Hoya Plant

Hoya flower

Hoya flower

Here is an interesting flower seen at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. The Hoyas are a group of tropical vines that are usually epiphytic. That means that they grow up on a support (such as a tree) and need humid air and dew for a source of water. The most common houseplant sold in garden centers is Hoya carnosa. It comes in a variety of leaf colors and if given enough sunshine, it will flower. The flower and plant are waxy to conserve moisture. Although they may be grown in a humid area, they make the most of any liquids coming their way by being almost plasticy feeling with a heavy layer of wax.

The reason I wanted to show you a picture of the inflorescence is that it is a good example of an umbel. The individual flowers are tiny five petalled affairs. The are clumped together by their stems and come out from the center like a firework. That is an umbel. In the Hoya they are usually a ball of individual little flowers. Some other plants that are umbel-bearers are flat topped umbels like the wild carrot, etc.

Sarasota-20130311-00088

Full Bloom

Here are the Paperwhite narcissis (members of the Daffodil group) in full bloom. This picture was taken on the fifth week after they were brought out into the house. They have been refrigerated in their pot for a few months prior. Paperwhites do not need a cold chilling period, they will grow right away. I just refrigerated them to attempt to time them for a certain date. So now I know that at a chilly and sunny spot they take 5-6 weeks to come into full bloom. My target date was Valentine’s Day but they are a couple weeks early. Next year I will set them out in the house 2 full weeks in to January to try to get the timing right.

Paperwhites Week 4

Fourth week on the Paperwhites. We now have the first little flower. I mistakenly posted this yesterday as week 3 but it is week 4. They were taken out of the refrigerator on December 21, 2012. My goal is to time them to coincide with Valentine’s Day. I think this will always be approximate. The warmth of the house and how much you water them will affect their growth rate.

Paperwhites at 14 days

Paperwhites

These Paperwhite bulbs were taken out of the refrigerator one week ago. They are already starting to grow. They seem to be erupting out of the media a little bit. I should have taped them down with florist tape across the pot. I will record their progress as they grow each week. They were set out on December 21. This photo was taken Dec 28. They are in a cool (60 degrees) bright window. I am going to try to keep them very cool so they do not get leggy. Check back in a few days to see their growth.

Paperwhites

This post is about an easy project to do that you can do right now or next spring. What am I talking about? It is forcing bulbs to bloom in containers. This bowl contains 6 bulbs of the Daffodil (Narcissus) type called Paperwhites. They are a bulb that can be easily grown in a little container like this.

Paperwhites in potting media

Six paperwhite bulbs will be held in the refrigerator ready for early spring display.

You really do not have to chill them since Narcissus papyraceus ‘Paperwhite’ is a Mediterranean Daffodil that does not need chilling to bloom. If you want to have them timed for a certain holiday, some trial and error is in order. They say on the package that they will bloom in 4-5 weeks at room temperature. It is all dependent on the temperature that you keep them at. They like it quite cool on a windowsill. If you grow them at house temperature, they will get all leggy and fall over while they are blooming which is not nice. I plan to keep them in the refrigerator and hold them back until January 1 and then put them into the coldeest spot I can find. This will keep the stems short and they will bloom and smell nice without staking. I will try to post a photo if I pull this off.

Ti Plant

The colorful foliage plant pictured here is called by the common name, Ti Plant, pronounced “TEE”.  It is actually a member of the Lily family, not in any way the kind of Tea you make in a teapot.  Its Latin name is Cordyline fruticosa.  It comes in many horticultural varieties respesenting many pretty colors and textures. 

The colorful Ti plant

 Tea that you brew and drink, is Camellia sinensis.  People get these two plants confused because of the common name Ti and Tea are phonetically pronounced the same, but are not related botanically, or in appearance.  This is what tea looks like.

File:Koeh-025.jpgSee?  They are really not the same at all.

House Plants Outdoors?

Sometimes it is tempting to drag your houseplants outside for the summer.  You think that the sun will be good for them or the rain will make them happy.  I would not recommend it.  There are a few reasons why this may do more harm than good. 

The most important reason houseplants may be damaged outside is that the leaves that have grown inside have just the right amount of chlorophyll, waxy outer layer and toughness to live inside your house.  The leaves grown inside are usually large, soft and not too covered with outer wax.  They have set up the proper amount of chlorophyll or other pigments to protect themselves from UV rays in the house.  They have not been subjected to wind and drying.

If you move them outside, those leaves do not have much chance against UV rays and lots of sun.  They are not robust enough to withstand the tossing wind and elements.  Most of the existing leaves will be damaged or fall off.  Then the plant will have to force out new growth.  That new growth is acclimated to outside conditions and will do well for the short term during summer.  Of course it usually takes about two months or more to go through the loss of the old leaves, being bare and messed up, and then growing some new sprouts of properly conditioned leaves.  About that time, some bug or pest will find them and start messing them up again.  If the leaves do survive to this point, you might think, wow, my plants are looking like they are coming back nicely. Not so fast.  Now the summer dwindles down into early autumn and you have to bring them back inside before frost. 

Once inside again, they have the same acclimation problem in reverse.  Those leaves that have been conditioned outside to receive increased amounts of lights will not be happy inside.  Some species of plants like a Weeping Fig, will even drop most of their leaves on the floor in response to a changed environment.  The existing leaves cannot deal with the low levels of light inside, so they think they will go dormant and wait for spring.  They have to sprout out more leaves that are used to the inside shade. 

So, the best thing to do is to leave them in their normal positions inside the house.  Just keep them as houseplants.  They will do better if they do not have to go through all that leaf damage and shedding.  No outdoor pests will get on them and travel back inside with them in the fall.  The watering will be more even and the temperatures will keep them nice all year round.

Zygocactus

Years ago we used to call Schlumbergera spp. a “Zygocactus”.  The old name has been replaced by Schlumbergera spp.  by taxonomists trying to make sense out of several related genuses that were named incorrectly by botanists a long time ago.  Most people, of course, call these plants Christmas cactus.

There are many Christmas cactus varieties that have been bred to increase the flower size, to give different colors, and especially to flower coincident with a certain holiday.  There are now types of these that flower for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. 

This is an old variety of “Christmas cactus”.  The original plant is from the 1950s. 

This "Christmas Cactus" blooms sporadically all winterNotice the tiny roots at the joints. A vestigial air root from their epiphytic origins.

 These plants are bred from the epiphytic cacti that grow in South America.  Plant breeders have been growing them in pots of soil, so the air roots are not really used anymore.  However, if you grow these plants in a humid greenhouse, the rootlets coming out of the joints will develop and be functional. 

These plants grow in the wild up in trees in Brazil.  They flower in May in South America and are nicknamed May Flowers.  Flowering is induced by cool temperatures and daylength.  When you grow these plants in the house, flowering is sporadic all winter long because the daylength is interrupted by electric lights being turned on and off and the heated  night temperatures.