Bay leaf tree ( Sweet bay, Laurelia sempervirens )

June 2010

Bay Leaf Tree, Nov 2019

This was a gift, and I’m told it will grow any where under any conditions in Houston. I’m testing that – it’s planted in a shady, dry area. Turned out to be too dry and shady
I lost this in the winter of 2016-2017. The leaves began to wilt, then curl, then a white power covered the leaves. It looked a lot like Sudden Oak Death. I’m not sure if that effects Bay Trees? I cut it back to the ground assuming it was gone.

I had a couple trees removed and now it gets morning sun and rain water, and a year later it’s about 3′ tall with a half dozen main branches. It’s turning into a beautiful plant.

Originally from Chile where it normally grows in moist coastal forests. Heavily exploited for its timber it is now a protected plant in Chile. It is also native to India, South and Central America, Russia and Asia.

Evergreen shrub to tree growing as tall as 50′ in proper conditions. It can also be pruned and maintained as a small shrub.

Leaves are used in cooking. Let dry several weeks before using, these are one of the few herbs that get stronger and more distinct after drying.

Propagation:
Difficult from seed, easier to propagate from stem cuttings or suckers that appear on roots.

Drought and heat tolerant

Tea hibiscus aka Roselle aka Red Sorrel ( Hibiscus sabdariffa )

Tea hibiscus can reach 7′ tall with a similar spread. The leaves will reach about 6″ across as they age. The red stems are striking as are the deep red buds.

Mulch well and water well. This plant does not like to be dry.

Does best in full sun.

The flowers should appear any time now, it is a fall blooming plant and they will be yellow. Each flower only lasts one day.

Often used as a hedge plant.

The red flower buds are used in cooking for teas, in salads, jams, sauces, soups and just about everything else.

* This is an annual, which I had not known or I wouldn’t have grabbed it, but it will make a nice filler in the butterfly garden until I can get that re-established. Seeds should be planted two months before first frost. This plant is not frost hardy.

Native of Africa according to some sources, India according to other sources.

This was popular plant in warm US areas while people still canned. The fruits were canned each fall. As home canning fell off, and because it is an annual, it fell out of favor over time. If you are looking to establish a pre-1950s garden consider adding this plant.

Problems:
Susceptible to root knot nematodes.

Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa
Floridata: Hibiscus sabdariffa

Dominican Oregano

I had a terrible time getting an herb bed going. Herbs love dry heat and dry soil and my whole garden is a bog most of the year.

Despite being planted in damp clay this oregano has wintered over and is about a year old now.

Dominican oregano tends to be more upright than most. It has small flowers in the spring.

Oregano can reach 3′ tall, this plant seems to be content at about a foot tall and a foot across.

I could find almost no information on this plant, which is a shame. It is such an easy grower and not the least bit invasive as herbs can be.

Shortly after this photo was taken I gave it a solid pruning, removing about half of its height. Herbs in general do well with heavy handed pruning.

If you are looking for an easy oregano try this one.

I lost this plant to unknown causes.

Hibiscus

Yes you can grow hibiscus as a house plant. You need a very bright window and high humidity.

There are tropical and cold hardy hibiscus, check the plant label. If the plant tag is not helpful remember that tropical hibiscus tend to have darker, glossier leaves than do hardy ones. Tropical flowers tend to be larger than 3″ hardy flowers 2″ or less.

If you do not keep your home very humid, place your hibiscus near a fountain or in a bathroom where frequent showers are taken or in your kitchen. To do well hibiscus plants need humidity.

Put it in any sunny window where a cactus will do well.

Water to keep soil moist but not wet. When the top is dry water. Hibiscus wilt when dry. Fertilize frequently. A half dose of fertilizer twice a month is sufficient.

Most do not mind occasional exposure to cold from a door or drafty window, but they will do better if you keep them warm.

Mealycup aka mealyblue sage ( Salvia Farinacea )

Salvia, an herb in the mint family, will grow to between one and four feet tall. This particular species is not the showiest salvia you can find, nor is it the tallest, stopping at about a foot tall. I purchased it because it was covered with bees and butterflies at the nursery. I thought it would make a good addition to the bee/butterfly/hummingbird pocket garden.

Soil does not need to be high quality, only well drained. Salvia prefers mostly sun then shade in the warmest part of the day.

If you are growing salvia from seed plant it outside in the early spring ~ March 15th. The seeds need some light to germinate so just sprinkle them on the soil and press slightly to keep the wind from scattering them. This is also the time to prune any existing salvias you have.

Salvia will bloom continuously in warm weather and doesn’t mind an occasional light frost. Flowers do not have scent but the leaves do.

This salvia died after a couple of hard freezes, but it did survive winters with only light frosts.

‘Salvia’ comes from the Latin word ‘salvare’ which means ‘to heal’ and for centuries has been considered a favored healing herb. Currently salvias ( divinorum ) are being smoked for their hallucinogenic properties. I haven’t tried but I am told a bit of dried leaves smoked will give the user LSD like hallucinations.

Unlike most salvias this one originated in the United States.

June 22, 2009: And so it starts Magic Mint hallucinogen under fire

Grey mold occasionally attacks salvias in cool, wet weather. Treat with a fungicide.

Did not survive the heat and drought of summer 2011

More information:
Popularity of Hallucinogen May Thwart Its Medical Uses
Floridata: Salvia farinacea