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: I have received an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift. The photo of the flower is so beautiful it is hard for me to believe I can grow this plant. I really want to keep it alive. How do I take care of it?

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

I am also enamored with this lovely flower and you will be surprised to find out, it is a fairly easy plant to grow.  Right now, just keep the plant in an area with bright light but not direct light and no direct cold breezes.  The soil should be moist but never wet.  Amaryllis bulbs can be planted in the ground anytime between September and January.  Amaryllis plants do best in light or dappled shade. In heavy shade, they will be thin, spindly and flower poorly.  If planted in full sun, amaryllis leaves will turn yellow.  These plants require well-drained soils amended with organic matter or compost.  Use slow-release forms of fertilizer to minimize leaching of nutrients into water resources.  Apply 2-3 light applications of fertilizer during growing season, which is March through September. Plant the bulbs 12 to 15 inches apart with the neck of the bulb protruding above the ground. Once planted in the ground, water newly planted amaryllis and keep them moist but not waterlogged until the plants are well-established. The bulbs may be left in the ground for several years or dug and reset every September or October. It is not necessary to dig, separate, and replant each year, but doing so will encourage uniform flowering and larger blooms. An additional advantage to digging is it will provide an opportunity to discard unhealthy bulbs, to remove young offsets (bulblets) and to amend the bed with organic matter. Diseased bulbs will show red discoloration and lesions on the bulbs.  These diseased bulbs should be destroyed. Control weeds by spreading a 2-inch layer of mulch over the bed at planting time and remove any weeds immediately.  Amaryllis bulbs lend themselves well to containers too.  More complete information can be obtained from the University of Florida publication titled “Amaryllis” by Dr. Sydney Brown and Dr. Robert Black.