Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: What can you tell me about the purple tube flower?

 

Purple tube flower

Purple tube flower

A:   I believe you are talking about Iochroma cyanea and it is a distant relative of the angel trumpets which are both in the nightshade family. Often these plants are called “mini trumpet plants.”  Like their cousins, all parts of the plant are poisonous. More than likely your plant will be a perennial, although it can be tender if temperatures stay below freezing for long periods of time. The purple tubular flowers are thin and grow 3 to 3.5 inches long.  It is a favorite of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There are several varieties with flower colors ranging from pale lilac to purple to red.  The full mature height of the shrub can be from 3 – 6 feet with a potential 4 foot spread.  Iochroma cyanea blooms repeatedly from late spring through the fall – which will make it my favorite shrub.  Here it is in the middle of October and mine is blooming.  Iochroma cyanea will need consistent watering during establishment but will be able to tolerate periods of no irrigation or rainfall once it is established. You can plant it in full sun but it will tolerate dappled lighting if it receives sufficient morning sun exposure. I have planted my shrub in dappled light as it may have problems with Florida’s intense summer heat and humidity.  Maybe I will report back to you after a few years and let you know how it did in my yard.  Most plants have to be pretty tough to survive – I don’t baby anything.  Iochroma cyanea can be propagated by seed.

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Q: What can you tell me about the Beef Steak begonia?

Beef steak begonia

Beef steak begonia

A:  The beef steak begonia, Begonia erythrophylla, is an example of a rhizomatous begonia. This begonia would be better if grown as a house plant as it prefers temperatures well above freezing. If you decide to plant it in the ground, then it would need to be covered with the understanding it may not recover if winter temperatures stay too cold for too long.  This particular begonia has a heavy, succulent stem that grows just above the soil surface and sends out adventitious roots.  These begonias produce flower stalks of many small flowers well above the foliage.  Many different leaf color patterns occur, the leaves have various shapes, leaf margins range from entire to deeply lobed and many have hairy leaves.


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Q: I am thinking about planting beach morning glory on my dune areas behind my beach house. What can you tell me about this plant?

Fiddleleaf Morning Glory

Fiddleleaf Morning Glory

A:  The common beach morning glory is generally not cold tolerant enough for our area as it typically grows in cold hardiness zones 10-11.  Perhaps consider planting Fiddle-leaf morning glory, Ipomoea stolonifera, which is a better choice for the Northeast part of Florida with cold hardiness zones 8b – 9a.  The fiddle-leaf morning glory is an herbaceous, evergreen vine native to the southeastern United States. This plant, unlike the beach morning glory, can be grown throughout Florida and along the coast. Fiddle-leaf morning glory attains a height of 4 to 6 inches but can spread along the ground to a distance of 75 feet. The small, thick, glossy green leaves are ovate-cordate in shape and densely cover the stems. Most leaves are divided into 5 lobes in a more or less star shape. This plant roots and branches at the nodes and spreads very rapidly. The white, funnel-shaped flowers of the fiddle-leaf morning glory are generally 2 ½ to 3 inches wide. They open in the early morning and close before noon each day during the blooming season; the flowers are borne in the summer and fall. Small, round seedpods contain four velvety; dark brown seeds appear on this plant after flowering. It grows in full sun, is highly drought tolerant with good salt tolerance.  Like so many of the species in the Ipomoea genus, it can be “weedy” but when the desire it to reduce soil or dune erosion – Fiddle-leaf morning glory might be a good choice.  For more complete information consider looking at the University of Florida following publication:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp285


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Q: I found this plant in a natural area near my house. What is it?

Lizard's Tail

Lizard’s Tail

A:   I believe the plant is a perennial called Lizard’s tail, Saururus cernuus. Lizard’s-tail is a common emersed plant. It can be found as far north as Canada and west to Texas and to south Florida. Lizard’s tail is often found growing in large clumps along the edges of ponds or in wetlands. The erect plant grows to one to two feet tall, in freshwater marshes and swamps nearly throughout Florida. It blooms in the summer but with our very mild winter, you are seeing it bloom now. Lizard’s-tail has a bottlebrush spike of white flowers. It is typically six to eight inches long but can be longer. The flower spike arches above the leaves of the plant. After maturity, the flowers become a string of nutlets resembling a lizard’s tail. It can grow in full sun to partial shade and spreads by underground rhizomes. 


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Q: My grandmother just received something called Cockscomb as a gift from a visitor while she is in rehabilitation. What do we do with it?

 

Celosia_plumosa

Celosia_plumosa

A:  Celosia has two types of flowers, the cockscomb, Celosia cristata and the plume types, Celosia plumosa. The tight, velvety texture of the cockscomb flowers look like brain tissue to some people. The fluffy, light, airy texture of the plume types blow freely in a breeze and are planted more often. Both come in a variety of colors.  It is an annual and can be planted outside once she returns home.  It usually grows no taller than 1 – 2 feet.  Celosia plants love full sun so be sure to put it in the window so it can get as much light as possible.  Although once it is planted outside, it will tolerate some shade.  The soil should be kept moist but not wet.  Once she gets back home, she can plant any of the following along with her gift:  Cristata cultivars include the dwarf ‘Jewel Box’ and ‘Olympia’ series and the taller (18 to 24 inches) ‘Floradale’ and ‘Chief’ series. Plumosa series and cultivars include the dwarf ‘Kimono’ and ‘Geisha’ series and the taller types including ‘Apricot Brandy’, ‘Castle’ series, ‘Century’ series, ‘Forest Fire’ and ‘New Look’.


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Q: Do we have a native phlox plant?

 

Phlox subulata

Phlox subulata

A:    Actually, we do have a native phlox, Phlox subulata, which is commonly found from cold-hardiness zones 7-10. The plant goes unnoticed during the year because it blends in with the grass and other surrounding parts of the landscape until flowers emerge in late winter and spring. It is one of the signals to us of the arrival of spring. Flower colors vary from red and lavender to pink and white, depending on the cultivar grown. Plants grow no more than about 6 inches tall, forming thick clumps and a good ground cover. The stiff leaves are narrow, growing to about an inch long and perhaps to 1/16 inch wide.  It tolerates most any kind of soil, with most sunlight situations although full sun helps it flower best. Native phlox is not salt tolerant.  Cultivars include ‘Crimson Beauty’—red flowers; ‘Emerald Cushion’—pink flowers; ‘Millstream’—white with a crimson eye; ‘Millstream Daphne’—dark blue flowers; ‘White Delight’—white flowers. Powdery mildew is the most common disease on this plant. The disease causes a white powdery growth on the leaves.