Should I remove succulent flowers?

Should I remove succulent flowers?

This is a tough question. “Should I remove my succulent flowers?” has been asked at more than one presentation over the years. My preference is yes, but let’s look at the pros and cons of both options. An argument for keeping succulent flowers The aeonium flowers above are beautiful on their own. Their bright yellow color is a welcome site in winter. Succulent flowers come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, but most are not nearly as showy as these– and I hate to ruin the ending, but I still cut these off! However, if this is the first time you have seen your succulents flower and you want to experience it for yourself, go ahead and let that baby bloom. My guess is that you will be underwhelmed with the flowers but at least you can see for yourself what they look like. An argument for removing succulent flowers At first I thought that my aeonium was stretching for more light, but when the other stems remained nice and compact it was clear that this succulent was getting ready to flower. As gardeners we love and embrace flowers, so why would I recommend removing these succulent flowers? Most of us grow succulents for their unique shapes, colors and textures. We are not growing these to attract pollinators, to feed our families or to provide privacy in the backyard. And, as you can see below, the flower spike on this aeonium was turning my compact bowl of succulents into a floppy mess. How to remove succulent flowers The before and after photo below shows just how much tidier this plant became once I remove the large aeonium flower spike. You can simply snap it off by hand near the base or use a pair of snips to cut it down. The flower spike itself is quite top heavy and the brittle nature of these succulents made this very easy to...
What’s that purple flower vine?

What’s that purple flower vine?

On our recent trip to Florida I was literally stopped in my tracks by this purple flower vine in Winter Garden. I’ve been familiar with Petrea volubilis, or Queen’s Wreath Vine, but I’ve never seen it like this. Driving down Plant Street in Winter Garden, there is always something beautiful to see. This town does a great job of maintaining and growing their green space for residents and tourists to enjoy. But this. This was too much for me! The purple flowers were dripping off of the trellis. Petrea volubilis is sometimes called “Florida Wisteria” and it is easy to see why. Wow. I can’t tell you how many people I heard talking about this plant. How often do plants get this kind of attention? This “mystery” purple flower vine was stealing the show in mid March and deservedly so. Want to grow this in your garden? Patience is important! It takes 2-3 years to become well established and deliver the flower show you are looking for. Queen’s wreath vine is also available in a white variety but, let’s be honest here, it doesn’t stand up to this purple beauty! According to the University of Florida, “This vine is described as being “variably deciduous,” meaning leaf drop depends on the climate and weather in your specific area. Some plants may drop all leaves during the winter while others only drop some. While usually found growing as a woody vine, queen’s wreath can be maintained as a shrub or a small, single- or multiple-trunked tree. Left to its own devices, queen’s wreath can reach 40 feet tall, but you can keep it much smaller with occasional...
Grasses that stand up in winter

Grasses that stand up in winter

What can I say? Its been a long winter. We had a blizzard on Sunday– a real one. All of this snow is giving me a new appreciation for grasses that stand up in winter. The photo above shows the ‘Northwind’ switchgrass standing strong with about 8″ of snow at the base. The photos below show the same plants with about 15″ of snow at their base. I have other grasses in my garden, but none of them seem to hold up like these. What use is a floppy grass if you can’t appreciate it in the winter? Grasses that stand up in winter are something to be appreciated, quite honestly, all year long. Their vertical punctuation in an otherwise flat landscape is exactly what is needed. These plants are in just their second winter and I am already getting ready to order more. I purchased these from Bluestone Perennials and they’ve been strong from the start. The Bluestone site describes ‘Northwind’: 2014 Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year. Tall, strongly erect ornamental grass. Pillars of olive blue-green blades provide strong vertical form – great as an accent or in a row for screening. Airy panicles of yellow seed heads crown the blades at bloom time. Turns a warm tan-yellow in the fall.Panicum Northwind supplies an ideal wildlife habitat providing shelter and food for songbirds. Tolerates both wet and dry conditions. Switch Grass gets its name from the calming swishing sound produced with a gentle breeze. This tough ornamental grass is deer resistant, will grow near black walnut trees and even tolerates salt spray near the ocean and road salt. What do you think, is it time to add some grasses that stand up in winter to your garden? Are there others that you love? I would be happy to try...

Farfugium as a houseplant

I’ve had a love affair with Farfugium for a long time. When we moved from Florida to Iowa I brought one along to try the lovely farfugium as a houseplant. The good news is that it is flourishing! The big, bold leaves of farfugium, also known as Leopard Plant, are the main attraction. It is a member of Daisy family, so while it does send up spikes of yellow flowers, to me these seem out of place with the large tropical leaves. I’ve even heard farfugium referred to as Tractor Seat Plant, and I can certainly see that in the broad leaf shape. I first referenced Farfugium on here back in 2015 in my New and Underused Plants post. Back then it was really hard to find. Lately though, it seems that farfugium is showing up all over. In the warmer parts of the country it is finding popularity as a landscape plant. Hardy in zones 7b and warmer, I’ve seen it growing in Norfolk, Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia in large masses. There are several varieties available on the market although my favorite is definitely Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’. It has the largest and glossiest leaves of an available. Tips for growing Farfugium as a houseplant: Allow soil to dry out between watering. Over-watering is the fastest way to kill any houseplant. I even allow my plant to wilt slightly (the heavy leaves will droop) to make sure I am not watering too much.Use a quality potting soil. Gradually increase pot size as needed. This goes back to overwatering, but basically you want the plant’s soil to dry out and in a huge pot it will just stay too...
How to grow oats for cats

How to grow oats for cats

My nephew picked up this package of “oats for cats” seeds last spring at our local nursery and since that time it has just been sitting on my desk. Yes, I meant to get around to it but it just never became a priority. Now as the winter is in full swing it seemed like a perfect time to get this quick growing project underway (and maybe help me put off starting other seeds a bit longer!) Supplies to grow oats for cats: Oat seeds (there are SO many options online for this, but if you need help Gurney’s has these at a pretty reasonable price)Potting soilContainer — we used old take-out containers! A tray or any shallow container will work just fine. How to grow oats for cats: Fill the container with potting soil so that the soil is approximately 1″ from the top. Tap it down lightly to level. Sprinkle oats on the surface of the soil. Our package said 10 seeds per square inch and I think we were well over that amount. Lightly press into the soil.Sprinkle soil with water. I decided to cover ours while the seeds germinated. Saran wrap would be perfect for this! Adding a cover will help keep the soil moist and a little warmer while seeds are germinating. 7-10 days later you should be ready to serve your cat a nice container of oat grass! I was a little worried that our cat “wouldn’t know what to do” with this, but that was not the problem at all! He went right for it! Trying to photograph cats in action is much harder than photographing plants! Learning how to grow oats for cats is easy and fun– and the perfect winter...
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