Plant of the month

In addition to this month’s featured plant, you can also see some of Patricia’s previous choices.

OCTOBER
  • Botanical name:  Gerbera jamesonii
  • Family name:  Asteraceae
  • Common name: Gerbera Daisy – Transvaal Daisy
Gerberas pot
Gerberas pot

Gerberas, those colourful daisy-like plants, are more often than not grown here in pots. Natives of South Africa, but much admired plants all over the world these days, they bloom profusely throughout the summer. The large flower heads of these flowers have ray-like petals showing that they are part of the Asteraceae family. Some may have single or others double flowers whilst the leaves are coarse and often toothed

Pink Gerbera in a pot
Pink Gerbera in a pot

Gerbera daisies can reach from 20 to 60 cms tall and the flower heads grow from 4 to 12 cms across They can be grown both indoors and outdoors and are commonly used as cut flowers, although the stems often have to be supported with wires as the heavy heads can cause them to bend. The gerbera daisy is a popular house plant due to its bright and beautiful colouring. To grow them indoors, you’ll need a delicate balance of sunlight and moderate temperatures, so not in a spot on a windowsill which may be too hot and end up scorching the leaves. Gerberas can tolerate bright light in the morning and shade in the afternoon or moderate sunlight all day.

Watering is important and only do so when the top soil feels dry, and rather like poinsettia plants, let the pot drain before replacing it in its decorative outer pot and keep the water from the leaves. The plant can be fed with something like Phostrogen in the spring and summertime.

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SEPTEMBER
  • Botanical name:  Canna Lily
  • Family name:  Canaceae
  • Common name:  Canna
Canna Lucifer
Canna Lucifer

Canna Lilies came from tropical or sub-tropical America and the bright orangey-red flowered variety can be seen in gardens all over Cyprus. The cannas available here are grown in soil, although some species in other parts of the world prefer to grow in water. They like a sunny spot where the soil has been enriched with some compost and will flourish if there is a regular supply of water. They will grow equally well in pots, but need to be split up every couple of years.

Canna Durban
Canna Durban

Plant height varies according to variety and can range from 45 cms to 1 ½ metres. They can grow into huge clumps ‘walking’ across the garden as they send up new shoots away from the centre. Cannas are excellent garden plants flowering over a very long period as long as the dead flower heads are carefully removed in order to let further growths appear from down the stem. Cut off any seed heads as the plant will think it has done its job for the season and there will be no more flowers. Cannas will winter outside certainly up to 350 metres, although they don’t like very low temperatures and in mountain regions should be protected from frost. Plant them about 10 – 15 cms deep – not too deep or they won’t flower and not too shallow or their tall stems with their huge paddle-shaped leaves could be blown over in any gales as the leaves are surprisingly tender and can be torn by winds.

Leaf colour can be dark mauve or light or dark green and some varieties even have striations which are very attractive, but those prefer some shade.  The lovely flowers come in red, orange, yellow, pink, peach and cream with some, like ‘Lenape’ having spots and ‘Lucifer’ has the attractive colouring. Over-moist soil may cause Canna Rust in which case they should be taken up and burned but that shouldn’t be a problem here. Some of the leaves may fall prey to Canna Leaf Rollers, which as their name suggests cause the leaves to curl up around the insects. They can be uncurled and the insect destroyed.  Other than that they are remarkably pest and disease free plants. 

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AUGUST
  • Botanical name:  Alcea rosea
  • Family name:  Malvaceae
  • Common name:  Hollyhocks

POTM Aug

Hollyhocks are natives of the Eastern Mediterranean and it is thought that the Crusaders may have collected the seeds on their journeys in this part of the world all those years ago. They can have single or double flowers in a vast range of colours.  The Latin name for hollyhocks is Alcea rosea and they belong to the Malvaceae family, along with Hibiscus. The blooms appear in May and June here and flower for a long period.

You can start them off by sowing the seeds in pots before transferring them into their places in the garden, remembering that they may reach heights of over 2.5 metres in full sun. They are better planted at the back of borders or along hedge or fence lines for impact.  They will grow in poor soil, but you will get better results with some feeding. They are fairly drought tolerant but when you water take care not to wet the leaves, as this can lead to rust forming on them, so ensure that there is good air circulation around the plants. At one time every cottage garden in England had hollyhocks around the doorway and they have been used in herbal medicine from time immemorial. They can be used for gastritis, coughs, cystitis, bruises, falls, sunburn and as a gargle for sore throats and whilst young leaves are edible, the petals can be used in tea. The fibres on the stems and leaves can cause skin irritations, so do take care. I am told that growing them next to beehives makes for beautiful honey.

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JULY
  • Botanical name:  Fuchias
  • Family name:  Onagracea
  • Common name:  Ladies Eardrops

FuchsiaFuchsias are generally classed as small shrubs and although regarded as a European plant where they can be grown indoors or outdoors, they started life on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola. They belong to the Onagraceae family, which includes evening primroses as well as gaura, much seen in mass planting here these days. They generally grow up to 30cms although they can be standardised and reach greater heights. They are many species of fuchsia, although the ones we have started to see here in recent years are hybrids, of which there are many thousands!

Fuchsias thrive best in humidity, so if you live in a dry climate, misting your plants should keep them sufficiently moist, although they prefer their roots to be moist but not soggy. Test the surface of the soil before adding more water. They have become popular pot plants here and are ideal for hanging baskets or planters, being much admired for their hanging, bell-shaped, bi-coloured flowers that look like colourful dancing skirts and sometimes referred to as ‘Ladies Eardrops’. The flowers appearing on new growth last all summer long and there are thousands of varieties available, in shades of white, pink, magenta, purple and red. Feed them regularly throughout the season with diluted liquid fertilizer.

Planters and hanging baskets with fuchsias thrive better here in a semi-shaded position, despite their origins. An added bonus to these interesting plants is that the flowers can be crystallized and used to decorate cakes and desserts.

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JUNE
  • Botanical name:  Nigella damascena
  • Family name:  Ranunculaceae
  • Common name:  ‘Love in a Mist’, ‘Ragged Lady’ or ‘Devil in the Bush’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese lovely (usually cool weather) annual cottage-garden plants flower around this time of year in Cyprus, bringing colour and an interesting form to the front of the border. A member of the buttercup family and native to southern Europe, they can be grown in lots of northern countries as well. As its botanical name suggests it is thought to have been found originally in Syria. You may know it as ‘Love in a Mist’, ‘Ragged Lady’ or even ‘Devil in the Bush’, some of which refer to the lacy bracts that surround the flower.

Growing to around 20 cms, the flowers can be several shades of blue or even white or pink nestling in a frame of lacy foliage, which compliments any broader-leaved plants round about. Nigella, preferring to grow in well-drained sandy soil, will bloom for several weeks after which the plants produce seed capsules, which when ripe will shower seeds around the mother plant and germinate in the next spring. The dried flower stems can be used in floral art.

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MAY
  • Botanical name:  Kniphofia uvaria
  • Family name:  Asphodelaceae
  • Common name:  ‘Red Hot Pokers’ or even ‘Torch Lilies’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese showy South African plants are a welcome addition to our hot gardens. Whilst many of them are known as ‘Red Hot Pokers’ or even ‘Torch Lilies’, they may not all have red or orange flowers. In fact there are some 900 cultivars including a yellow flowered one with the name of ‘Pineapple Popsicle’ and others in shades of dark red, as well as green and white. The flowers open over several days from the bottom of the stem to the top, changing colour as they do so.

The narrow grass-like leaves of kniphofia can grow into huge clumps of about 1.5 metres. They prefer to be planted in well-drained soil and are ideal plants for coastal gardens. These unusual plants that can survive in full sun can be propagated from seed or by dividing up the clumps in spring, once the plants are at least four years old.  Sometimes offsets appear that can be gently levered off the main plants and potted up. Until they are well established, kniphofias need to be protected from cold temperatures, heavy rain and burning sun. Mulching around the plant but leaving the crown bare helps to achieve this.

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