Medicinal plants don’t have to be exotic specimens that grow in jungle climates, and they aren’t always ancient herbs propagated by our ancient ancestors. In fact, you may already be growing some of the best medicinal plants, as many are not only useful but highly ornamental. Here are our top 5 medicinal plants.
1. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – Also known as coneflower, echinacea is a beautiful but rugged perennial that reaches mature heights of 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm.). Suitable for USDA zones 3-8, echinacea grows in plenty of sunlight and nearly any well-drained soil. Medicinally, it is used to build immunity and relieve symptoms of chest colds and other upper respiratory ailments. Echinaea may also promote healing of minor wounds and skin irritations.
2. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – St. John’s wort is well known for its ability to treat mild depression and insomnia, and the oils are used to relieve sunburns and minor wounds. However, gardeners love this bushy perennial for the fragrant, bright yellow flowers that appear in midsummer. St. John’s wort is suitable for growing in USDA zones 4-8.
3. German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – If you want to grow chamomile for its medicinal qualities, plant German chamomile (not Roman chamomile, a perennial most often grown as a groundcover). You’ll love the masses of small, daisy-like blooms, and while chamomile is well known for its relaxing properties, the herb is also beneficial for tummy aches, hay fever, and many other ailments. Although German chamomile is an annual, it usually self-seeds.
4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – A flowering plant that produces gorgeous, bright yellow flowers, ginger is commonly used to treat a host of tummy problems, including diarrhea, gas, morning sickness and motion sickness. It may also relieve muscle aches and arthritis pain, and many proponents think it may lower heart attack risk and improve blood sugar levels. Ginger is a warm climate, sub-tropical plant, but if you live north of zone 7, you can plant ginger in a container and bring it indoors for the winter.
5. Garlic (Allium sativum) – Garlic is usually planted in fall, but you can also plant this trouble-free member of the allium family after the last frost in spring. Rich in antioxidants, garlic is believed to combat the common cold, purify the blood, improve cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, and promote healthy skin and hair.
Included in this family is the genus, Polyscias pronounced (pol-is’-si-as) which we commonly call “Aralia.” This genus includes about 116 species of shrubs and trees native to tropical Asia and Polynesia.
Many of these plants are very useful as landscape plants in tropical parts of the world and some polyscias make great houseplants and office plants in less conducive climates.
In this article, we will look at some of the popular Aralia varieties used as houseplants. For example, the Fern Aralia (Polyscias filicifolia) and the Feather Aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei). Read on to learn more.
How Are Aralias Used?
As young plants, the popular Polyscias cultivars start out with fleshy, herbaceous growth. As they mature, they develop woody stems and grow into small shrubs.
In USDA hardiness zones 11 -12, these plants grow outdoors as single specimens or planted in rows for use as hedges.
Aralias also come and go in popularity but always make wonderful large office plants and are suitable as house plants if their size is controlled with regular pruning.
Their stems are easy to bend, shape and train to create character specimens or make interesting looking plants when grown as bonsai plants.
Aralias (Polyscias) may Look Different but all require the same basic care.
How To Care For Aralia?
Soil: These tropical plants grow best in well-drained, loamy, rich, acidic potting mix. A standard potting mix with some additional perlite added works well for container grown plants.
Light: In an indoor setting aralias like very bright, indirect lighting. When choosing an indoor location, look to a north window.
The plants enjoy morning sun. Avoid full sun for indoor plants. If kept outdoors during the warmer months, most Polyscias do well in partial shade to full sun.
Water: When watering your Aralia plant indoors, keep a close eye on the soil. When it is nearly dry, provide a thorough, deep watering.
Do not allow the plant to stand in water, and do not allow the soil to become completely dry.
Humidity & Temperature: These tropical plants enjoy high humidity, so it’s a good idea to set your container on a pebble tray to keep the ambient moisture levels high.
Some recommend daily misting as a good practice but I have not found the need. Keep the room temperature above 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
Pruning & Grooming: The plant reaches a maximum height of about eight feet tall and has a spread of two or three feet.
Unless you have unlimited space, it’s a good idea to keep indoor plants’ size under control with regular pruning of the branch tips.
This practice also encourages the plant to grow in a more bushy, dense manner. Use the cuttings to propagate more plants.
Flowers: The flowers grow in inflorescences of about six inches in length. In the wild, in the tropics flowers develop into a drupe. However, flowering is very unlikely to happen when the plant is cared for as a houseplant or in a less-than-tropical outdoor setting. [source]
Acclimation: Aralias make wonderful indoor plants once they are acclimated to their new surrounds. Much like the Ficus benjamina expect your polyscias to drop a large mass of leaves when moving indoors.
Be patient, DO NOT start watering heavy and fertilizing. Give the plant time to adjust to its new surroundings, lighting conditions and humidity levels.
Other Topics You May Like:
What Are The Most Popular Polyscias Varieties?
With so many Polyscias (Aralias) shapes, sizes and leaf types which ones do you choose from? Below are some of the most popular Polyscias (Aralias) on the market:
Polyscias crispa has several cultivars and one is the celery leaf aralia also known more in the trade as the chicken gizzard Polyscias. The grows upright and branches freely.
* Polyscias crispa ‘Palapala’ (Palapala Aralia)
The University of Florida describes this Aralia as:
“Palapala aralia is similar in branching habit and leaf characteristics except the leaflets are attractively patterned with dark green, golden yellow and ivory. Propagators should know that `Palapala’ is patented (plant patent number 3775).”
However, the patented plant #3775 as described in the actual patent document is of a sport from Polyscias (Aralia) balfouriana minifolia at Hoaks Nursery in Miami, Florida.
‘Palapala’ as described in the patent document:
Patented Aug. 26, 1975 3,775 ARALIA PLANT Joseph W. Hoak, 17040 SW. 90th Ave., Miami, Fla. 33157 Filed Apr. 8, 1974, Ser. No. 459,110 Int. Cl. A01h 5/00 US. Cl. Plt.-88 1 Claim This invention relates to a new and distinct variety of Aralia plant and is a result of a sport in the production of Polyscias (Aralia) balfouriana minifolia in Hoaks Nursery in Miami, Fla. The origin of the descriptive word minifolia in the recognized variety Polyscias balfouriana is unknown to the applicant, other than to say that it has been in general use by nurserymen in the South Florida area to describe an Aralia plant having smaller leaves than those of the balfouriana variety. I have named my new variety Aralia Palapala. This new variety has been asexually reproduced and propagated by cuttings for a period of over five years since the first mutation was discovered, with no reversal to the original variety, Polyscias balfouriana minifolia. This sport came about as a variant of a green Polyscias balfouriana minifolia that was growing in a shade house on the south end of Hoaks greenhouse and nursery in Miami, Fla When transplanted to the outside at the back of the greenhouse it was cut back. One year later one branch came back as a sport. After propagating this sport for about 5 years, cuttings were placed in a back slat house in cutting boxes. When of potting size, these were transplanted to inch pots and moved to Hoaks Silver Palm Nursery, Goulds, Fla. where they are at this time. [source]
Polyscias fruticosa (Ming Aralia)
The most popular of the Aralia plants grown reaching 6’ to 8’ feet indoors. An upright grower, finely-textured, unusual, twisted character with a lacy-looking specimen.
The exposed branches can be trained to create and add additional beauty to the ming Aralia.
Ming does best indoors with bright filtered light. Allow soil to dry between waterings. Aralia fruticosa is sensitive to cold temperatures.
Expect plants to drop leaves when temperatures fall into the 40°-55° degrees Fahrenheit range.
Polyscias fruticosa ‘Elegans’ (Parsley Aralia)
The leaves of this dwarf cultivar resemble the leaves of finely-divided parsley. This Polyscias produces small-leaves, compact with side shoots making “Parsley Aralia” a good choice for growing in small 4”-8” inch pots.
A bushy medium-sized bush, shrub, tree is often grown as a hedge is south Florida. Leaves often white and scalloped.
Several other cultivars of Aralia balfouriana include variegated ‘Marginata’ with creamy-white leaf borders. Another is the large-leaved variety ‘Pennockii.’
What Is Polyscias filicifolia (Fernleaf Aralia)?
Fern-leaf Aralia (Polyscias filicifolia) is a free-branching, broad-leaved evergreen. With a much-divided leaf, filicifolia is one of the best varieties to use in simulating dwarf trees.
Fernleaf grows quicker, has light, graceful leaves, with a deep green color making it very pretty as a small, young plant.
As the plant matures, the fernleaf can be trained into an attractive indoor tree. If you live in an area that does not experience frost (ever) you can plant Fernleaf Aralia as a hedge or as an accent plant outdoors. [source]
The shape of Aralia filicifolia leaves can vary with one plant making for some interesting looks. On young plants, the lance-shaped leaves with very jagged edges appear very “fern-like.”
As the plant matures, the leaves broaden and become more oval in shape.
Polyscias filicifolia grows wild:
In the United States, the fernleaf aralia is cold hardy in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12.
What Is Polyscias guilfoylei (Feather Aralia)?
Like the Fernleaf Aralia, Feather Aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei) grows as a small tree or shrub and makes an interesting indoor plant for the office or the home.
In appearance, however, the plants look quite different. This Aralia stands very upright and has a less dense growth habit than the fern variety. Its leaves are dark green and rather coarse. [source]
Feather Aralia is not especially attractive as a young plant as it never develops the delicate appearance of the fern leafed variety.
However, with Polyscias guilfoylei patience pays off. When the feather Aralia matures it becomes a very handsome plant and well suited to being trained into an attractive bonsai.
This plant is known by several common names including:
Black or Blackie Aralia – A strong upright grower, dark green almost “black” leaves held on sparsely branched stems. The unique leaves have a wrinkled texture.
Blackie is a fairly fast grower, especially when you keep fed regularly. It tends to shed leaves, making room for more new shoots.
As with its cousin, regular pruning keeps the plant’s size under control. Systematic pruning of side shoots results in a good-looking, small tree. [source]
What Is The Best Setting For Geranium Aralia?
As with all members of the Aralia family, Black Aralia likes to be kept well away from radiators and other dry heat sources.
Bright, indirect indoor light, good humidity levels, and consistently warm temperatures result in success with this plant.
If you are worried about the fast growth rate of these plants, withhold light somewhat.
Position the plant a little farther from the window or give it “breaks” in a less well-lit, slightly cooler setting from time-to-time as a way of systematically stunting its growth.
Because the plant does have large, basal leaves, it tends to lose quite a bit of water via transpiration.
For this reason, it’s handy to set these plants up with a self-watering container or system so the plant never dries out entirely.
In the summer months, you can feed Geranium Aralia weekly; however, you may wish to feed less if excessive growth is a concern.
What Pests Problems Do Aralia Plants Have?
When well-cared for these plants do not have serious problems with disease or insect infestation. Keep an eye out for pests such as:
Be scrupulous in your watering practices as too much water can cause root rot, and too little water can attract mites.
This is true of all Aralias, and in fact, Aralia care is pretty much the same for all varieties.
Aralia Care Instructions
How Do You Deal With Aralia Pests And Diseases?
Spider mites are the main enemy of all Aralias. If you allow the soil to dry out completely and/or fail to keep the humidity levels surrounding the plants high enough, spider mites will move in.
If you see spider mites on your Aralias or any other houseplant, isolate the affected plant immediately.
Spider mites are fast moving and will travel from plant-to-plant rapidly if given the chance.
Treat affected plants by spraying vigorously with pressurized water.
Spray the undersides of leaves especially well as this is where spider mites tend to stay and to lay their eggs. Plan to repeat this treatment several times to knock “all” the mites off.
Treating with a Neem oil spray will help keep them off. Remember to mist your plants frequently to create an unwelcoming environment for spider mites.
How Do You Propagate Aralias?
Start cuttings at any time of year, but as with most plants, early spring (May) is the best time.
When you prune your plant, keep a few shoots – either softwood or hardwood – to use as cuttings..
Softwood cutting should have between two and four leaves. If using a hardwood cutting, you should remove all leaves.
Apply a good hormone rooting powder to the cuttings as Aralia plants are notoriously slow to root otherwise.
Place each cutting in its own small pot with a good, loamy, rich, well-draining potting mix.
NOTE: I’ve always had success with a well-draining propagating mix of equal parts peat moss and perlite.
Be sure to place the cutting in a pot large enough to accommodate the plant as it grows into a young plant. Avoid moving plants around until plants root and become established.
Set the pots in a warm (70°-78° degrees Fahrenheit) humid area with bright, indirect sunlight.
Keep ambient humidity levels high, but don’t mist the cuttings as this will cause rot.
Be sure to protect the cuttings from drafts. Covering them with plastic is a good idea to keep the humidity level high and to prevent draft damage.
How To Transplant Aralia Plants?
Interestingly, transplanting is not advised. These Aralia plants do not like being disturbed.
It’s best to start cuttings out in pots that can accommodate them as small plants for quite some time.
If/when transplanting becomes necessary, gently remove plants from their pots trying to not disturb the roots and at the right time of year. Springtime is best for transplanting.
When transplanting, choose a generously sized container that will allow the Aralia to stay in the same pot for a long time.
Choose the location for the container carefully so it will not need to move your plant unnecessarily as they simply do not take well to being moved around.
However, a ¼ turn every week will help plants receive even lighting.
Using a larger container will help prevent allowing the soil from drying out. This helps keep ambient humidity levels high and discourages spider mites.
Where And How Can You Buy Aralias?
In the United States, Aralias have been grown in southern Florida since the 1960’s but became more mainstream as a nursery item in the mid-1970’s.
Since that time, the number of Aralia cultivars available for purchase has grown from about half a dozen to more than two dozen.
Many are hardy enough to be used in the semi-tropical landscapes of the Sunshine State.
Until recently, it has only been possible to purchase mature Aralias in larger pots. However, you’ll find a wide variety of Aralia plants available in 4” – 8” inch pots online, mostly grown as bonsai plants.
The most popular and most readily available of these seems to be the Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa).
Aralias In A Nutshell
Though Aralias may be slow starters, once they have made it through their first year they tend to pick up speed and grow quite enthusiastically.
Regular pruning helps keep them under control and can yield very interesting bonsai-like results.
NOTE: Try bending the canes to create some unique looks.
As tropical plants, Aralias do require regular care in terms of watering and feeding.
Unlike many houseplants which you can allow to dry out completely and then watered thoroughly.
You must take care not to allow Aralias to become completely dry.
It is important to keep an eye on humidity levels and provide the right amount of humidity to keep foliage lush and spider mites at bay.
You may want to add a humidifier to your room with an Aralia, and you will find this makes the ambient atmosphere more inviting to you, too.
In addition to needing close attention to moisture and humidity settings, Aralias also need a bit of grooming and pruning to keep them looking good.
Because Aralias are tropical plants, you should not consider keeping them unless you can provide a consistently warm, humid, well-lighted setting.
If you have a bright, sunny, spacious room where the temperature never falls below 60° degrees Fahrenheit, you have a good place for a Fern leaf, Feather leaf or ming Aralia.
Aralias are very fine plants for any indoor setting with plenty of space and lots of bright, indirect light.
The large varieties make great mall, office, and houseplants. In addition to Fern and Feather Aralias, there are many more fascinating varieties to explore.
These smaller versions are especially well-suited to bonsai treatment.
“Bloom where you’ve been planted.” That’s great advice about life in general – if you’re a person. However, the familiar old adage doesn’t make much sense in the garden where most plants tend to be choosy about where they’re planted. The truth is, figuring out exactly where to put that old-fashioned rose bush or blue-green hosta is a lot more complicated than just digging a hole. If you’ve got a tricky spot in your garden (don’t we all), things can get downright perplexing.
The folks at Bluestone Perennials have been providing beautiful plants for three generations, and they’ve always been a great source of information and inspiration. If you’re not sure where to turn with those tricky garden questions, they’ve provided easy-to-use Gardening Solutions to help you answer those difficult questions – what to plant, and exactly where to plant it. Here is what Gardening Solutions says about some of the trickiest garden situations:
Dry shade: When it comes to difficult gardening situations, dry shade wins the prize. Most plants aren’t tough enough to survive dry spots under tall trees or on difficult slopes, but Bluestone’s Gardening Solutions comes to the rescue with a long list of hardy but beautiful options. Take a look at their selection of hellebore, available in a variety of stunning solids and multi-colors, as well as hosta, brunnera, geranium, ajuga, phlox and many others.
Deer: No plant is 100 percent deer tolerant, and hungry wildlife will eat nearly anything if food is in short supply. However, there’s a good chance that deer will find the following plants less palatable: coreopsis, echinacea, rudbeckia, salvia, agastache, monarda and allium. These gorgeous plants (and many others) may not be on the top of the list for deer, but you’ll love them all.
Winter interest: Hundreds of plants provide color when the days are warm and sunny, but gardens don’t need to look forgotten and forlorn during the winter. For example, Bluestone’s Gardening Solutions recommends grasses such as feather reed grass, a tall perennial that grows in a variety of conditions. Carex ‘Banana Boat’ is a great selection for shady areas or along streams or ponds, while pink muhly grass provides billowing clouds of color, even in poor, dry soil.
Foot traffic: You’ve got kids and dogs, or you’re trying to figure out what to plant between pavers or stepping stones. This sounds like a serious conundrum, but if you take a look at Bluestone’s Gardening Solutions, you’re bound to find something that suits your needs to a ‘T.’ Suggestions include colorful sedum, liriope or ajuga, or mats of evergreen plants like thyme or Irish moss.
Not finding answers to your particular problem? Check out Gardening Solutions to find plants suitable for nearly every situation you can imagine, including those that thrive in salty air, shade or humidity, or those that attract bees, butterflies or hummingbirds, and much more.
The Bat flower plant – Tacca Chantrieri has a wild, unusual looking flower. As exotic as it may look, the Bat Plant is not a difficult plant to grow. In fact, it is very hardy. I have found Tacca available in some garden centers. It is available online.
TACCA (tak’-ah) – A genus of tropical, tuberous-rooted perennial herbs having large leaves at the base of stems which are surmounted by brown or greenish flowers in dense, round-topped clusters.
The name “bat flower” comes from the plant’s bractea shape which looks similar to bats.
Also known as the Devil’s Flower, the plant has the most interesting flower seen and the most beautiful foliage as well.
In addition to the green and shiny leaves, the Bat Flower plant produces dark purple or maroon flowers with “eyes” on the bloom that seem to follow one’s moves.
There are whiskers on the bloom look like the flower has a Fu Man Chu that form flowing or fine forked tails. More of these strange flowers are produced with the conditions are right for the plant.
However, the Bat Flower plants are easier to grow outdoors than indoors.
Requirements Of The Tacca Chantrieri
Light: Tacca needs a northern, eastern or western exposure of shade or partial sun.
Humidity: The bat plant is an understory plant growing in high humidity areas. Keep plants above 50% of higher humidity. Plants will tolerate lower humidity levels.
Watering: Allow soil to dry out between waterings. Water thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated and soil runs out the bottom of the pot. Try submerging the whole pot and plant into a bucket of water until all air bubbles stop. Drain off excess water. Overwatering and wet soil will cause root rot.
In the North, Tacca plants can grow in the greenhouse or a “bat house” and also as an indoor houseplant.
Plant Tacca Chantrieri in a rich well-drained soil or potting mixture in a pot with good drainage.
The black bat flower blooms throughout late spring and summer.
During winter hold off on watering and allow the plant to rest over winter. It is also important to give them warm shade with high humidity.
When growing the black bat plant outdoors place them near trees or walls to protect them from direct sunlight.
These tropical plants are increased by division.
Other Species Of Bat Plants
Tacca pinnatifida, with finely cut leaves sometimes 4 foot long, is grown in the tropics as a source of arrowroot, which is obtained from the ground tubers or rhizomes. It has greenish and purplish flowers.
Tacca integrifolia also known as the white bat plant is another exquisite species from the yam family.
They are native to tropical forests and subtropical rainforests of Central Asia.
Almost all plants have been labeled as beautiful, lovely, captivating, and the likes. But have you ever heard of a mysterious, almost scary, strange plant?
Other than being fascinating, Tacca chantrieri or the Bat Flower is no doubt a perfect example of a mysterious, almost scary, strange plant.
From the humble bell to the outrageously hot ghost, peppers come in an exciting and wide range of colors, shapes, and, of course, heat. If you want something a little different from your pepper crop, check out the Rezha Macedonian pepper, a truly unique specimen covered in tiny horizontal striations.
What is a Rezha Pepper?
As the name implies, these peppers are native to Macedonia and some neighboring Balkan countries. “Rezha” is Macedonian for “engraved,” an obvious choice when you see the state of the peppers’ skin. Another common local name, “Vezeni,” means “embroidered. The underlying skin of these peppers comes in shades of green to red, but the color is more than half obscured by thin, horizontal, raised stripes.
Rezha Macedonian Pepper Information
While heat can vary from pepper to pepper, Rezhas are not, as a rule, particularly hot. The most heat can be found toward the stem, where the seeds are concentrated. The peppers are not usually eaten fresh, mostly because the striations on the skin can make for a granular, slightly unpleasant texture. Instead, cooks tend to roast them whole or split down the middle.
The resulting flavor is richer than when the peppers are raw, slightly smoky, and with just a little heat. They lose a little bit of their hotness in the cooking process, but the emergence of the other, sweeter flavors is worth it.
Growing Rezha Macedonian Peppers
Rezha pepper seeds should be planted when all chance of frost has passed, and preferably started indoors in areas with a late last frost. Fruits can start to be harvested after 80 days. As well as being good roasted, these peppers dry well and make for excellent conversation pieces. The peppers are very tasty, but in the end it’s their appearance that is the real showstopper.
This sort of work is believed to help children stay focused and calm in other activities.
How Does Gardening Boost The Immune System?
The physical activity of gardening also promotes physical health in ways that may surprise you.
In addition to healthy physical activity outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, gardening also brings your child in contact with the earth.
You may have heard of the “hygiene hypothesis” which posits that lack of exposure to germs in childhood actually exacerbates susceptibility to a number of serious health conditions, such as:
Immune system disorders
Gardeners have always waxed lyrical about the joys of getting their hands dirty. Now we know that there’s a scientific reason why! [source]
What Are The Sensory Benefits Of Gardening?
Gardening provides a wealth of sensory stimulation. The sight and scent of flowers and herbs, the taste of herbs and food crops, the warmth and texture of soil and stones, the splash of water and the sound of birdsong and much more combine to delight and revive the senses. [source]
How Does Gardening Develop Adventurous “Foodies”?
Children who participate in gardening are seldom picky eaters. Helping food grow seems to pique the appetite and the sense of adventure.
Can Gardening Boost Academic Skills?
Although it’s not something you’d automatically associate with gardening, you may be surprised to learn that when children participate in growing plants, it can boost literacy skills.
Think about it: children who garden have a need to read seed packets, make plant labels and perhaps even draw up garden plans or map out the existing garden.
When you are working on the garden together you can teach your child a wide variety of scientific concepts, such as:
Why does the quality of the soil matter?
How do earthworms benefit plants?
How does photosynthesis work?
Why do plants need water?
Learning to differentiate one plant from another and recognize the various parts of plants adds to general knowledge.
Gardening can also help kids get practical math experience. Think about the measuring necessary to set up a garden. Keeping track of plant growth by measuring on a regular basis is a solid practice.
Gardening also helps kids develop intellectual and cognitive skills. A good gardener must have the ability to analyze cause and effect and to remember what has been planted and what has been done.
Parents can boost the intellectual development aspects of gardening by talking with their children about what the garden chores that have been done, what still needs doing and why. Helping your children understand the reasons behind garden planning, soil preparation, fertilizing, watering at certain times and so on, helps your child develop the ability to think logically, plan and reason. [source]
How Do You Start Kids Gardening?
When you first start plant projects and gardening with your kids, remember that time for children is a bit different than time for adults.
It moves very slowly, and a week in the life of a toddler can seem very long, indeed. For this reason, the best initial plant projects for kids are those that produce quick results.
Here’s a collection of good ideas for children’s plants.
Quick Growing Seeds
You can sow seeds in potting soil, cotton or damp paper. Add just a little moisture, and your seed will sprout in just a few days.
Some of the best choices for quick growing, readily available seeds include:
Various seasoning seeds, such as chia, flax, coriander, caraway, poppyseed and others can be sprouted and grown. Wild bird seed and plain popping corn will also sprout and grow, just for fun!
If you sprout seeds between layers of a damp paper towel, you can see how the seed sends out a vegetative shoot and a root.
You can then transplant the shoot into damp soil, or if you’ve planted edible sprouts, add them to a salad, sandwich or stir-fry and enjoy!
The best seeds to use for creating edible sprouts include dried beans and peas. These are inexpensive and abundant.
You can sow them in damp fabric, cotton or paper toweling or in seed trays to grow an ample amount of sprouts to be enjoyed just a few days after starting your project.
You can also plant these seeds individually in larger containers with soil to grow full blown plants that will eventually produce fresh beans and peas to eat. Try preparing some as sprouts and some as potted plants so that you can compare their progress.
It can be fun to plant these large seeds in glass jars so that you can watch the roots and the vegetation grow.
Your child can sow a little grass, wheat or grain in a tilled area outside to play farmer. This small activity gives an idea of how farmers grow grain crops.
It also provides a nice, seedy crop to benefit your bird population.
If you do not have an outdoor area to sow grain seed, try sowing it in a small, shallow pot on a sunny windowsill.
If you have a cat, he or she may enjoy having the fresh greenery as a healthy addition to the typical dry and/or canned cat food diet.
Freshly grown grass also makes a nice treat for a pet rabbit or guinea pig.
Herbs are fast and fun to grow indoors or outdoors. You can grow herbs in pots or between rows in a larger garden.
With their interesting scents and flavors, they make rewarding crop for little ones. Gathering them and hanging them to dry is also a fun activity.
If you don’t have garden space for herbs, set up a mini-herb garden on a sunny windowsill or under artificial light in your kitchen.
Keeping a mini-herb garden indoors provides your child with the fun of planting seeds, watching them grow and then harvesting and using the resulting crop on a regular, ongoing basis.
Grow Little Trees
Horse chestnuts, acorns, pecans, avocado pits, peach, apricot and cherry pits can all be planted in pots to grow into nice little trees.
These take a while to grow, so you may want to start nuts and pits in damp paper toweling inside a closed jar so that your little one can see the start when the seed sprouts.
With avocado pits, you can use the classic starting technique of poking toothpicks into the sides of the pit and suspending it (pointy end up) on the lip of a small jar.
Fill the jar with water so that it touches the bottom of the seed. Before you know it, roots will form and a green shoot will sprout from the top.
Your little one can enjoy watching the seed grow like this for a month or so and then transplant it into a pot of well draining potting mix.
Citrus fruit seeds will also grow when planted in a small pot of good potting soil. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and tangerines all yield viable seed that can be grown into pretty little houseplants in a few months’ time.
Grow Your Own Date Palm Tree
If you purchase a package of dried dates with seeds still in, keep a few of those seeds and try planting them. Good soil, warmth and ample light are all that are needed to encourage these seeds to sprout.
Growing bushes and trees can teach patience. These projects are a bit slow and should be combined with quicker growing seed projects to hold little ones’ attention.
Plant Related Art Projects
In addition to sprouting and planting seeds and bulbs, there are a number of enjoyable plant related art projects children can pursue. Among them are:
Creating small container gardens, such as terrariums, fairy gardens, miniature rock gardens
Making name tags to identify which plant belongs to which child
Making identifying tags for crops
Making macramé pot hangers
Painting pots and planters
If you are planting very small seeds, you can sow them in the shape of a picture or letters on the surface of soil laid shallowly in a tray. Keep the soil moist and in a few days you’ll have a tiny, living image, word or phrase.
One of the best seeds to use in this way is cress. This is a very tiny seed that can be successfully sown on the surface of fine soil or sand, on clay, on damp paper toweling or even on the cut surface of fruits or potatoes.
Planting outdoor bulbs in the autumn can bring surprise and delight in the springtime. Plant crocuses, hyacinth, narcissus and other springtime bulbs indoors early in winter to enjoy their scent and beauty during the holidays. These bulbs can be “forced” in water for easy, beautiful results.
If you are lucky enough to have a creek, stream or pond near your home, your child may enjoy experimenting with collecting water plants to grow in a miniature water garden or an aquarium.
This sort of project is good for pre-teens and young teens who have had some practice with gardening and indoor planting.
Caring for a more exotic plant involves learning about seasonal care cycles, starting new plants from cuttings, repotting, fertilizing and so on.
Starting off with a succulent plant is a good idea.
These plants are fairly carefree, and there are many varieties of succulents that can make a nice addition to the landscape of a model train setup, around a dollhouse or simply placed on the windowsills in an older child’s room.
Succulents are forgiving of quite a bit of neglect. They live a long while, and some of them even produce blossoms.
Cacti are also an option for older children, but because of the thorns, they are not recommended for little ones.
Gardening Is Great For Your Child’s Mind, Body And Soul
It’s easy to see that there are lots of great plant and gardening projects you can pursue with your children.
Helping your kids enjoy gardening contributes to their overall health and well-being and helps them learn to appreciate and evaluate food quality for lifelong great eating habits.
Luckily, you don’t have to have a lot of outdoor space to help your kids enjoy gardening. Use square foot gardening techniques, indoor self-watering planters, soilless sprouting and planting and other innovative methods to make the most of your small space and the light you have.
You’ll be amazed at how many edibles your child can grow in a small raised bed garden or large planter. Countertop hydroponic setups also provide a bounty of edible food with a small amount of input from your curious child.
If you do have garden space, be sure to start your child off with easy-to-grow plants that provide a lot of quick success.
Examples include zucchini, radishes, lettuce and tomatoes. If you have the room, plant some pumpkin seeds for a delightful end of season harvest.
When your child helps with food production, he or she learns the value of home-grown food and enjoys the vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient benefits fresh, wholesome produce delivers.
Eating homegrown, garden veggies contributes greatly to your child’s growth, strength, development and brain power. Furthermore, when your child participates in growing the food for your family, success brings a huge boost of self-esteem.
How Does Gardening Strengthen Family Relationships?
Working with your child in the garden provides an excellent opportunity for “quality time”. As you strive together toward the common goal of helping things grow and creating a beautiful and bountiful garden space, you are also helping family bonds grow and creating lifelong memories.
Gardening takes kids and parents away from the screen and into nature. It provides an opportunity for family members to communicate directly and build genuine connections.
When you and your child plan a garden, plant and germinate seeds and watch them grow, you have a sense of shared responsibility and purpose.
When you care for the seedlings with the right amount of water, food, pruning and care you and your child develop a sense of mindfulness.
Spending time in the outdoors engaged in honest labor in contact with the soil has long been touted as a way to ease the mind, calm the nerves and soothe the soul. Today, science is validating this long held belief. [source]
Perennials make up the bulk of many home gardens, and for good reason. Costs are lower when plants come back year after year, and many perennials are native and attract local wildlife. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the spectacular show you get from lining walkways and surrounding beds or filling pots with vibrant annuals. If you have a yard with shade, but you long for the showy annuals that thrive in sun, here are 5 shade-tolerant annuals that will do the trick:
1. Fuchsia. This shade-loving flower is hard to beat for showiness, even when compared to annuals that thrive in full sun. With a nice, cool, and partially shady area of the garden, the fuchsia plant will give you gorgeous, two-toned pink flowers throughout the summer.
2. Browallia. Also sometimes referred to as silver bells, this is a less common shady annual, but it is well worth seeking out for your less sunny garden spots. They produce silvery-white to light blue flowers on stems about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm.) tall. Browallia plants take well to pots and hanging baskets.
3. Tuberous begonia. The wax begonia is a very common choice for shady beds, but for something different, look for tuberous begonia at your local nursery. This is actually a bulb, but it can be grown as an annual. It produces rose-like flowers in rich shades of orange, red, and yellow.
4. Wishbone flower. Like browallia, this is a less common shade annual, but it produces stunning flowers, so if you can find it, you won’t regret buying it. The flowers may be white, blue, yellow, pink, purple, or two-toned with an unusual tubular shape. The stamens in wishbone flowers are fused and look like a wishbone, hence the name.
5. Coleus. Coleus is an annual is prized for its foliage rather than its flowers. It thrives in the shade and is available in a range of cultivars that provide varied textures, patterns and colors. The big leaves may be green and purple striped, deep red, or lime green, among other options. The flowers are small and insignificant, so trim them off to keep focus on the leaves.
The world of the peperomia plant comes in many varieties. Some you’ll find down at the local garden center in the houseplant section.
Others are strictly for hobby collectors.
Peperomias have long been favorite indoor houseplants due to their adaptability to the atmosphere of the house as well as their attractive foliage and compact growth habit.
Peperomia: South American Pepper Family Relative
Peperomia a perennial related to pepper plants, comes from a large South American family (about 1,000 species in the genus, a few from Africa). In fact, the name alone means “the plant related to the pepper.”
Their succulent, heart-shaped leaves distinguish peperomia plants them from other small potted table top houseplants.
Unique, succulent leaves both attractive and plants many find fun to collect.
Size and Growth
Generally, any of the 1,000 – relatively slow growing – peperomias along with many cultivars will only achieve an overall maximum height of 10-12 inches high.
Some varieties of Peperomia make good hanging plant specimens.
Flowering and Fragrance
The long flower spikes are covered closely with very tiny flowers have no scent.
Light and Temperature
These plants are easy to grow in the house. They like warmth, but do not need high humidity. They like bright light, but do not need direct sunlight. In fact, peperomia obtusifolia makes a good ground cover in shade.
Peperomias do not like deep shade or strong sunlight, two very big extremes. Grow them somewhere in between and you’ll be fine.
During the summer months, temperatures between 68 – 78 F. In the winter, temperatures should not go below 50 F.
The peperomia plant was given the common name “Radiator Plant” by Bailey
Peperomia Plant Care – Watering and Feeding
Do not over-water these plants. Watering every 7 – 10 days should be enough, depending on time of year and temperature.
Peperomias resent overwatering and will rot off at the base. Personally, I like to let the soil dry completely between waterings. This will greatly help prevent root rot.
Fading Dull Leaves – When a peperomia plant has dull looking leaves, it is usually caused from light which is too strong.
Remedy – Move the plant to more shade.
Discolored Leaves and Flowers – This condition usually happens from over watering.
Remedy – Allow the soil to dry out and avoid getting water on the leaves which can sometimes cause them to rot.
Peperomia Questions & Answers
Leaves Of Large Peperomia Dropping Off?
Question: Can you tell me why the leaves of my large peperomia are dropping off? I have had it a number of years and would hate to lose it. Darcy Lincoln, Nebraska
Answer: Darcy, your plant may be taking a natural rest and signals its need by dropping the older leaves. If this is the case, do not water so often and withhold all fertilizer until new growth is obvious.
HOWEVER… If it has not been repotted in fresh soil in a long time, this may be the time to repot.
Be certain that the base of the plant has not rotted.
If this happens, the ends of the stems where they join the base of the plant turn to watery, tan colored mush.
Peperomias sometimes rot in this manner when overwatered, especially in soil that does not drain readily.
Your plant was originally potted in spongy, loose soil. However, over time the soil breaks down into smaller particles and compacts reducing its ability to properly drain.
Placed back in a sunny window, the cutting should root quickly and form a handsome new plant within a few months.
Peperomia Caperata – Mouse Tails
Peperomia Caperata (emerald ripple), who flower axils resemble ‘mouse tails” (as do all peperomia plants) stand above the leaves are one of the most popular peperomia varieties.
Its origin – the Brazilian rainforest. Grown as a small houseplant, no more than about 8 inches tall, the plant is characterized by its dark green wrinkled leaves no “real” stalks.
The tiny (seen through a magnifying glass) yellow-white flowers emerge on the “mouse tails” standing above the crinkled, corrugated foliage.
Another popular variety is the watermelon peperomia – Peperomia argyreia.
This is a list of some available peperomias sometimes called the “baby rubber plant”. There are some beauties of stiff, upright habit. These are the dangling and spreading varieties, with a wide variety of foliage design.
Peperomia clusiifolia ‘Ginny’ – Know as ‘Rainbow’ or ‘Tricolor’ large medium green leaves, creamy white edges with rosy-pink blushes.
Peperomia cubensis (rotundifolia, ‘Yerba Linda’) – Branching, red-tinged stems with pointed-oval, gray-green leaves divided by precise indented veins. The variegated form is dashingly splashed with creamy white.
Peperomia fosteri – Deep, dull-green pointed leaves with lighter veins; branches low and spreading.
Peperomia glabella – Glossy gray-green leaves tapering to a point, on lax, thin stems. The variegated version sports a white border.
Peperomia obtusifolia – pepper face – Popular florist, green leaf, dish-garden plant with thick, cupped leaves carrying an almost rubber plant like appearance. This plant evidently sports freely, because variegated, miniature, variegated miniature, albino, white-edged, and ‘Gold Tip’ varieties are available.
Peperomia polybotrya – coin leaf peperomia – large green heart-shaped glossy leaves, and very easy to care for. Keep away from cold, allow the soil to dry between watering. The green glossy leaves are sometimes circular on young plants. Grow outdoors in USDA hardiness zone 10.
Peperomia polybotrya ‘Jayde’ known as the coin peperomia – Image By Mokkie CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons
Peperomia prostrata – Tiniest trailer or creeper with threadlike stems stringing together perfect little blue button leaves, etched with a pattern of silver. This one may be reluctant to move about, takes a while to adjust to any new quarters.
Peperomia quadrangularis – Low creeper with dull bronze-green leaves indented with yellowish veins.
Peperomia scandens – Sturdy trailer with glossy green, heart-shaped leaves.
Peperomia trinervis – Creeper or trailer with small pointed leaves marked deeply with parallel veins.
Peperomia ‘Ginny’ also known as ‘Tricolor’ or ‘Rainbow,’ is a popular peperomia houseplant and a very tender perennial. It has a thick stem and leaves with green, cream & red color. ‘Ginny’ also has a slender spikes of tiny white flowers that occurs throughout the year on mature plants.
As with most Peperomias, ‘Ginny’, generally, is easy to grow and can add color to your garden. It is best in containers because of its large leaves and upright growth habit. Peperomia ‘Ginny’ can also be used as a groundcover with its ability to tolerate heat or shade.
Kevin Vaughn has been breeding and growing Sempervivum since he was nine years old. From his hybridizing work, he has introduced about 80 cultivars to the market, including the award winning “Lipstick” and “Jungle Shadows.” These early experiments in plant hybridizing led to a PhD in botany and a career with the USDA. Since moving to Oregon in 2010, he has organized a yearly “Hybridizers Clinic” and produces from 4-6,000 new seedlings each year from his breeding efforts. In his latest book “Sempervivum: A Gardener’s Perspective of the Not-So-Humble Hens-and-Chicks“, Vaughn covers their history, taxonomy, culture, propagation, hybridizing, and much more. Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies from Schiffer Publishing!
1. I have always had a penchant for “hens and chicks” but never knew them by their generic name “sempervivum” nor did I know just how diverse sempervivum was. How many cultivars and colors of sempervivum are there? How many of those cultivars are easily obtainable in the United States?
There are about 7,000 cultivars available worldwide. What is offered from nurseries in the US vary by year but there are probably ~1000 cultivars that are offered for sale in any one year. Colors range from yellow, top orange, red, purple and near black along with greens and silvers.
2. What are some of the best reasons for growing sempervivum and how does your book help us to successfully grow it? Are all cultivars of sempervivum easy to grow and propagate?
Sempervivum are VERY easy plants to grow. Almost any of these can be grown easily even on a balcony or patio provided there is good light. They are NOT house plants, however. A few cultivars are more difficult to grow but most are very easy plants once a few simple rules are followed.
3. Why are sempervivum magical to you? What are some of your favorite cultivars?
Symmetry of the rosettes has always appealed to me but for me the most fun aspect is being able to create new varieties. I have created ~80 varieties on the market and won international prizes when I was in my 20’s.
4. I have seen sempervivum being grown in some unusual places, such as shoes or boots for example. What is one of the most unusual places you have seen it grown?
Because Sempervivum require little soil they can be grown in all kinds of containers. The most beautiful were the huge living sculptures that Winnie Crane constructed out of huge pieces of driftwood, with Sempervivum being grown in the cavities.
5. Tell us some surprising or fascinating facts about sempervivum.
In Europe they are planted as charms against lightning. Emperor Charlemagne even ordered all of his subjects to do this! Because they contain a lot of water, there was probably some protection from fires on the thatched roofs.
Win one of two copies of Sempervivum!
To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, August 19th, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:
Why is appealing to you about sempervivum?
Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)
“Poisonous plants – can you tell me which ones are?” That is a question I get all the time. Very often the email is asking for a list of poisonous plants for cats.
Most of the time our focus is on plants to provide color where it looks best – indoors or in the landscape. When we buy, plant or grow a plant we seldom think of the plant being some type of possible health hazard – beauty, color, form, function are what our focus is on.
I remember as a kid always being told never to eat the “rosary pea or castor bean plant – they are poisonous and can kill you”! As adventurous as I was, the “peas and beans” were never tested.
The unfortunate side is that many plants you find in the garden and indoors may be poisonous – not the whole plant but parts of it in certain stages. Poisonous can be considered from fatal (death) to vomiting or mild upset stomach. Pets, children and even adults can all be at risk. Read on to learn more about these poisonous plants you grow.
9 Common Poisonous Plants
Here are 9 plants (there are many more) you are probably familiar with and carry some sort of “poison” label.
Now please do not assume that because these toxic plants are listed, doesn’t mean you should not grow them – just be aware. Let’s be realistic – there are many poisonous items in our home we use everyday… bleach maybe?
Hyacinth, Narcissus, Daffodil – The flowers and bulbs are the toxic part and have been know to cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can be fatal.
Rosary Pea, Castor Bean – The seeds of rosary pea and castor bean or castor oil plants are what to watch out for on these plants. The results can be fatal. It’s been noted that one single Rosary Pea seed has caused death. For adults just one or two Castor Bean seeds are close to a lethal dose.
Autumn Crocus & Star of Bethlehem – Again the bulbs are considered the toxic part which can cause nervous excitement and vomiting when ingested.
Iris – Underground stems considered highly toxic, severe upset digestive system but not usually that serious.
Oleander – The branches and leaves of this poisonous herb are extremely toxic. Has death, severe upset digestive system and affects the heart.
Wisteria – The toxic part is the seeds and pods. Many children have experienced the “poison” with a mild to severe upset digestive system.
Lantana Plant – Toxic, the green berries. Found growing “wild” in the southern United States, as a landscape ground cover or potted plant. The results can be fatal, affecting kidneys, lungs, nervous system and heart.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit – All parts of the plant but especially roots are toxic. Very much like the “Dumb Cane Plant” (Dieffenbachia) which causes burning and irritation of the mouth and tongue from the small calcium oxalate needle-like crystals contained in the plant.
Poison Oak – The acorns and foliage are known to be toxic especially when eaten. The symptoms slowly appear over days or weeks and can gradually affect the kidneys. However, it takes a large quantity amount for poisoning.
Also remember that some people may have reactions to plants and others will not. Plus humans are different than cats and dogs. Animals have their own tolerance for and to plants.
Always treat unknown plants with respect, and make sure you teach your children to treat unknown plants the same.