Bay leaf tree ( Sweet bay, Laurelia sempervirens )

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.

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

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?

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

Purslane

Purslane makes a thick ground cover. If you don’t love it, don’t plant it. It is considered an invasive weed by many. I couldn’t find any growing tips, only many on how to rid your garden of it. So be forewarned. It can and will happily grow any where, any way, any time. It is susceptible to frost damage.

I planted it in a dry, shady place and it all died. A few months later purslane showed up on its own out in a front bed that is in full sun.

It was used as a food in medieval Europe, seeds can be made into flour, stems were pickled and leaves are still added to salads in Spain. It is also listed as one of the SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen foods that will change your life. It is high in vitamin E and fatty acid omega 3. Older gardening texts list it as an editable weed.

You might still find it as a spice in Mexican markets under the name verdolaga. The leaves can be eaten raw or boiled.

WHO lists it as one of the most important medicinal plants world wide.

Died back early in winter, holding its own during the heat and drought of summer 2011, no blooms.

More information:
Purslane: If you can weed ’em, eat em
Food Features: Purslane

Rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis )

Rosemary

This started life as one of those Christmas tree shaped rosemaries you see in the stores in December. After Christmas I planted it out in the herb bed and it is settling in just fine.

Rosemary will grow 3′-5′ tall down here. It can be trained upright or coaxed into trailing. And like most herbs wants lots of sun.

Rosemary needs a lot of water when it is settling in, then not much once established, but will be happier with occasional waterings. It grows well in desert climates and is one of the recommended landscape plants for desert climates.

Fertilizer is not needed or wanted for rosemary. Once a year I put out worm castings in the garden.

Rosemary does not like being moved, pick its location carefully.

I use a lot of fresh herbs in cooking. I find herb gardens are very difficult to establish, but once established need little care.

It took me three tries to get a rosemary plant established in my herb garden. The larger the plants were when I started the better they did. So if you want to add rosemary to your garden, start with a good sized, gallon or larger, plant.

In downtown Huntsville rosemary is found growing along the sidewalks. It handles the traffic of the busy roads, the baking sun, the dry ground and grows about 3′ tall there.

Ancient Greeks considered it a mind stimulant. It was used in the middle ages as medicine.  And a gift of rosemary was a symbol of love. It is also associated with death and a sprig of rosemary is often placed in the hands of the dead.