit, and butterflies too.

Chamaedorea seifrizii

Chamaedorea seifrizii
Common Names: bamboo palm, reed palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)

Have a low light area in your home or office that needs some green? You say you want a low maintenance but graceful looking palm to show off? Well, it doesn't get any better than Chamaedorea seifrizii or The Bamboo Palm.
The Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm is a relatively small graceful palm that grows to about 7 feet. Usually plants sold in nurseries or seen in collections are clumping with about 20 or 30 individual plants. Each stem is long and slender with "nodes" very similar in appearance to Bamboo. Although plants are commercially clumped together to form shrub-like specimens, this palm naturally spreads by suckers or offshoots also similar to Bamboo. The stems are tall and have about 10-15 fronds each with about 12 dark green pinnate leaflets. As the old fronds die, these should be trimmed off and the leaf bases or sheath allowed to dry out. Later these should be removed as this promotes good plant hygiene and exposes the attractive light green "bamboo stem".
Although the Bamboo Palm is mostly used indoors as it prefers shade, it can withstand higher light and will produce flowers and fruit in these environments. The flowers arise from the leaf sheaths or covering and are dull yellow in color. The fruits are usually small pea-sized berries that are orange/red in color. Caution should be used with the fruit however as it is an irritant to humans!

The Bamboo palm, like most of the Chamaedorea palms, is native to Mexico and Central America where it thrives as an understory palm. Today this palm is grown in most nurseries and is very common in malls, offices, homes and courtyards.

Very easy to grow and maintain. As with most palms, the soil should be well drained. Applying household fertilizer in the summer months will keep these palms green and healthy. The main insect problem with this palm is Spider Mite, which usually occurs in very dry areas indoors mostly in the winter months. As the webs produced are virtually invisible until it has damaged the plant significantly, a light but thorough spray mixture of water, alcohol and Safer's Soap applied once a week should prevent this. Mealy Bug, Scale, Gliocladium blight and Phytopthora bud rot can also affect this palm but they far less commonly seen.
Light: Thrives in low indoor light but can tolerate some sunlight if acclimated.
Moisture: Keep evenly moist but not consistently wet.
Propagation: By seed which takes 6 months or more to germinate. Propagation by removing the suckers or offshoots from the parent plant is also common.

This graceful palm is mainly used as a specimen palm in offices, malls or homes. In warm climates (South Florida, Hawaii and California) it may be used in protected areas outside as a screen, hedge or accent to the landscape.

The fruit of the Bamboo Palm is very toxic and should not be consumed!

Beaucarnea recurvata

Botanical name: Beaucarnea Recurvata
Plant type: Houseplant
Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
Ponytail Palms are a great, long-lived indoor plant. (Despite it’s name and palm-like appearance, it’s not a true “palm.”)
This plant has long green leathery stems that develop as the plant ages. Indoors, they can reach up to 3 feet high. The only thing that is difficult about this plant is adapting to its watering needs.
Use a fast draining soil, such as cactus potting soil also A soil mix consisting of 2 parts loam to 1 part peat moss to 2 parts sand has been used successfully. To this mix, small gravel may be added to ensure good drainage
Normal room temperature is good for most of the year, but keep it cooler in the winter (50 to 55° F).
Find a location with bright light.
Keep soil fairly dry. Water from spring through fall allowing soil to dry on the surface before re-watering. During the winter only water occasionally.
Fertilize in the spring and bring into brighter room for the summer months.
Pony Tail Palms are very slow growing and very drought tolerant. Plants can be watered every three weeks during the growing season and fertilized once during this period. During the winter months, the plants should be watered only enough to keep the foliage from wilting (this usually equates to 1 dose of water during the winter). Over-watering is the single most frequent cause of failure when growing Beaucarnea. The ponytail palm is a very slow growing tree
Re-potting every other year at the most is all the Ponytail Palm needs.
Overwatering can contribute to stem rot. If you withhold watering, the plant may be able to internally cure the problem.
Spider mites occur on the leaves, but can be fixed by rubbing a cloth of soap and water on the stems.
Wit & Wisdom
Another name for Ponytail Palm is Elephant Foot Palm.
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Crinum L.

Crinum L.
Family: Amaryllidaceae

Crinum is a fascinating genus of the large and equally captivating Amaryllidaceae family. Larger in stature than most other species of Amaryllidaceae, most crinums are suitable as landscape plants in or near water features while most of the smaller species can be successfully cultivated even in a small garden. With due care against their one major pest, crinums are easily cultivated and provide a regular dramatic focus point with their large, bright inflorescences.

The name Crinum originates from the Greek Krinon, which means white lily. As most species have white or whitish flowers the name seems especially appropriate.
Crinum are herbaceous plants with large, tunicated bulbs which produce a neck or a pseudostem made up of the sheathing bases of the old leaves. The leaves are linear to sword-shaped, sheathing at the base, arranged in a rosette or rarely in two opposite rows, often dying back in winter, usually with the previous season's leaves growing out again in spring with a few new leaves in the middle.
The inflorescences arise laterally on a long, solid peduncle (main or inflorescence stalk) and are umbellate (flower stalks radiate from one central point), with two spathe valves (bracts) and one to many flowers. The flowers have short or long stalks with a long perianth tube and linear to broadly lanceolate segments that are spreading or held together in a trumpet shape. The stamens are either curved, ascending or angled downwards. The ovary appears as a swelling between the flower stalk and the tube.
The fruit are subglobose, sometimes beaked, with the persistent remains of the tube bulging with large seeds and eventually bursting irregularly to release the seeds. The seeds are subglobose, with a more or less impervious, smooth or distinctly hairy seed coat. 

Growing Crinum
Stock of most true species rarely multiplies vegetatively by forming offsets. If it does, it is probably a hybrid. It is best cultivated from seed. Seeds are placed in a well-drained, sandy medium with plenty of compost and a slow-release fertilizer such as bonemeal, with regular watering and full sun. The high water content of the seed enables it to germinate after a week or two, even in dry conditions. Seed germination is hypogeal: the embryo stem is formed soon after release and in turn produces the cotyledon and radicle below the soil surface. Check to see that the young bulb is not pushed out of the soil. If seedlings are kept growing throughout the winter months, they will reach flowering size sooner. First flowering can be expected after three (C. macowanii) to eight years (C. graminicola). The plants perform best in a permanent position and, like any Amaryllidaceae, do not react well to any disturbance of the root

Sabal Palm

Sabal mexicana
Common Names: Texas palm, Texas sabal palm, Mexican palmetto, Rio Grande palmetto, hat palm, Texas palmetto
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)

This stately, robust palm grows up to 50 ft (15 m) tall with a solitary trunk, 8-32 in (20-81 cm) in diameter. The spread of a mature Texas palm may range from 8 ft (2.4 m) to 25 ft (7.6 m). The gray trunk has closely-spaced annular rings. Usually part of the trunk remains covered with old leaf stem "boots", that often split at their base. These persistent boots form a characteristic crosshatch pattern on the trunk. The petioles (stems) of the Texas palm are smooth and completely thornless and may grow up to 15 ft (4.6 m) in length. Texas palm has 10-25 fan-shaped leaves ranging in color from deep emerald green, for palms in shade to part shade, and varying to lighter green in color as leaves receive more sunlight. Each leave has 80-115 leaflets with threads along the margins of the leaflets. The leaves of the Texas palm have a prominent and strongly downward arching costa (leaf midrib) which gives the leaves a folded three-dimensional effect. Texas palm may flower when very young, often blooming when the trunk is very small or nonexistent. The Texas palm produces an inflorescence, branching as long as the leaves, having small white flowers. Male and female flowers are produced on the same plant. White flowers produce round-oval fruit that are black when ripe. The Texas Palm can be separated and identified from other palmate-leafed palms by its long, smooth, nonthorny petioles (stems) and long, downward arching costa (leaf midrib).
The Texas palm is native to the southern part of Texas, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The natural habitat of the Texas palm is the rich soil of coastal bottom lands.
Texas palms tolerate drought and adapt to a wide variety of soils including those that are neutral, acidic, clayey, wet and slightly alkaline. Texas palms thrive in a humid atmosphere in rich loamy, moist and well-drained soils. Texas palms are traditionally slow growers, however regular fertilization with palm grade fertilizer promotes maximum growth. A balanced slow release palm fertilizer with minor elements, e.g., an 18-18-18, may be used during the growing season. Potassium nutritional deficiencies can develop on older leaves and may show up as translucent yellow or orange necrotic spotting. Mineral supplements should be administered in appropriate recommended amounts to prevent or treat such deficiencies. Texas palm is resistant to lethal yellowing disease.
Light: Texas palm thrives in partial shade, partial sun or full sun.
Moisture: The Texas palm is drought resistant when established, but grows faster and looks better when given adequate moisture. Texas palm tolerates moist, wet locations and occasional flooding.
Hardiness:. Mature and established Texas palms can tolerate occasional temperatures down to 12ºF (-11ºC), with minor or no leaf damage. More cold hardy data on the Texas palm is expected as its cultivation becomes more widespread.
Propagation: Texas palm may be propagated by seeds. Fresh, ripe seeds have been reported to have a 60% germination rate after four weeks of planting. Germination of fresh seed usually takes place in two weeks to four months at 75ºF (24ºC). Seeds seem to have maximum viability if germinated within 16 weeks after the fruit matures. Germinating seeds should be protected because Texas palm seeds are a particular favorite of many birds and squirrels. Germinating seeds may form a long single root some time before forming a shoot.

Use the Texas palm for formal groupings, as a lawn tree, in large scale plantings and as that special accent tree. Texas palm is best utilized in medium to large yards as the palm may grow 50 ft (15 m) tall and 25 ft (7.6 m) in diameter. Texas palm may be used in a variety of locations as it is tolerant of many soils, wind, drought, and salt.
A very robust, stately and hardy palm, the Texas palm is now starting to receive attention from growers and enthusiasts. Once abundant in Texas, the Texas palm habitat is threatened. The Texas palm habitat has diminished from approximately 40,000 acres in 1925 to its present Texas natural habitat of 32 acres. Texas palm is utilized for thatching, making furniture, fans, hat making, and its rot resistant trunks are used as fence posts and for pilings in wharfs and piers. The Texas palm fruit is edible and called micharo. The Texas palm is one of only two palms that are native to Texas, the other being the much smaller dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor).

Quisqualis indica

Quisqualis indica is an elegant scandent shrub. It is commonly called Niyog-niyogan, balitadham, tartaraok, Rangoon creeper and Chinese honeysuckle.

This large growing vine spends the start of its life as a bush. It is a evergreen (in warmer climates) creeping shrub that can reach as much as 70 feet height.

The plant flings out its thousands of sweet-scented flowers, which change their tint from white to red. They are fragrant and grow in pendent racemes, quickly changing to pink then red, making a spectacular show. They are mostly present in summer and fall. Some call it fruity, while others liken it to toasted coconut. The thorns on a Quisqualis are formed when a leaf drops but the petiole remains. In a little time this petiole stiffens, grows stronger, and becomes a very effective climbing hook. While not sharp, like a cactus thorn, these can make pruning a bit tedious, and can draw blood on impatient gardeners.

The plant fruit is ellipsoidal, long, with 5 prominent wings lengthwise. The fruit tastes like almonds when mature. Quisqualis indica is usually dispersed by water. The leaves are simple, elliptical with an acuminate tip and a rounded base. Seeds, when produced, are about 2 inches long and have five ridges and look quite a bit like a small carambola (star fruit).

Quisqualis indica is one of the more difficult plants to propagate. The bloom time is late summer to Mid Fall. It needs full sun to grow properly. It grows well in sandy loam to clay loam soil. The water range is from normal to moist.

The beauty, and mysteries, surrounding this plant have made it a necessity to all gardens. The plant is mainly used for fruits and seeds – alleviate nephritis, used as bechic or pectoral, against ascaris. The leaf juice is a remedy for boils and ulcers; leaves are a relieve ache caused by fever; and the roots helps treat rheumatism. Fruit decoction can also be used for gargling.

Taking Care of Cactus

In most cases cactus will do well in pots as long as you remember three things. Food, light, water.

When bringing cactus to home most of the time it is in a small pot and it probably has grown there for a long time, which means it has used up most of all the nutrients in the soil. So think about repotting and setting up feeding program. Most cacti like several small feeding, better than one large feeding. I like a time release type in the spring and this will feed the plant for six or more months. The other way is to give the plants food three time a year (spring, summer, fall) with a dilute solution of plant food like (5-10-5). This should do them well for the year.

A potted cactus will live and flower in the house if given enough light, place the plant near a bright lighted window, where it will receive light most of the day. On the patio is different place the cactus in a partly shaded area until it become accustom to the sun. Never bring the cactus home and place it in the bright sun, cactus sun burn just like people.

Cactus in pots require more care in watering than in the ground. In the growing period which can be spring & summer or fall & winter. Depending on where they come from, , the plant should not be allowed to go completely dry, just moist. In the house watering could be as little as once a month depending on the dryness of the house. But outside as much as every two or three days. Take a wooden pencil or dow rod and place it down through the soil to the bottom of the pot, when removed, if damp soil is on it don't water. After a few try's you will learn when to water.

First one must look at how and where to place the cactus. Selecting a location is a good place to start. It must have sun most of the day. Morning and afternoon sun is better than two o clock sun. The area should have very good drainage, if the yard is level you will have to go to above grown beds. I like to make my beds by placing several large rocks in a circle or some odd shape then remove about a foot off dirt from the center , an replace it with a good mix to the top of the rocks. This will assure that the plants will not stand in water. This is more important in the winter than the summer. Most cactus are not killed by the cold, but when the water inside the plant freezes it expands and splits the outer layer of skin, this allows bacteria to enter the plant and kill it. In the winter I listen to the weather report if we are to get rain then a freeze, I will cover my more tender ones with a box or tarp (not plastic) to help keep them dry.

Potting mixes can be made by mixing one part potting mix, one part washed sand & one part course fill (rocks, pumas, broken pots, etc.) Don`t worry too much drainage is better than not enough. Lets talk about shade. Most cactus can use a little protection from the two o'clock sun. A small plant near by or a large rock will work, just a little help. A large rock next to the plant will help hold heat in the winter and will cut down on watering in the summer.
When planting the cactus I never dig a deep hole down in the potting mix. I want the plant to set on top of the potting mix, this allows the roots to go down to get moisture with out the plant setting in wet soil. A lot of time i will use course river gavel around the base of the plant to keep it off the wet soil. After you plant the cactus give it a small amount of water every couple weeks if it doesn't rain, for about a month then let nature take it course. Feed the plants about once a year. With a dilute solution 10-10-10- or a good plant food.

Lets Build a Cactus Garden
Large rocks, potting mix
To start your garden look for a sunny, well-drained area. For a lot of us, this will be hard to do. Our yards are too flat, so we have to build raised beds. I like to build my bed so that there will be no chance of the plants becoming water logged. First draw an outline on the ground of the garden. Don't make it too large, you can always expand. Now take out some of the top soil (6" to 12") deep. Then place a narrow strip of plastic where the rocks will be, let it extend into the hole a few inches, this will help control grass from getting in the garden. Now place the rocks around the hole, don't make it round or square, do a natural look. If the garden is to be facing the street you can go two or three rocks high in the back. Now fill the hole to the top of the rocks with your soil mix. A good cactus mix is: one part potting mix, one part washed sand, and one part large (gravel, pumas, broken clay pots,) most anything that will help keep the soil loose. If the garden is to be level, mound up the mix to make it show better and increase drainage.

Now Lets Plant
Take all your plants and set them in the garden to give you an idea as to where to put them. Dig a small hole in the mix just deep enough to cover the roots, leaving the cactus body on top of the soil. Cactus that are not winter hardy can be used by leaving them in the pot. Just bury the pot so they can be removed and taken in for the winter. Give the plants a small amount of water ever two or three weeks until they root. Then let nature pay the water bill. Feed once a year with a plant food like 10-10-10 or good house plant food. Never overfeed, this is where a little does better. A few large well placed rocks will add protection from the hot sun, and help hold moisture, and it just looks good. Now go build that garden and save water.

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