Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's blooming in Paradise

They started in my dad's garden. As a child I remember the bright orange and red blooms against the colorful tropical crotons, thinking how beautiful the color combinations were.

He taught me how to multiply plants, baby them and have them give back with their beauty. There was a lady on one of the older HGTV gardening shows who described her show as the one who profiles gardeners who touch the earth and makes it bloom. That is one of the most beautiful gifts my dad ever gave me . . . he taught me how to touch the earth and be grateful for everything it gives back to me. Just as it did for my dad, I can touch the earth and make it bloom.

The kalanchoe in the photo come from the seeds of those plants that graced my dad's garden. They live on in my paradise and bloom for me year after year . . . and have thrived through neglect since my husband died. My desire to garden is slowly coming back to me . . . and my plants have waited for me.

Today as I sat outside in my carport jungle, I noticed some new plants of kalanchoe that came up in some of my containers that I sprinkled seeds in last year. The bold red blooms are predominant in a sea of green . . . they made it through the winter freezes and cold nights that refuse to go away. We are still in the 40's at night in Central Florida . . . unbelievable!

My next post will be a profile on these plants that thrive even with neglect and come up with bright and beautiful blooms to remind you that spring is around the corner.


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Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

kalanchoe-2002.jpgKalanchoe blossfeldiana is a durable
flowering succulent that requires little
maintenance and can be grown either
indoors or outdoors.

Their fleshy, dark shiny green leaves will reach 3 inches (7.7 cm) long by up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide with lobed edges.

Floral colors range from the traditional red to yellows, oranges, salmon, to pink and almost any color in between.

They start blooming in December and last 6-8 weeks.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana need full sun to high interior lighting, with a well drained soil mix.

The plants are well watered and allowed to dry somewhat in between waterings.

During the growing season (spring and summer), the plants are fertilized every month with a balanced fertilizer.

Beginning in the fall, the plants require 14 hours of continuous darkness every day to promote blooming. During this period, no fertilizer is used. I've never used this method and they always bloom like crazy for me . . . even the container plants that live in my carport where the light is never turned off.

After the plants have bloomed, they should be cut back to promote new growth and fertilized every 2 weeks. Keep plants trimmed to encourage compact and bushy growth.

Cut the blooms off the plant when the flowers start to fade . . . air dry to harvest the seeds. My method is to sprinkle seed where I want them to grow . . .

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is easily propagated from cuttings in the spring. Cuttings should be 2-3" long with two pairs of leaves. Leaves are removed from the lower one or two nodes and inserted into the medium . . . no rooting hormone is needed. A good rooting medium consists of 1 part peat to 1 part perlite or sand . . . stick cuttings into final containers.

This is one of my favorite plants because of the brilliantly colored flowers, they are tolerant of neglect and so easy to propagate . . . I'd love to have a mass planting of this and will probably take lots of cuttings and throw out lots of seed this spring so I can.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Winter in Florida

The photo depicts a normal winter in my area of Central Florida, where red blooms can be seen all over my property from the hibiscus bushes. These are my beautiful fluffy doubles from a previous year. No blooming hibiscus this year because of too many nights of freezing temps.

However, there are brightly colored blooms in my Paradise this winter and I spoke of them in my last post. They made it through the freezing nights, but the breezy conditions of the other night's cold front knocked most of them down.

They are commonly called "Mother of Thousands" . . . their scientific name is Kalanchoe daigremontiana. I've never seen such cool looking plants that can become a nuisance since they multiply like crazy from offsets that form on the leaves, each becoming a new plant.

Some people consider them weeds, but I really like them
. . . especially when they bloom!

They produce bold violet orange flowers with yellow edges.

The plant dies after blooming.

They are predominantly a heat resistant plant, although it does not tolerate full sun very well. It supposed can't tolerate freeze, but it made it thorough several sporatic nights of freezing temps, but the long stems that hold the blooms were knocked over on a windy day.

Through the years I have collected several different types of these plants and love all of them, even though they are invasive and thrive in the heat and humidity of Central Florida. They are in the succulent family, Crassulaceae.

I'll try to get some photos of the different types of plants from this family that should have been named "Mother of Millions."

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