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Archive for November 2010

Frustrations of a Tropical Night-Blooming Cereus Grower

November 10th, 2010

The tropical night-blooming cereus blooms at night. Not really surprising, that factoid. But it only blooms for one night.  And then, one night a year.  A neighbor of mine in Columbus, OH called me unapologetically at 1 a.m. one weeknight 15 years ago, begging me to come see her first-ever bloom. She needed someone to help her appreciate the moment, to witness the miracle. After admiring the rare, unusual flower, and learning about the plant, I knew I had to someday grow my own night-blooming cereus. (But not for an excuse to wake people on a work night.)

cereusThis odd, gangly and unruly plant will take over whatever space it’s allotted.  It sends out long, hairy shoots that will keep extending until they reach a wall or ceiling, then they’ll bend and continue growing to infinity. The long, flat, irregular leaves look like a Picasso painting melting. Unexpectedly, right out of the side of a leaf will sprout a hot pink stem and a bud.  Then, a spidery, multi-layered white flower singing tunes from “Little Shop of Horrors” opens to reveal a delicate perfume…evocative of jasmine and evenings spent chugging Mai Tais on Waikiki Beach.

The night-blooming cereus has a cult following. Maybe it’s because of its grotesque greenery only a mother could love. Maybe it’s a purist’s way of proving superhuman patience. Or, maybe it’s just a quirky fun conversation piece.  The first-time viewer always asks, “Why?”

I have been growing a night-blooming cereus indoors from a small start my neighbor Karen (a Master Gardener) gave me about 3 years ago. I’ve tended it, groomed it, and cleared space for its ever-increasing size. I’ve waited for what seemed like 3 1/2 years to see my first bloom, never knowing if or when it would happen.

There is something magical about nurturing this horrible-looking monstrosity to have a large, fragrant flower appear out of the edge of a leaf, only one night each year.

Well, mine bloomed for the first time last night. I missed it. Here’s the wilted, shriveled and jaundiced remains of a flower I found when I woke up:


There is no point or moral to this story. I was mocked by my own houseplant, and I just needed to vent. Thanks.

Blooming Hibiscus for Container Planting

November 3rd, 2010

Growing hibiscus plants in containersHibiscus plants produce exotic flowers that are unequaled for their striking beauty. They are great for container growing, and we’ll give you lots of tips for success with your plant, no matter where you live.

Since hibiscus has been hybridized, there are now several growth habits to choose from, as well as varied leaf types, and colors and bloom sizes of flowers. Choosing the type of hibiscus to grow should start with selecting the space where you intend to keep the plant. It requires a minimum of six hours a day of full sunlight.

After you’ve chosen the hibiscus plant, select a container that will be approximately as deep as it is wide.  Hibiscus prefer to be slightly root-bound, and they’ll send small feeder roots out horizontally to fill whatever space they’re allotted, as well as sending down the main support root vertically. This is a plant that requires proper drainage and some coarse sand mixed in the soil will allow the aeration the roots need. A container that doesn’t breathe too much, like cement or glazed ceramic, is preferred, since hibiscus are relatively heavy water consumers, and wood or terra cotta won’t hold in the necessary moisture, especially in dry or very hot climates. Otherwise, a standard potting mix and fertilizer regimen should be used.

Bloom color is the main selection criteria for most hibiscus lovers. Blooms can be single, double, flat or frilly, and the range of colors is pretty much endless!

Provide ample water and sunshine to get the best looking and healthiest container-grown hibiscus. A well-maintained plant should live and provide abundant blooms for many years.

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