Giant Crinum Lily ( Crinum asiaticum )

I first heard about these plants at a talk I attended on ‘Recommended Tropical Plants for Houston’. I knew I had to have some even before I laid eyes on them. At the Mercer March Mart I was able to score two of them. Despite a bit of deer damage they are settling in very well and I fully expect blooms next May.

The Crinum lilies are part of the amaryllis family. The leaves reach 3′-4′ in length. The plant will have a 5′ spread after it has had some time to grow. ( I did read a report online of one reaching 8′ across ) Blooms are impressive. You should have several blooms per plant. If in an unprotected location they may need staking but in full sun in a sheltered location they do just fine on their own.

Crinum lilies prefer sun, but will grow happily in dappled shade. Watering needs are average to above average but they are drought tolerant once established. Fertilize regularly to encourage more blooms. Once established you may get as many as 7 bloom cycles a year.

Foliage may brown a bit in the winter here depending on how cold winter is, but they should stay green and leafed out year round. If they lose leaves in the winter they will bounce back come the warm weather.

Divide the bulbs as needed. Plant is poisonous ( what isn’t down here? ).

One of the two crinums I planted grew huge and is thriving but hasn’t yet flowered. The other didn’t put forth a single leaf, but gave me some short lived blooms. Go figure. The deer do not seem to like this plant.

12/13 I saw a beautiful collection of these blooming away down in Galveston last week. There was a row of several of the plants alongside a drainage gully. All were white and all had a half dozen to a dozen flowers in bloom.

I have two of these 6′ apart, one is thriving, the other meh.

These died back during some hard frosts. Much of the plant turned to mush. I cut off the mushy parts and once the weather warmed it started putting out new leaves so it looks to be fine.

Survived and bloomed during the extreme heat and drought of summer 2011

In the summer of 2016 I decided it needed to be divided. I ended up with over 200 bulbs. I have it lining both sides of the driveway, along the front bed and partly up the right edge of the front bed. It’s blooming more frequently and seems to resist the hard freezes better.

I sometimes have some for sale on eBay WrinkledTime

More information:
Crinum asiaticum

Carnivorous plants in Texas

Carnivorous plants
Carnivorous plants

These are some of my favorite plants. I’m a bit of novelty seeker and that carries over into my garden as well.

I’ve grown carnivorous plants as houseplants forever and they thrived and were gorgeous. I purchased some pitcher plants that are suited for outside growing in Houston. They haven’t died, but they aren’t thriving either. Now after attending a talk on carnivorous plants I know why.

The speaker has a plant store in Spring, I purchased some great plants from him that I have growing indoors right now. Mike Howlett works at Jesse Jones Park and can frequently be found there giving talks on carnivorous plants should you wish to learn more.

A carnivorous plant is one that attracts its own food, catches its food, and digests its food. There are over 600 known species. The earliest reference we have to them is in the 1578 book ‘New Herbal’. The Victorians, like me, loved novelty so it is not surprising carnivorous plants were popular in Victorian greenhouses. When it was rumored the first New World pitcher plants arriving, they lined up at the docks to get them.  ( much like gadget geeks of today )

Carnivorous plants can be found just about every where that is not a desert. There are even water dwelling carnivorous plants, the Australian water wheel and Texas bladderwort live on mosquito larvae. If you wish to keep mosquitoes from breeding in your bird feeder toss some in. ( I’m hoping to acquire some soon. ) It thrives and needs no care.

Most home growers cut off the flowers to save the plants energy. Don’t do this. Cutting the flowers off annuals before they seed adds life, it has no effect on perennials.

Carnivorous plants are very slow growing plants, buy the largest one you can find.

Carnivorous plants do use photosynthesis for energy, but use the bugs to provide nutrients not found in the poor soils that they grow in naturally.

Several carnivorous plants are native to Texas, you can go see native pitcher plants in Big Thicket, has a couple of trails with wild carnivorous plants. They bloom late April.

To care for carnivorous plants:
1) Use distilled or rain water or filtered tap water. They are extremely sensitive to chemicals.
2) Carnivorous plants want acidic soil. ( Add vinegar if needed to the water. Or just mix peat into your soil mix. )
3) Try not to play with them. If you feed them bugs use bugs that are half the size of the traps.
4) They love humidity.
5) No fertilizer, if you must, use a very low dose sparingly
6) Light needs vary by plant, most want full sun.

My problem is that the soil is too basic outside, and it hasn’t rained in forever so they’ve been getting tap water. I repotted them up and put them in a deep pot to hold the water. We’ll see if that works.

See also:
Local Spring carnivorous plant dealer

I recently visited the shop ( Jan 2018 ) They have a beautiful place over in Spring, it’s open most days. Take a trip by if get a chance.

Chinese indigo ( Indigofera decora )

I love this plant. So I planted him right outside my office window. However, it is far shadier than he would like. Indigo prefers part sun, but it can become invasive given too much sunlight. It will send out suckers and become very dense over time. It is often used as a ground cover in difficult forested areas.

Leaves fall off in the fall and return early to late spring depending on how much sun the indigo receives. It can die back to the ground in cold winters, but will return when the weather warms.

In time it will become a full bush with lots of flowers every summer. This indigo was planted last summer and is barely settled in this year.

It is not particular about the soil and is known as a good plant to try in difficult areas. It is a spreading shrub, so be sure to give it some room.

Once established it is heat and drought tolerant.

Indigo will reach about 3′ tall in full sun 1′-2′ otherwise with a 2′-3′ spread.

Flowering is on new branches.

It is a very, very slow grower.

This died back to the ground in the cold winter of ’09-’10 and didn’t reappear until late May.

I find them easy to propagate with cuttings.

In times of famine the seeds have been boiled and eaten or ground into flour.

Survived, grew and bloomed during the heat wave-drought of summer 2011.

Amaryllis – Hippeastrum hybrids

The first Christmas I was here, I tossed my amaryllis bulbs after they had bloomed. Then I was at a plant sale that spring and saw amaryllis for sale. I purchased a St. Joseph’s which bloomed in early March. Since then, I saved all my holiday amaryllis bulbs and planted them after they finished blooming the following Christmas. This year they all bloomed in January and continued to bloom through March. I added this year’s bulbs to the bed and I expect in time this will become a very large bed of amaryllis.

Amaryllis are part of the Narcissus family of flowers. The name amaryllis means to twinkle or sparkle. Though they look like lilies, lilies have their ovaries above the petals and narcissus have them below the petals. In their native climates they die back in the heat of summer and re-appear in the fall. Mine had leaves all year last year, but it did not grow at all in the summer.

The Greeks and Egyptians associated narcissus flowers with death and they can be found in ancient burial tombs. In the 1650s a ship is believed to have wrecked off the coast of the Channel Islands. Amaryllis bulbs, native to South Africa, washed ashore and bloomed on the beach the following spring.

Amaryllis want sandy, well drained soils or the bulbs may rot during wet winters. Mine are planted in clay, that’s all I have and they have wintered over just fine. If you have them in clay, find a dry spot for them. Plant them so the top of the bulb is level with the top of the soil.

I tried planting them in the shade and while they lived through it, it was just barely and they didn’t bloom. Plant them in full sun to part shade, the more sun the better.

The wonderful thing about bulbs is that they require very little care. Put them in the ground and leave them be.

You can plant your holiday amaryllis bulbs as soon as they are done blooming. Or just keep them watered in a sunny window until we have a day warm enough to go out into the garden.

Typically amaryllis will send up blooms, then leaves appear after the flowers and it all fades away when the weather gets cold. These ones have leaves now because they bloomed first inside before I put them outdoors.

Amaryllis survive cold Houston winters as well as Houston summers. They will die back to the ground after a hard frost, but return once the weather warms back up.

Mine are late blooming this year ( it’s early April ) most years they bloom the winter. This winter was much colder than normal.

Amaryllis is the name of a beautiful Greek fictional shepardess.

Survived extreme heat and drought summer 2011.

Amaryllis shows up in all the stores around October or so. If you bring one home and pot it up you should see blooms in six to eight weeks. Amaryllis is one of the easiest blooming bulbs to force indoors. Once the flower stalk appears it can grow several inches in a day reaching between one to three feet before blooming. At the top four flowers will open each one about 3″-5″ across.

To rebloom your amaryllis next Christmas keep it growing either inside or out doors if the weather permits. Around Labor Day ( first weekend in September ) bring it indoors, un-pot the bulb and clean the dirt off it. Then place it in a paper bag and put it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. Leave it there until Halloween ( very end of Oct. ) then repot it up to bloom for another holiday. The older it gets the more flower stalks it puts out each year

Blooms will last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on conditions.

More information:
US National Arboretum Amaryllis Photo Gallery
Amaryllis/Hippeastrum Forum at the Garden Web

Variegated shell ginger ( Alpinia zerumbet )

This shell ginger is growing in part shade and about 3′ tall, I also have one growing in almost full shade. The full shade one is much smaller, but just as variegated. The one in the shade is also in a very dry area. So these make good plants to grow in places other plants might not.

It can grow about 6′ tall and can spread to 10′. I’ve only seen them in part shade here and 3′ tall with about 4′ spreads. It prefers full sun and moist soil.

Flowers are light pink and look like sea shells. This ginger is supposed to flower all summer after the second year. This is its second year and the first flowers appeared the last week of May.

This plant was damaged by the frost last winter. After watching it I’ve decided the best thing to do is to just cut the damaged canes back to the ground. They never really recover and look ragged if you just trim the damaged leaves off. Plenty of new stalks will appear in the spring.

Each stalk only flowers once, so feel free to chop them all back at the end of the season or early spring if you are more interested in the flowers than the foliage, or if you wish you can use this ginger like a shrub and leave the stalks in place.

There is a non-variegated version that can handle slightly cooler climates.

I cut the entire plant back to the ground after the cold winter of 09-10. It’s the first week of April and several stalks are showing about 6″ tall.

Extremely drought tolerant, heat tolerant, shade tolerant, cold tolerant – good plant for tough areas.

Propagate by division in the fall.

More Information:
Shell ginger may be the fountain of youth
Garden Web Ginger Forum
Floridata: Alpinia zerumbet

Leopard plant ( Farfugium japonica ginanteum aka Liqularia tussilaginea ‘Gigantea’ )

I ordered this up from ‘Plant Delights Nursery’, planted it last month and it has wasted no time getting settled in and growing. I noticed it was also available at the Mercer sale, and was very popular there. The plant will get about 3′-4′ across and 3′-4′ in height, each leaf will get to be about 2′ across. The foliage is extremely shiny and leathery.

It gets yellow, daisy like flowers on long stalks in the late summer, but the foliage is the real attraction. It is so large and shiny the leaves do not look real.

Leopard plant requires moist soil and part to full shade. It does well as an under canopy plant in moist areas.

Survives Houston summers and hard freezes, though I lost a few leaves from the frost. The hard frost in the winter of 2016-2017 killed several leaves but the plants took off growing as soon as it warmed up a little. The entire plant wilts rather dramatically in July and Aug afternoons.

Easy on the fertilizer, it is easy to burn this plant.

I have some growing in sunnier spots, but not full sun yet.

Propagate by division. These grow like weeds but do not get out of hand. Each fall I dig up and divide the larger ones. There must be 20 of them here now. I love the look and they are very low maintenance.

If you are tired of hostas, consider this as a replacement plant.

There are also variegated forms and other leaf shapes available.

Survived the great heat and drought summer 2011, and cold winter of 2017/2018