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Friday, March 31, 2006

Cultivation and Uses of Foxglove

Common Name: Purple Foxglove
Scientific Name: Digitalis purpurea

Cultivation The Foxglove is cultivated to provide a drug of uniform activity from a true type of Digitalis purpurea. It is absolutely necessary to have the true medicinal seeds to supply the drug market: crops must be obtained from carefully selected wild seed and all variations from the new type struck out.

The plant will flourish best in welldrained loose soil, preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by a wood, give the best results.

It grows best when allowed to seed itself, but if it is desired to raise it by sown seed, 2 lb. of seed to the acre are required. As the seeds are so small and light, they should be mixed with fine sand in order to ensure even distribution. They should be thinly covered with soil. The seeds are uncertain in germination, but the seedlings may be readily and safely transplanted in damp weather, and should be pricked out to 6 to 9 inches apart. Sown in spring, the plant will not blossom till the following year. Seeds must be gathered as soon as ripe. The flowers of the true medicinal type must be pure, dull pink or magenta, not pale-coloured, white or spotted externally.

It is estimated that one acre of good soil will grow at least two tons of the Foxglove foliage, producing about 1/2 ton of the dried leaves.


Many of the common names of this plant pertain to its toxic nature (Witches' glove, Dead Man's Bells, Bloody Fingers). Foxglove belongs to the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) and the whole plant is toxic. It contains various cardiac glycosides. Symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, irregular heart beat, and delerium or halucinations.

Digitonin is a Digitalis drug derived from D. purpurea. It is used in modern medicine to increase the force of the systolic contractions and prolong duration of the diastolic phase in congestive heart failure. Digitalis drugs lower venous pressure in hypersensetive heart ailments, elevate blood pressure in a weak heart act as a diuretic, and reduce edema. However, the theraputic dose is dangerously close to the lethal dose. Historically, Foxglove was employed by herbalists for a variety of purposes, fom an ointment used for cleansing wounds and reducing swelling to boiling it and using it as an expectorant.

There are a number of plants containing glycosides (including Lily of the Valley), which are toxic to a wide range of animals including humans.

Medicinal Uses Digitalis has been used from early times in heart cases. It increases the activity of all forms of muscle tissue, but more especially that of the heart and arterioles, the all-important property of the drug being its action on the circulation. The first consequence of its absorption is a contraction of the heart and arteries, causing a very high rise in the blood pressure.

After the taking of a moderate dose, the pulse is markedly slowed. Digitalis also causes an irregular pulse to become regular. Added to the greater force of cardiac contraction is a permanent tonic contraction of the organ, so that its internal capacity is reduced, which is a beneficial effect in cases of cardiac dilatation, and it improves the nutrition of the heart by increasing the amount of blood.

In ordinary conditions it takes about twelve hours or more before its effects on the heart muscle is appreciated, and it must thus always be combined with other remedies to tide the patient over this period and never prescribed in large doses at first, as some patients are unable to take it, the drug being apt to cause considerable digestive disturbances, varying in different cases. This action is probably due to the Digitonin, an undesirable constituent.

The action of the drug on the kidneys is of importance only second to its action on the circulation. In small or moderate doses, it is a powerful diuretic and a valuable remedy in dropsy, especially when this is connected with affections of the heart.

It has also been employed in the treatment of internal haemorrhage, in inflammatory diseases, in delirium tremens, in epilepsy, in acute mania and various other diseases, with real or supposed benefits.

The action of Digitalis in all the forms in which it is administered should be carefully watched, and when given over a prolonged period it should be employed with caution, as it is liable to accumulate in the system and to manifest its presence all at once by its poisonous action, indicated by the pulse becoming irregular, the blood-pressure low and gastro-intestinal irritation setting in. The constant use of Digitalis, also, by increasing the activity of the heart, leads to hypertrophy of that organ.

Digitalis is an excellent antidote in Aconite poisoning, given as a hypodermic injection.

When Digitalis fails to act on the heart as desired, Lily-of-the-Valley may be substituted and will often be found of service.

In large doses, the action of Digitalis on the circulation will cause various cerebral symptoms, such as seeing all objects blue, and various other disturbances of the special senses. In cases of poisoning by Digitalis, with a very slow and irregular pulse, the administration of Atropine is generally all that is necessary. In the more severe cases, with the very rapid heart-beat, the stomach pump must be used, and drugs may be used which depress and diminish the irritability of the heart, such as chloral and chloroform.

Digitalis is poisonous, and symptoms include vomiting, headache, irregular heartbeat, and convulsions . Overdoses can be fatal.

Several wild strains and cultivated varieties of foxglove exist and are collected or produced for their ornamental and medicinal values.

Penstemon digitalis - Foxglove Beardtongue

Bloom: white, June

Occurrence: meadows, medium to wet soils, full sun

Habit: perennial with showy seed heads and beautiful winter foliage, up to 4’ tall

Animals: bumblebees are the main pollinators, hummingbirds will visit

Availability: seed, seedling flats, bare root, pots

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Scientific Name : Digitalis purpurea

Kingdom : Plantae
Division : Magnoliophyta
Class : Magnoliopsida
Order : Lamiales
Family : Scrophulariaceae
Genus : Digitalis
Species : purpurea

Deadmen's Bells; Witch's Bells; digitalis; Common Foxglove, Purple Foxglove

Digitalis is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous biennials, perennials and shrubs that was traditionally placed in the figwort family Scrophulariaceae. Due to new genetic research, Mike Niewahner has declared it has now been placed in the much enlarged family Plantaginaceae. The genus is native to Europe, western and central Asia and northwestern Adfrica.

The term digitalis is also used for preparations containing cardiac glycosides, particularly digoxin, extracted from plants of this genus.

The members of this genus are known in English as foxgloves. They are native to Europe, northwest Africa and west and central Asia. The scientific name means "finger", and refers to the ease which a flower of Digitalis purpurea can be fitted over a human fingertip. "Foxglove" has a similar origin, seen as a suitable glove for a fox paw.

The flowers are produced on a tall spike, are tubular, and vary in colour with species, from purple to pink, white and yellow.

The best-known species is the Common Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. It is a biennial, often grown as an ornamental plant due to its violet flowers. The first year of growth produces only the long, basal leaves, while in the second year the erect leafy stem 0.5-2.5 m tall develops.

The larvae of the Foxglove Pug feed on the flowers of Digitalis purpurea. Other Lepidoptera species feed on the leaves including Lesser Yellow Underwing.

A biennial herb with a rosette of large, low-lying leaves in its first year; in the second year, stems grow 2-5 feet tall and the hairy leaves separate in height. Spires of white, lavender or red tubular, bell-shaped, spotted, hanging flowers grow from 1.5-3 inches long.

The life span of the plant is 2 seasons. The first year growth remains in a basal rosette of leaves. Second year growth produces flowering stems, 3 -6 feet in height. Flower spikes have purple to white spotted thimble-like flowers which hang down and last about six days. The earliest known name for this plant is the Anglo-Saxon "foxes glofa" (the glove of the fox). It derives its name from the flowers which resemble the fingers of a glove and possibly from a northern legend that bad fairies gave the blossoms to the fox to put on his toes, so that he might soften his tread while he hunted for prey. First year growth has been mistaken for Comfrey (Symphitum officinale) with fatal results. Although, ingestion of this plant can be fatal at any time during the life of the plant, it is most toxic just before the seeds ripen. The upper leaves of the stem are also more toxic than the lower leaves.

RANGE Native to Europe, this plant is widly cultivated. It is a common garden escape and is naturalized in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It thrives in siliceous or loam soil, but needs very little soil to survive. It is often found in the crevices of granite walls, dry hilly pastures, roadsides, logged-off areas, and rocky places.

USES Used in modern heart medications; Traditionally used to treat epilepsy

, Leaf spots, Powdery mildew, Root rot and Stem rot

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pink Jasmine

Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum), native to western & southern China, is a fast-climbing evergreen vine that can very easily cover twenty feet of fence, wall, or pergola. It can also be kept severely pruned to function as a small trellised shrub of around six feet height, or it can be grown as a groundcover or in containers.

The flowers have splendid scent. Though called "Pink" it is only the buds that are bright pink. When opened the star-shaped flowers are pure white.

It is alternatively called Pink Winter Jasmine (distinct from yellow-flowering J. nudilflorum also called Winter Jasmine), because Pink Jasmine begins blooming by February, sometimes by January. But it also blooms the entirety of spring & much of the summer. In more southern & warmer zo
nes , it stops blooming much earlier in the year, as it dislikes very hot summers. If grown indoors or in heated greenhouses, it may have to be kept in a moveable container so that it can be taken outside to experience a moderate chill in late autumn or early winter, for if it does not detect the seasons, it will not set buds.

It likes rich, moist, well draining soil, & as with the majority of vines that bloom through multiple seasons, it benefits from liquid fertilizer fed to it once a month spring until the start of autumn; but it will also do quite nicely if fed only once, in late winter or early spring, with a slow-release granular fertilizer.

When it is through blooming, it will require a good solid sheering in order to again bloom well the following year. One mustn't wait until long after it is through blooming to prune it, or the following winter's end buds will already be setting.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Types of Jasmine

Jasmines can be divided into three main groups: shrubby plants, hardy climbers, and tender climbers.

Picture of Jasminum nudiflorum

Shrubby jasmines
The winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is the star of this group, forming a loose open deciduous shrub that will scramble
its way through a border by rooting at the tips of each arching stem rather like a bramble. Left to its own devices it will eventually reach 3x3m (10x10ft). However, it is easy to control, and because it roots so readily it is very easy to propagate. Winter jasmine is a remarkable plant in several ways. For start it is hardy almost anywhere in the country and it can trained up wires against a wall or fence where its lolloping growth will spill haphazardly out in all directions. It also has remarkably green stems that are particularly noticeable and welcome in winter once the leaves have fallen. Then when nearly all else has shut-up shop for the winter freeze, it defies the cold by lightening up the gloomy garden with a dazzling display of bright yellow flowers. Winter jasmine needs no companions but if you want to create a bit of extra colour on a winter's day plant with witch hazel for their complementary spidery flowers of sulphur yellow and honeyed orange. For a bolder contrast, plant with a skimmia, their bright red berries standing out alongside the green and yellow of the jasmine. S. reevsiana is an excellent variety which has an abundance of dark pillarbox-red fruit each winter. Another shrubby jasmine worth seeking out is J. humile 'Revolution'. This evergreen bushy shrub grows to about 1.8x1.5m (6x5ft) and bears deep yellow flowers with a delicate fragrance throughout the summer months. Although not as hardy as the winter jasmine it is still robust enough for most areas.

Hardy climbers
Although the
shrubby winter jasmine can be trained against a wall or fence, only the true climbing jasmines can cling on to their supports unaided.

Jasminum beesianum
Jasminum beesianum
The summer jasmine (J. officinale - picture on the left) is particularly valued for its delicious, free-ranging perfume that can transform the atmosphere of a garden on a summer's evening. It is a vigorous twining climber so is ideal for growing over a pergola or arch to create a fragrant arbour or trained along a fence next to the patio to permeate the evening air with its delightful perfume. The attractive star-shaped white blooms are produced in succession from June until early autumn and stand out against the backdrop of attractive dark green divided foliage. The plant will cover an area 12x6m (40x20ft) if given a sheltered spot where it is not exposed to winter cold. If you are looking for something a little different, consider the variegated summer jasmine J. officinale 'Argenteovariegatum' which has green leaves that are attractively edged with white.
It is smaller than the species, reaching 4x4m (15x15ft) so more suited to a confined space. It is just as floriferous and the blooms are highly scented. The new variety 'Fiona Sunrise' creates a completely different effect in the garden because its leaves are suffused with gold making the whole plant stand out.
Jasminum stephanense
Jasminum stephanense
Reaching 6x4m (20x15ft), it is particularly useful for drawing the eye and forming a focal point. Like the summer jasmine it is deliciously scented when in flow
er throughout the summer months. Other hardy climbing jasmines to look out for are J. beesianum which bears clusters of rose-red, slightly scented flowers in early summer followed by black berries. Reaching just 4x3m (15x10ft) it can be grown to cover a single fence panel or one side of an arch by a sunny doorway where its delicate scent can be appreciated. If you want more flower power, opt for J. x stephanense which bears masses of pink blooms in June and July. This one is more vigorous, reaching 4x1.5m (15x5ft).

Indoor jasmines
There are few plants that can transform a dreary winter room like Jasminum polyanthum. Even just a couple of flowers will suffuse through the house filling the air with uplifting perfume. Usually trained along hoops in a small pot as a table decoration, it can also be given more space in a larger container with a supporting framework of trellis. In a conservatory, it can be grown in a raised bed and trained on wires along walls or even overhead where it can reach 6x6m (20x20ft) if allowed. However, it responds well to regular trimming and so can be kept to size and flowering well whatever the available space.

Picture of Jasminum polyanthum

Monday, March 27, 2006

Jamine Varieties

Jasmines are a curious group. They offer three of the Britain's most popular plants that could not be more different from one another. There's the climbing summer jasmine loved for its heady fragrance produced by delightful starry white flowers borne from June to September.
Jasminum x stephanotis
Jasminum x stephanotis
Then there is the shrubby winter jasmine that can be grown to sprawl along the ground or trained against a wall or fence where it will bear bright yellow completely scentless winter blooms on strikingly fresh green stems from November to February. And finally, there is the indoor jasmine which makes a superb house plant bearing highly scented pink blooms along twining stems during spring and early summer. If that wasn't variety enough, there are several other types of jasmine that are definitely worth seeking out.

All jasmines need to be given the right growing conditions to do well, so it is essential that you choose the right variety for your particular situation. Many types are tender and so need to be kept frost free in winter while even those rated as hardy can be borderline in colder areas and best planted where they will benefit from the protection of a south-facing wall or fence.

Jasmines can be divided into three main groups: shrubby plants, hardy climbers, and tender climbers.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Scientific Name : Jasminum Officinale

Common Name: Poets Jasmine, Common White Jasmine

Family : Oleaceae

Flowering Season : April to September

Colour : White

Jasmine or Jessamine, the sweet -scented white flowers belongs to the genus Jasminum. It is an evergreen semi-vining shrub native to tropical areas of southeast Asia, Africa and Australia. This seasonal plant contains about 150 species. Flowers are about 1 inch and plant height is about 6 or 8 feet or 10 to 15 feet if grown as a vine. The oval rich green leaves have five to nine leaflets, each up to 2½ inches long.

Grown all over the world for its fragrance, Jasmine flowers are used to flavour jasmine tea and other herbal or black teas. The flower oil extracted from the two species Jasminum Officinale and Grandiflorum is used in high-grade perfumes and cosmetics, such as creams, oils, soaps, and shampoos. In Asia, flowers are stringed together to make garlands. The flowers of one of the double varieties are held sacred to Lord Vishnu and are used as votive offerings in Hindu religious ceremonies. Several types of jasmine are used as ornamental plants.

Propagation and Planting
Jasmine is propagated by cuttings of nearly ripe wood in summer. Cuttings are planted in 3-inch pots within 4 weeks, then to 6-inches when pot is becoming filled with roots. The potting soil should consist of 2 parts peat moss or cow dung to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand. Keep the soil moist but well drained for optimum growth. When growth slows in winter, hold back on watering. If planted on the ground, set them at least 8 feet apart to help them bush out.

Jasmine can be grown as a wine or a shrub. Frequent pruning is required to grow it as a shrub of desired size. Pruning also helps keep an abundance of flowers, since flowers are produced on new wood. When grown as a vine, its arching branches have to be supported on a mesh or trellis. Jasmine can be produced on almost any soil type, with sufficient water supply and intermediate to warm temperatures. It grows in full sun to partial shade. Fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer. The common jasmine grows at the rate 12 to 24 inches a year.

Seeds don't need stratifying, and can be planted immediately. Full production begins after grafting in the second year. Flowers are picked in the early morning, since they are the most fragrant at daybreak. When in flower a single plant will strongly scent an entire room or patio on a still summer's eve.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More Facts about Dumbcane



Synonym:Dieffenbachia maculata

Synonym:Dieffenbachia picta

Tropicals/Tender Perennials

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7° C (35° F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5° C (40° F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is suitable for growing indoors

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
By air layering

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cultivating Dumbcane

The optimum method of propagation is air layering. With a sharp, clean knife make a shallow cut around the stem below a stem ring, at the point which you would like to cut the plant. Make your cut well through the outer layers, into the cambium layer. Dust the open area with a rooting hormone such as Hormonex or Rootone. Secure a piece of clear plastic around the stem close to the bottom of the cut. Use a twist tie to keep it closed. Fill the plastic with moist sphagnum moss and seal the top.

In 3 to 8 weeks when the roots become visible, sever the stem just below the plastic, remove it, and plant your newly formed root ball into a new pot. Water it into the new soil, and you are finished. Shorten the stem that remains in the original pot to a height at which you want new branching to begin. Be careful, it will be easy to overwater both the new plant and the old root system in the first few months.

It is possible to just cut the top of the plant off at the desired height, dust both sides of the cut with rooting hormone, and simply replant it into new clean soil. The cutting will root, and the parent plant will branch at that point. This is a slower and slightly more risky method, but is usually quite successful.

You can also cut discarded portions of the stem into segments containing 3-4 rings. Place the stem cuttings on their sides with an 'eye' upwards onto the surface of sterile potting soil. (It's a good idea to create a mini-greenhouse with a frame of cut wire coat hangers and clear plastic over the pot to avoid drying.) Keep the cuttings at a minimum temperature of 72 degrees, and you will be rewarded with several new plants.

Keep in mind that when you are doing any type of plant propagation that cleanliness is extremely important. Always use a clean sharp knife and sterile potting soil for the best results!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How to Care for Dumbcane

Dieffenbachias do best in bright indirect light (north or east window). Keep temperatures above 55 degrees (they will tolerate 50 degrees.) The ideal temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 at night. The soil should be allowed to become moderately dry between waterings, but then the plant should receive a thorough drenching. Established plants should be fed with every two or three weeks during the spring and summer with any all purpose house-plant fertilizer diluted to one half strength. Root bound plants may be re potted at any season, using any good commercial potting soil. The leaves should be cleaned occasionally with a damp sponge to prevent the pores from being clogged with dust.

As the plants get larger, the lower leaves naturally wither and die, creating the 'cane', but this allows the plants energy to be diverted to the production of new top leaves. If the plant becomes to tall and leggy, it may be cut back to any height and the cut portions used for propagation.

The sap of the Dieffenbachia is extremely poisonous. Even a small amount in the mouth can cause the tongue to swell to the point that it will close your throat and cause suffocation. Wash your hands thoroughly after you have in contact with the sap!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Scientific Name: Dieffenbachia picta
Common Name: Dumbcane, Mother-in-law's Tongue, Dumb Plant

With common names like Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Dumbcane, you can be sure that this plant has an interesting story associated with it. A popular houseplant for over 150 years, the Dumbcane is native to South America where it is commonly found growing in tropical jungles, especially in Brazil. As members of the Arum family of plants (Araceae), all 30 members of the genus Diffenbachia, including the Dumbcane, count as close relatives such well-known plants as Philodendron, Pothos, Calla, Anthurium, Spathiphyllum, and Skunk Cabbage. The relationship between Dumbcane and Skunk Cabbage becomes very obvious when either plant is bruised. They both emit a skunk-like odor.

The Dumbcane, like all Arums, has an interesting blossom that consists of many small, inconspicuous flowers densely packed on a stalk called a “spadix”. The spadix is surrounded by a showy “spathe”, which is a modified leaf or bract. Dumbcane can get quite tall. Their rarely branching stems look like canes and can reach heights of over 10 feet. As they increase in size it is quite natural for their large green, white, and yellow-blotched leaves to be lost from the lower portions of the plant, leaving just exposed canes.

Undoubtedly the most intriguing characteristic of the Dumbcane relates to its common names. It has been known for over a century that the plant contains crystals of calcium oxalate, and if any part of it is eaten a sudden burning irritation and paralysis of the mouth, tongue, and lips will result. This usually prevents a person from talking for a while, which has led to the amusing common names. The ingestion of this plant, however, can have some serious consequences such as vomiting, diarrhea, and intense salivation. Death has been reported to occur when tissues at the back of the tongue and throat swell and block air passage.

In 1963 it was discovered that specialized cells called idioblasts within the Dumbcane could “shoot” double-pointed, sharp, needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate much like darts from a microscopic blowgun. These crystals, called raphides, are forcibly ejected from the idioblasts after the tips of these cells are broken off as a result of tissue damage such as from chewing. These crystals readily penetrate the soft tissues all along the digestive tract of an animal. With the aid of an electron microscope, the presence of barbs along the length of the raphides has been demonstrated. They probably prevent the raphides from being readily dislodged from the soft animal tissues once penetration has occurred. The only effective way to rid the mouth of the crystals other than letting nature take its course is to rinse the mouth with vinegar to dissolve the imbedded crystals. The rinse should not be swallowed. The raphides also have 2 grooves running down their sides, making it possible for a proteolytic enzyme in Dumbcane to penetrate the mouth and throat tissues. The enzyme is very similar to those found in scorpion and snake venoms, and accounts at least in part for the localized paralysis suffered by animals ingesting this plant.

As bad as all this sounds, it is fortunate that the raphides remain largely undissolved during their passage through the digestive tract. If these crystals of calcium oxalate were to dissolve internally, the resulting oxalic acid would create an imbalance of blood minerals and a plugging of kidney tubules with often fatal results.

The adaptive value of the idioblasts and their raphides to the Dumbcane is twofold. The plant “disposes” of potentially toxic excess oxalic acid that accumulates in the plant’s tissues by forming insoluble calcium oxalate crystals (raphides). These crystals protect the plant from herbivores (plant eating animals). No animal will have a second helping of Dumbcane.

Through hybridization and natural mutation, many fancy-leaved Dumbcanes have been developed and released into the nursery trade. As a result, there are a number of cultivated varieties with all sorts of leaf color patterns. One of the more famous is ‘Rudolph Roehrs’, developed in New Jersey from a striking chartreuse, ivory, and green-leaved mutant in 1937.

Pictures of Dumbcane

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Episcia cupreata (Flame violet )

Scientific Name: Episcia cupreata
Common Name: Flame violet

This is one of the popular episcias, with fine scarlet flowers and leaves that look sugar-coated.

  • Good indirect light
  • Temperature 16 - 21 degree celsius
  • Keep on the dry side

This is an attractive plant that grows in a pendulous fashion and looks good in small hanging pots.

Leaves are an attractive greyish silver and green, and flowers, though small, are of brilliant rted colouring and appear for many months in the middle of the year. Where growing conditions are to their liking, these plants can be grouped in hanging baskets of reasonable size to make a splendid feature in a room.

Good light is essential, but strong, direct sunlight should be avoided. In terms of temperature there is little to worry about in the summer, but the winter temperature should not drop below 16 degree celsius. Plants need to be potted with a peaty mixture.

In winter it is important to give water sparingly and only when it is really needed by the plant. Winter feeding is not necessary, but plants will benefit from regular applications at other times.

To encourage bloom: Provide adequate humidity

Monday, March 20, 2006

Beautiful Pictures of Anthurium

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Anthurium andreanum

Scientific Name: Anthurium andreanum
Common Name: Flamingo flower ; Flamingo lily ; Oilcloth flower; Painter's palette

  • light shade
  • Temperature 18 - 24 degree celsius
  • keep moist and fed

One of the most spectacular of all the flowering plants grown in pots, this needs a temperature in excess of 18 degree celsius and a high degree of humidity to give of its best. Flowers may be pink, white or red, with the latter being the colour most frequently seen. As cut floers A. andreanum has no peers.

Flowers are borne on long stalks and from the time they are cut they have a full six weeks of life when placed in water, and will last much longer if left on the plant.

Obtaining plants may be difficult, but they can be raised from seed and germinated in a temperature of not less than 24 degree celsius. However, it will be several years before the plants produce exotic flowers. Leaves are large, carried on long petioles, and have an arrow-shaped appearance. Use an open leafy mix when potting on, and keep the plants well watered, misted, and away from direct sunlight.

To encourage bloom: Provide humid conditions

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Anthurium scherzerianum

Scientific Name: Anthurium scherzerianum

Common Name: Flamingo flower ; Pigtail plant ; Tailflower

  • Light shade
  • Temperature: 16 - 21 degree celsius
  • keep moist and fed

This is the baby brother of A. andreanum, but is much better suited to average room conditions, in both space requirements and care.

Green leaves are produced on short petioles from soil level, and flowers are generally red in colour and produced over a long spring and summer period.

The spadix in the centre of the flower has a natural whorl to it that gives rise to one of its common names, 'pigtail plant'.

All anthuriums require an open potting mixture, and one made up of equal parts of peat and well-rotted leaves willlbe better than an entirely peat mix, or a mix containing loam.

Once established, plants need regular feeding to maintain leaf colouring and to encourage production of flowers with stouter stems - weak-stemmed flowers will require support. Like A. andreanum, A. scherzerianum should be kept out of direct sunlight.

To encourage bloom: Provide humid conditions.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Aphelandra squarrosa (Zebra Plant)

Scientific Name: Aphelandra squarrosa

Common Name: Saffron spike ; Zebra plant

  • Light shade
  • Temperature 16 -21 degree celsius
  • keep moist and fed

The aphelandra has two fairly obvious common names, 'zebra plant' and 'saffron spike' , relating to different parts of the plant - one to the grey-green leaves striped with silver, and the other to the saffron-yellow spike that forms the bract produced in midsummer.

It is equally attractive with or without flowers, and reaches a height of about 60cm when grown in a 13cm diameter pot. Larger pots will produce taller plants, usually in their second year.

When in good health all aphelandras will produce a wealth of roots and, consequently, require frequent feeding and potting on as soon as they have filled their exisiting pots with roots.

Peaty mixtures are not much use to this plant; try a proprietary brand potting soil that contains a good propertion of loam. In spring and summer established plants must be fed with every watering.

To encourage bloom: Rest after flowering.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Guzmania lingulata

Scientific Name: Guzmania lingulata
Common Name: Orange Star ; Scarlet Star

  • Good light
  • Temperature 13- 18 degree celsius
  • Keep on the dry side.
Belonging to the fine bromeliad family, there are a number of guzmanias that can be found in the quest for new plants to add to the houseplant collection, and all of them will be very easy to manage indoos.

The growing habit is that of most bromeliads - the plant forms a stift rosette of leaves that protrude from a short and stout central trunk. Overlapping leaves make a natural watertight urn, which must be kept filled with water. However, it is advisable to empty the urn and refuill with fresh water periodically. Rain water is preferred but try to avoid getting the soil in the pot too wet. Impressive orange-scarlet bracts develop on short stems from the centre of the urn during winter. New plants can be started from offsets.

Bromeliads should be grown in a free-draining mixture; equal parts of a loam-bas
ed medium and peat will be ideal. Alternatively, use a prepared bromeliad mix.

To encourage bloom: Grow in bright filtered light