Friday, June 29, 2012

Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger)

Shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) is one of the largest-growing of the commonly cultivated gingers, typically reaching about 8-10 feet in height. The pendulous flower spike emerges from the tip of mature canes. It consists of an 8-inch long cluster of individual flowers. Blooms may appear at any time of the year, but they are most likely in spring and early summer.

Leaflets positioned alternately along the canes are dark green and about 4½ inches wide by 2 feet long. The foliage is evergreen and is only damaged by severe freezes.
The bruised leaves are very fragrant. Dried leaves and stems make an excellent addition to dry or simmering potpourris.
The plant spreads by rhizomes and it doesn't take long to form a massive clump. It makes an excellent background or screening plant if you have the room for it. Old dried canes and leaves remain standing for a long time and manual removal is required to keep the plant looking its best.

The large rhizomes are not edible, but the leaves have many reputed uses in folk medicines.
Alpinia zerumbet is native to eastern Asia and is recommended for USDA Zones 8-12. In Zone 8 the canes may freeze back each year before maturity, preventing the production of blossoms.

There is a variegated form of shell ginger that grows about 6 feet tall, and a dwarf variegated form that only gets about a foot tall.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Neoregelia 'Yellow Devil'

Neoregelia 'Yellow Devil' is a very colorful bromeliad variety. If you give it some sun, the plant rewards you with shades of yellow, orange, pink and red. The plants shown here were all grown in full afternoon sun. More of the reddish coloration develops as the plant reaches maturity and starts to bloom.
It grows to be a fairly large plant. In a 6-inch pot the plants get about 2 feet across, but in the ground they'll get even larger. The undersides of the leaves show nice red striations.
Consider viewing it from below by mounting in a tree or growing in a hanging basket.  And when the sun shines through the leaves...

Neoregelia 'Yellow Devil' tolerates brief temperatures as low as 26°F without any damage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Plumeria pudica

Plumeria pudica is an evergreen to semi-deciduous species with white flowers that continue to develop whenever the plant is in active growth. A mature plant may remain in bloom for 185 days of the year. The 3-inch diameter flowers are white with a yellow center and emerge in clusters at the stem tips. Plant in full sun for the maximum number of blooms. Unfortunately, the flowers of this species have no fragrance.
Leaves are fiddle-shaped or spoon-like, with a wide lobe at the distal end and coming to a point at the apex. They may be up to a foot long, but are generally smaller unless grown in ideal conditions.
The foliage is evergreen except during periods of prolonged cold or drought. Periodic pruning of the stem tips just before the spring growth will keep the plant full and bushy, especially if done when the plant is young. Mature plants reach about 12 feet in height by 8 feet wide.
Plumeria pudica is native to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9B to 11. This plant is also sometimes known as Bridal Bouquet and Fiddle-leaf plumeria.

Related species: Plumeria rubra

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Plumeria rubra

Plumeria rubra and its hybrids are the most widely-grown of the Plumeria species. They come in a wide range of colors and the blooms are generally very fragrant. Each inflorescence may contain between 50 and 200 buds which open a few at a time over several weeks or months.
Flower clusters often appear with the onset of new growth in the spring and may continue to emerge on new growth throughout the growing season. Individual flowers are 2-3 inches in diameter, with some varieties being more prolific bloomers than others. Flowering of all varieties is best in full sun, but the plants do tolerate partial shade.
Plumerias are native to tropical America, but are now grown in warm climates world-wide. In frost-free areas, plants may grow up to 30 feet tall with a nearly equal spread. In climates where freezes occur every few years, plants seldom reach more than 10-12 feet. These plants are recommended for USDA Zones 9b-11, but can easily be grown in containers in colder zones.
Plumeria rubra branches are thick and stubby with persistent leaf scars.
There is a very obvious delineation between this year's new green growth and last year's grayish stem.
Leaves are large (often more than a foot long) and pointed on the end.
This species drops its leaves completely in the winter. All plant parts exude a milky sap when cut, which may irritate the skin of sensitive individuals.
In some areas, Plumerias are commonly known as Frangipani.

Related species: Plumeria pudica