Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Date Palm Tree ( Phoenix Dactylifera)

The Date palm (scientific name Phoenix dactylifera), also known as the Medjool palm is a tall, beautiful and majestic tree that is known for its edible sweet fruits, the dates. The tree belongs to the Arecaceae family and the genus Phoenix. The Date palm produces true real dates. It is the second most known and most useful palm tree in the world after the Coconut palm tree.
The Phoenix Dactylifera is one of the world’s oldest trees. It has been grown for thousands of years in hot, dry, desert regions throughout the world. It is an important multi­purpose tree in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. The Date palm tree is a holy symbol. It was historically mentioned in the Bible, the Koran and other religious books. Many cultures are based on this tree. It has been called “the tree of life”.  The real Date palm can provide all life necessities: food, medicine, shelter, fuel, building materials and  materials for weaving and basket making. It is a symbol of fertility and hospitality in many countries.
The date fruit is one of the most important sources of nutrition for people in the Middle East. It is considered to be a delicacy. The date is a good source of sugar, potassium, protein, fat and minerals. People in this area have eaten dates since ancient times.
Only a female tree can form dates. Usually it starts producing fruits after 5-8 years. Unripe fruits are green in color, when fully ripe they are reddish-brown. It takes about 7 months for dates to ripen. The delicious fruits are harvested from September to early December.
They may be eaten fresh or dried. The fruits can be stored for several years. The dates are also may be used as secondary products to make wine, syrup, vinegar, cakes and ice-cream.
The Date palms are also very popular as ornamental trees around the world. They thrive in desert, tropical and subtropical areas with heat and full sun. They can grow to a height of 80-100 feet and can live for more than 200 years. They have a beautiful thick canopy of bluish-green pinnate leaves.

Sago Palm Tree ( Cycas Revoluta)

The Cycas revoluta, commonly known as the Sago Palm is one of the oldest species of plants that exist. They appeared on the earth during the Paleozoic Era from 350 to 250 million years ago, before the flowering plants appeared. They were dominant plants in the Mesozoic Era and coexisted with dinosaurs. For this reason these plants are sometimes referred to as “living fossils”,  and the Mesozoic Era is referred to as the “Age of Cycads”.
Today the oldest types of plants are becoming increasingly endangered in the wild. However, they continue to exist on this planet.
The Sago palm is actually a cycad not really a palm tree. This ancient plant is a member of the Cycadaceae family. Because of its palm-like appearance people call it a palm tree.
The magnificent plant has a rough trunk and a crown of large pinnate, fern-like leaves. Most plants reach four to six feet in height. Some species can reach up to 20 feet in height.
The unique characteristic of the Cycas is its reproductive structures. The Sago palm is dioecious; it is either a male or female. Male sago palms  have a cone-shaped reproductive structure, and female sago palms have a globe-shaped structure.
The oldest survivors of our planet is extremely poisonous for humans and animals if digested. Sago palms can cause liver damage, especially if the nut portion is consumed. The palms are very attractive and palatable for pets, but they are deadly and can kill them within several hours of digestion. Please, keep these plants away from your pets  and children.
The Cycas revoluta is easy to care for. It is hardy to 15 degrees and can withstand short freeze. It is a very slow growing plant but very long-lived. The Sago palm tree is one of the longest living plants in the natural habitat. Typical life span ranges between hundreds to thousands of years.
This ancient group of plants are great for decorating. Today they are very popular landscaping components in tropical and subtropical regions. The “living fossils” are used widely for landscaping design and in horticulture.

Pygmy Palm ( Phoenix Roebelenii)

Phoenix Roebelenii (Pygmy Palm) is one of the most commonly used types of palm trees. It is a dwarf of Phoenix family. This type is related to the standart date trees, but they don’t produce real dates.
Gracefully in appearance, they are planted as ornamentals and create exotic and tropical atmosphere for any landscapes. The compact trees look very nice by poolsides, patios, shopping mallscapes, office entrances and entry ways.
Also the Pygmy Palm could be a perfect indoor container plant. They are very  adaptable plants for container growing. They remove all indoor air pollutants especially xylene.
These species can be planted in groups of three or more or as a singe specimen. When they grow in clumps, the trunks curve gracefully away from the center of the clump. In nature, they are usually single-trunked, in cultivation muliples are produced often.
Phoenix Roebelenii is native to Southeast Asia, where it grows in clearings or along riverbanks. Then they were imported in tropical regions around the world and other regions as an exotic indoor plant.
They produce small yellow inflorescence  and insignificant not-eatable, reddish-black, fleshy dates.
They are very graceful and miniature trees though they are very cold hardy, drought and salt water tolerant. They can survive the full force of hurricanes with no damage. Also they are tolerant of sun or shade and very long lived. The trees can adapt to the most soils. The trees can tolerate standing water, clay, loam or sandy soils that low in nutrients.
Their dwarf nature makes them grow very slow. Because of their small scale, easy to care and hardiness they are extremely popular.

Growing your own mint plant

If you often drink mint tea or use mint in your recipes, consider growing your own mint plants instead of always buying a plant or tea bag at the supermarket. There's really nothing difficult to it. Below I wrote a "mint growing"-guide explaining all the steps you need to follow.
The growing process itself advances quite quickly and it is a joy to watch your own mint plants grow in such a short time. However, it takes some time before you have a mint plant that is large enough to set tea with. Therefore it is good idea to grow several plants at a time and don't take leaves for your mint tea before your plants have grown large enough. Otherwise, you will quickly run out of mint leaves.
Here are the steps you need to follow in order to grow your own mint plant:
  1. Buy yourself a mint plant
    This may seem weird, but the best thing to start from is an already grown mint plant; this will be the mother plant for your home grown mint plants. You can buy one at your local grocery or supermarket. Take some time to pick a mint plant that has absolutelyno bugs or other little insects on it. This is very important, because these will ruin all your new plants.
    It would be a bad idea to try growing mint plants from seeds. I've read that this is very difficult and unless you are really dedicated I would not recommend trying it.
  2. Plant your mother plant in a larger pot
    Mint plants need a lot of light and water (click for a bigger picture)Where I live, mint plants are sold in tiny plastic pots. Mint however needs enough space to grow, so we are going to give our mother plant a new home. Choose a pot that is large enough. You can even take a really big pot that has enough room for your own mint plants that are soon to come. You will probably have to add some soil here.
    There are pots with and without a hole at the bottom. I prefer those with a hole: this allows the excess of water to flow away. In this case, make sure you put the pot on a small plate. Water that has flown away will be absorbed again when the plant needs it.
  3. Care for your mother plant: give it enough light and water
    Put the plant next to a window or in the garden. Mint can bare lots of sunlight, however some shadow will do too. In fact, mint is a plant that is very mild in the conditions it requires.
    Supply your mother mint plant with enough water: unlike other plants, mint needs a lot of water. You do not need to water it the whole day long; I do it only once a day or twice if necessary. Just make sure the soil is always humid.
    A dead mint plant probably hasn't received enough water or sunlight. You can recover such a plant by putting it in the sun and by adding enough water. Be gentle however: a dead mint plant cannot absorb as much water as a grown one.
  4. Cut off a sprig and put it in a glass of water
    The sprig you choose doesn't need to have a lot of leaves. Almost every sprig will do. When cutting a sprig, cut about a centimeter above a junction. This way new branches will grow just below that place.
    Put the sprig in a glass full of water. Do this for a few sprigs so you'll end up with more than one plant. You can put more than one sprig in the same glass.
  5. Wait, wait, wait
    Now it's time to wait for the roots to grow. After about a week, small white roots may appear under water. Wait longer, so the roots have a decent length.
    In the meantime continue treating the mother plant well by giving it enough water. Also add water to your glass when you need to.
  6. Plant your new plant in a pot
    Be sure to put your mint plant in a pot that is large enough! (click for a bigger picture)When the roots are long enough, take the sprig out of the water and plant it in another pot. I always take a new pot for each plant, but you can combine several plants into one large pot. You may have to curl up the roots to fit it in the pot.
    Treat this plant well (enough water and light) and finally you'll end up with a large plant. You can then take sprigs from this plant to grow other plants.
  7. Drink tea
    When taking sprigs to put in your tea, try taking sprigs with big leaves so smaller leaves get more light. Taking away sprigs from time to time will encourage the plant to keep growing.
  8. Don't forget to repot your plant each year
    This is something I forgot this summer. Because the roots continue to grow every day, they run out of place. You should take the plant out of its pot, divide the soil in four pieces and put each piece in a separate pot.
    If you don't, your plant won't get those big leaves anymore and eventually will die.

Yucca spp.

The yucca plant is a popular indoor and outdoor plant. One problem in caring for yucca plants that indoor owners have that outdoor owners generally do not is that indoor plants can grow too tall. They need to be trimmed back. Pruning a yucca may look harsh, but it is an excellent way to not only keep your yucca plant manageable but propagate the plant.

Yucca plants – care and pruning

With yucca plants, care and pruning are easy. When your yucca plant becomes too tall for the space it is in, gently remove it from the pot. Determine where the halfway mark is on the trunk or a point where you wish to be pruning a yucca that is above the halfway point. Using a saw or a sharp pair of loppers, cut the trunk in half.
Repot the bottom, rooted end of the trunk. Water well and then you are done with your pruning. While the plants are recovering, continue caring for the yucca plants as you normally would. In a short time, the plant will produce new leaves. It will recover to look as good as it did before, except that it will be much shorter and more appropriately sized.

Propagating a yucca plant

If you wish to produce more yucca plants, take the top half from pruning the yucca and use a marker on the trunk to indicate where the leaves are. After you have marked the trunk, cut off the leafy top. Plant the trunk in potting soil, making sure to have the end that previously had the leaves pointing up. Check the mark on the trunk if you have forgotten which end is which.
In a few weeks, the trunk will have rooted itself and a few weeks following this, the trunk will start producing new leaves. Continue caring for the yucca plants as they grow.

Best time for pruning a yucca

Like most plants, the best time for pruning a yucca is right before it goes into its growth period. This will be in early spring. While early spring is the ideal time, a yucca can be pruned anytime. Just make sure the yucca plant gets plenty of light while it is recovering.

Pruning Yucca Flower Stalks

Though not exactly pruning, many people wonder about cutting off the yucca’s flower stalk after the blooms have faded. The flower stalk can be pruned off at any time, even before it is done blooming. Simply cut the stalk off with a sharp pair of pruning shears or cutter at about 3″-4″ above where the stalk emerges from the main stem.
Like all things about yucca plants, care and pruning is very easy. It may seem drastic, but I assure you that your yucca plant considers this to be a very normal thing.

Chorisia speciosa

Silk floss tree is an awkwardly branched 30-60 ft (9.1-18.3 m) tree with pale green leaves palmately divided into 5-7 pointed leaflets. The young trees start out growing fast, straight, and narrow, then slowly develop broadly spreading umbrella canopies as they age. The bulbous green trunk is covered with big blunt warty triangular spines and turns gray as the tree gets older. Silk floss trees typically drop their leaves just before they put on their spectacular autumn display of five-petaled flowers. The petals vary from pale pink to rose to purple or burgundy at the tips and grade into ivory with brownish spots or blotches at the base. The flowers are followed by pear shaped capsules filled with many seeds embedded in silky white floss. Chorisia taxonomy has not been refined and the flowers of this "species" are extremely variable, so there is a good chance that several different species and/or hybrids thereof are lumped under the name C. speciosa.

Silk floss tree is native to Brazil and Argentina, but it is cultivated in many tropical areas.
Mulch the root zone. This tree does not do well in competition with lawn grasses.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Silk floss tree requires well-drained soil. It blooms best when it is watered regularly most of the time, but kept a bit on the dry side in late summer.
 This tree rarely sets seed in cultivation outside the tropics and is reputedly difficult to propagate. Some success can be obtained by rooting semi-ripe tip cuttings taken during a period of rapid shoot growth in a closed container with bottom heat.

Silk floss tree is cultivated as a flowering specimen tree. The seedpod silk has been used to stuff cushions.
This is a great exotic looking tree for quickly creating tropical effects. It can grow 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) per year when young and never fails to attract comments with its spiny green trunk and beautiful flowers that cover a bare tree.

Magnolia Tree

Magnificent flowering plants featuring blossoms in white, pink, red, purple, or yellow. Magnolia trees are diverse in leaf shape and plant form, and they include both evergreen and deciduous sorts. They aren’t usually munched by deer.
The following text classifies magnolias by general type; the chart lists species, hybrids, and selections alphabetically. New magnolias seem to appear almost hourly, but most garden centers carry only a few. To track down a prized selection, you’ll probably need to hunt through mail-order catalogs.
Magnolia Tree Types
Whether evergreen or deciduous, most magnolias have large, striking blossoms composed of petal-like segments. A few are grown for use as foliage plants.
Evergreen magnolias. To many people, the word “magnolia” is synonymous with our native Magnolia grandiflora, the classic Southern magnolia with large, glossy leaves and huge, fragrant white blossoms―the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana. Few trees can match it for year-round beauty. It does, however, have its drawbacks. Unnamed seedlings often take 10 years after planting before they come into bloom. Dense shade and shallow roots make it impossible to grow grass beneath the canopy, and the roots often crack and lift pavement if the tree is planted between sidewalk and curb. Leaves drop 365 days a year. And since the tree grows as wide as 40 ft., it takes up a lot of garden space.
Sweet bay (M. virginiana), a smaller tree, is easier to fit into most gardens. Though mostly deciduous in the Upper and Middle South, it’s evergreen in the Lower and Coastal South and more cold hardy than
M. grandiflora.
Deciduous magnolias with saucer flowers. This group includes the popular saucer magnolia (M. x soulangeana) and its myriad selections, often called tulip trees because of the shape and bright color of their flowers. They prefer fertile, acid, well-drained soil. They do not tolerate heavy wind or salt spray. Early-flowering selections are prone to frost damage. Related to these, but less tolerant of winter cold and summer heat, are the spectacular magnolias from western China and the Himalayas―Sargent magnolia (M. sargentiana) and Sprenger magnolia (M. sprengeri). Though their early flowers may fall victim to late freezes, one spring season with good blooms will quickly make you forget the disappointments of years past.
Deciduous magnolias with star flowers. This group includes Kobus magnolia (M. kobus), Loebner magnolia(M. x loebneri), and star magnolia (M. stellata). All are cold-hardy, heat-tolerant, adaptable plants. Late frosts sometimes damage their early blooms.
Other magnolias. Less widely planted―but deserving of greater attention―is a group of large-leafed native magnolias generally grown as bold accents or shade trees. Cucumber tree (M. acuminata) and its smaller sibling, yellow cucumber tree (M. a. subcordata), are the source of the yellow blossom color of many new hybrids. Bigleaf magnolia (M. macrophylla), umbrella magnolia (M. tripetala), Fraser magnolia (M. fraseri), and Ashe magnolia (M. ashei) are medium-size trees with huge leaves and large flowers that appear after the leaves unfurl.
In its own category is Oyama magnolia (M. sieboldii), native to western China. It bears drooping, cup-shaped, fragrant blooms after leaves emerge.
Magnolia Tree Culture
For any magnolia, pick planting site carefully. Virtually all types are hard to move once established, and many grow quite large. The best soil for magnolias is fairly rich, well drained, and neutral to slightly acid; if necessary, add generous amounts of organic matter when planting. Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) is good for planting at the beach, though not on dunes. Sweet bay (M. virginiana) tolerates wet soil. The species and selections listed in the chart are adapted to a wide range of growing conditions and are easy for most gardeners to grow.
Magnolias never look their best when crowded, and they may be severely damaged by digging around their roots. Larger deciduous sorts are most attractive standing alone against a background that will display their flowers at bloom time and show off their strongly patterned, usually gray limbs and big, fuzzy flower buds in winter. Small deciduous magnolias show up well in large flower or shrub borders and make choice ornaments in Asian-style gardens. Most magnolias are excellent lawn trees; try to provide a good-size grass-free area around the trunk, and don’t plant under the tree.
Balled-and-burlapped plants are available in late winter and early spring; container plants are sold all year. Do not set plants lower than their original soil level. Stake single-trunked or very heavy plants to prevent them from being rocked by wind, which will tear the thick, fleshy, sensitive roots. To avoid damaging the roots, set stakes in planting hole before placing tree. Prevent soil compaction around root zone by keeping foot traffic to a minimum. Prune only when absolutely necessary. Magnolias seldom have serious pest or disease problems