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I Must Garden

Exploring a passion for gardening

  • It’s Fall! Mums the Word!

    Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum) are sometimes called mums or chrysanths for short. Their name is derived from the Greek words for gold (chrysos) and flower (anthemon). They are mostly perennial flowering plants of which there are around thirty species. They are native to Asia and northeastern parts of Europe. They were first cultivated in China as far back as the fifteenth century BC. They are often depicted in East Asian art, along with orchids, bamboo, and plum blossoms. During the Double Ninth Festival in China, it is customary to drink chrysanthemum-flavored rice wine to ward off danger because the flowers traditionally possess cleansing qualities. Chrysanthemum flowers can also be boiled to make a sweet beverage called chrysanthemum tea, which is known for relieving flu symptoms. The flowers were likely introduced to Japan sometimes in the eighth century AD, where it became part of the emperor’s official seal. Small flowers are often used to garnish sashimi, and the leaves are steamed or boiled and eaten as greens. The flowers were then brought to Europe in the seventeenth century AD.

    mum-yellowIn parts of Europe - such as France, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, and surrounding areas - chrysanthemums are associated with death. They are only seen as funerals and placed on graves in these countries. In the United States they are not regarded as such and usually thought of as cheerful plants. The chrysanthemum is also the official flower of Chicago and of Salinas, California. In Australia, the flower is traditionally given to mothers on Mother’s Day and men wear them on lapels.

    The genus originally included more species, but was split into several including Argyranthemum, Lucanthemopsis, Leucanthemum, and Tanacetum to name a few. They are all types of daisies and tansies. Modern chrysanthemums grown for ornamental purposes are much more showy than wild varieties. They come in various forms from daisy-shapes to pom-poms to buttons. There are numerous hybrids and cultivars. Traditionally, they are yellow, but white, purple, red, and jewel-toned cultivars have been developed.

    There are two types of chrysanthemums: garden hardy and exhibition. Garden hardy chrysanthemums can be overwintered in the ground as far north as USDA zone 3 and withstand wind and rain, while exhibition chrysanthemums are not nearly as durable. Garden hardy mums are also known to produce an abundance of blooms with no assistance such as staking. They are not separate species, but instead hybrids that have been developed. Exhibition varieties can be used as bonsais and in hanging baskets, as well as being trained as trees, fans, and cascades. Both varieties typically bloom in the autumn. Depending on climate they can flower from early September to the middle of October. For the best blooms, they should have full sun and rich, slightly alkaline, well-draining soil. Propagation can be completed by taking stem cuttings in the spring.

    Florist’s Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum morifolium) are an exhibition variety growing from zone 9b to 5a. Their red, orange, yellow, white, or lavender flowers grow on long stems that are good for cuttings. These are the most common type of chrysanthemum found in garden supply stores, so be aware if you are seeking garden hardy varieties. Belgian Chrysanthemums are newly trademarked and come in every color imaginable. They are known for being easy to grow and prolific bloomers that are very hardy. An interesting species is the Garland Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium). It is the variety most often used in cuisine in Asia and it is one of the few annual species in the genus.

  • Lantanas

    The Lantana genus consists of around 150 species of flowering perennials in the verbena family. Some lantanas are referred to as shrub verbenas and they can grow up to six feet in height. They are native to the tropical regions of the Americas and Africa. They have become invasive in a number of parts of the world including Australia, parts of Asia, and parts of the United States. In the areas where the plants is considered a noxious weed, the rapid spread has been aided by their somewhat poisonous leaves, which most animals avoid, allowing them to flourish. While the leaves are poisonous, the fruit is not and birds consume the fruits readily and distribute the seeds.

    Lantana1

    The scented flower clusters of lantanas, called umbels, are typically a combination of shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, purple, and white florets. The flowers change color as the plants get older resulting sometimes in clusters of two or three colors. Both bees and butterflies are attracted to the lantana flowers. In temperate climates, lantanas are commonly cultivated for their very showy flowers, and treated as annuals. In the United States, they have been naturalized as far north as the Carolinas.Lantana-Monarch

    The two most popular varieties are the Spanish Flag Lantana (Lantana camara) and the Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis), and there are also hybrids of the two. Spanish Flag Lantana was originally native to the American tropics and is sometimes called Red Sage, Yellow Sage, or Wild Sage, despite its lack of relation to actual sage. It was introduced to Hawaii as part of a botanical exchange between universities and it escaped into the wild where it has now become naturalized. It performs optimally in USDA zones 11 through 9b and can be propagated with stem cuttings or seeds. They are not difficult to propagate in the right climate and are actually more difficult to keep under control. Cut off the green fruit and do not allow it to ripen to prevent birds from carrying away the seeds.

    Lantana2Trailing Lantana has many common names such as Weeping Lantana, Small Lantana, Purple Lantana, and Trailing Shrub Verbena. It was originally native to South America and is hardiest in USDA zones 11 through 8a. It has blue and white or purple and white flowers, sometimes with yellow centers, that flower year-round in warmer climates. With support it will become a climbing vine-like form. Without an edge to climb it ends up more similar to a groundcover. Propagation is performed by dividing the rootball, but again, it can become invasive if not kept in check. There are a number of taller and shorter cultivars of both species. In general, the shorter plants flower more prolifically than the taller ones.

    Lantana3Lantanas, although tropical originally, are fairly hardy. They are drought and heat tolerant. They are avoided by most herbivores that eat plants, but they fall victim to many pests and can be prone to infestations. The Lantana Bug and also caterpillars in the Lepidoptera family, such as ghost moths, avidly feed on these plants. Sweet Potato Whiteflies as well as the fungus Ceratobasidium cornigerm can cause issues. Since I’ve always grown lantanas as annuals, I’m happy to say I’ve never experienced any problems. The one thing I have to force myself to do early in the season is to cut them back a few times which cuts some of the first flowers. However painful, it makes a huge difference and plants are so much more robust from the early trimming.

  • Joe Pye Weed

    Joe-Pye Weeds (Eutrochium) are herbaceous flowering plants native to eastern North America. Originally Eutrochium and the extremely similar bonesets and thoroughworts (Eupatorium) were lumped together as Eupatoriadelphus, but they have since been divided into two smaller genera. The Eupatorium genus consists of around forty-two species of white flowering plants as well as a few purple flowering plants. The main difference between the two groups is that Joe-Pye Weeds have whorled leaves and thoroughworts have opposite ones. Joe Pye, the namesake of the plants, was a Native American healer who used Sweet Joe-Pye (Eutrochium purpureum) to treat a wide variety of ailments, notably typhoid fever in the New England colonists. It has also been traditionally used to treat kidney stones by boiling the roots and stems.

    Sweet Joe-Pye Weed is also called Sweetscent Joe-Pye as well as Trumpet Weed. The scent is comparable to that of hay. It is a clumping perennial plant that reaches about eight feet in height in the wild and grows to be around four feet wide. Varieties cultivated for ornamental purposes are shorter. They grow in full sun to partial shade in moist to wet soils, performing best in USDA zones 5a through 10b. The stems are straight and purple with twelve-inch leaves, but as the plant grows taller they bend downward under the weight of the flowers, which are usually rose colored and sometimes darker shades of mauve. They bloom in late summer and early fall. Propagation is easy and seeds can be sown outdoors in the fall, or sown indoors in winter. It makes a good background plant and is generally low maintenance, but sometimes can take over if the conditions are too optimal.

    Another species of Joe-Pye is the Hollow Joe-Pye (Eutrochium fistulosum), which is sometimes called Purple Thoroughwort, creating additional taxonomic confusion within the genus. It grows as far north as southeastern Canada and throughout the eastern United States, zones 3a to 8b. It gets up to ten feet tall and prefers moist, rich soils with sun to partial shade. It can often be spotted growing along ditches, in marshes, and wet forests. It flowers in mid-summer, attracting all nectar-loving insects with pink or purple flowers. Again, the garden cultivars are slightly smaller than the wild varieties. Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) grows from zones 4a to 8b, and has been successfully grown farther north. It gets its common name from the spots that can be seen along the stems. It thrives in marshes, growing where it can get plenty of sun. These two species are also easy to grow and propagate.

  • Monarda

    The sixteen species of monarda (Monarda) are one to three-foot tall upright annuals and perennials, commonly known as bee balm, horsemint, oswego tea and bergamot. The bergamot name comes from their scent, which is comparable to bergamot oranges. All species are native to North America and when crushed, their leaves release an intensely scented oil, which is used to flavor Earl Grey tea. The genus is named for Nicolás Monardes, who described the plants in a book he wrote in 1574 after traveling to the New World. Monarda have tubular flowers with bilateral symmetry with the upper petals narrow and the lower ones broad. They grow in singular and double forms, blooming in mid to late-summer in dense bunches at the ends of the stems. Blooms can be bright reds, pinks, or shades of purple. There are over fifty cultivars and hybrids, including some in shades of blue.

    The species commonly referred to as bee balms like Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), were traditionally used by many Native American groups for their antiseptic qualities. Mouth and throat infections, including cavities, were treated with a tea made from the plants. Extracts of the plants are used today in modern mouthwash. The flavor of monarda is described as bitter, like a combination of mint and oregano, resulting in it sometimes being used as a seasoning. They are, in fact, in the mint family.

    Growing monarda is easy in almost all areas of the United States, from USDA zone 3a to 10b. They can be propagated easily by seed and simply casting the seeds directly only the soil. Cuttings and division are also popular methods that are not difficult. A lot of people choose to divide their plants every three years or so to prevent them from spreading excessively. In the warmer southern states they will grow prolifically and can sometimes be a nuisance. They prefer full sun and moist well-draining soil. Plants growing in the shade tend to have a wider horizontal spread and less flowers. Soil that is too dry makes the plants shorter and smaller. Slugs are the only problem that monarda really encounter and are resistant to most diseases. Monarda are great for attracting hummingbirds because of their bright colors, and they are also great for repelling pests with their oils, so a lot of people plant them in or around gardens where subterranean bugs are a problem.

    Scarlet Bee Balm, also called Crimson Bee Balm and Oswego Tea, is native from the northern United States to the midwest and as far south as Georgia. It is a hardy perennial, reaching three feet in height with bright red, five-inch flowers. It is very popular as an ornamental plant and attractiveness to hummingbirds. Wild Bergamot is similar in side, but has blooms ranging from pale lavender to brilliant purple. Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata), or Horsemint, has a scent similar to thyme. It has yellow, purple-spotted flowers that grow in large elaborate whorls with elongated spikes at the end, creating a very unique, conspicuous look. They are native to the southern United States, but will can still be grown as annuals in the cooler regions.

  • Crepe Myrtle

    There are around fifty species of Crepe Myrtles (Lagerstroemia), which consist of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. They are native to India, southern China, Australia, and other areas around Oceania, but today they are cultivate in warm climates around the world. There are tropical and sub-tropical varieties. They are mainly known for having colorful, long-lasting flowers. Temperate species have colorful fall foliage as well. All species are woody and their trunks and stems have a mottled appearance from shedding their bark throughout the year. There is huge variation in height between the species with some being as small as one foot and others as tall as 100 feet.

    The name Crepe Myrtle comes from the crepe-line texture of the flowers, which bloom in the summer and fall in panicles. They come in a huge variety of colors ranging from dark purple to red to white, and every shade in between. They cannot be found in blue, orange, or yellow, except in the pistils and stamen. Crepe Myrtles produce fruit capsules that are green and succulent before ripening to dark brown or black. The fruit splits down the sides and releases small winged seeds.

    The Common Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) was introduced to Charleston, South Carolina around 1790. In the wild, it is mostly found as a large shrub, but after being cultivated for over 200 years there are many cultivars with many different attributes. They can be tidy border trees and dense hedges, along with dwarf varieties that can grow to their full height of a few feet in just one growing season. It is popular in France and the Iberian Peninsula, and grows successfully in the United States south of USDA zone 6 as a deciduous tree. They are susceptible to fungal diseases in overly humid climates though. The flowers are white, mauve, purple, fuchsia, or carmine and the panicles are up to four inches in length. The most popular cultivars are trees that range from twelve to thirty feet in height and should be spaced eight to ten feet apart, requiring full sun. Propagation can be done with cuttings from softwood or hardwood. They can also be grown from seed. Some believe they are overused in the south and another drawback is their very drab appearance in winter.

    The Japanese Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia fauriei) is less well known, but rising in popularity. It rarely falls victim to the fungal diseases of the Common Crepe Myrtle, and as a result it is often hybridized with the latter to create more hardy plants. It has a distinctly tree-like structure with very colorful bark. In Japan, it is called the saru suberi, which means “monkey slip” because the bark is smooth and slippery. The flowers are of similar size to the Common Crepe Myrtle, but are normally white with slight touches of pink in some. Propagation is the same and it is a rapid grower, reaching twenty to thirty feet in height at maturity. In winter, the bark is more interesting than that of the Common Crepe Myrtle because it is composed of patches of gray, maroon, and brown.

  • Sunflowers

    Now recognized worldwide, the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is actually originally native to North America. There are 80 different species within the Helianthus genus, of which the familiar sunflower is only one. Native Americans first domesticated the plant we know and some archeologists even suggest that it was domesticated before corn. The seeds were ground and used for flour in addition to being snacked on like today. The Native Americans also utilized sunflower oil and the dried stalks were used in building. Purple dye can even be derived from the plant and was used in textiles and body paints. The Spanish first took the sunflower to Europe and from there, the Russians began commercially growing crops. In the 19th century, the sunflower made it back to the Americas and Canada began the first official sunflower breeding program.

    In addition to all of the practical uses of sunflowers, they are also a lot of fun to grow for the recreational gardener. Common sunflowers are easy to care for perennials and we can’t forget about the huge, bright flowering heads form which the plant gets its name. Those heads consist of 1000 to 2000 individual flowers that are connected at the base. The outer flowers, which bear the petals, range from white to yellow to orange to red in color and are sterile. The florets in the center, disc florets, are what mature into the seeds. The petals within the cluster are usually in a spiral pattern, and for the mathematically inclined, the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are Fibonacci numbers (each number is the sum of the previous two). To support their huge flower heads, sunflowers have sturdy stalks and they tower over other plants at heights of five to twelve feet.

    Sunflower seeds are affordable and easy to come by, but growing them isn’t so easy as tossing the seeds in the ground during the summer. If you want to see which seeds have the best growing potential, you can initiate germination by placing them between damp paper towels about two weeks before you plan to plant them. Check on them from time to time and the ones that have started to grow are ready to be planted. Sunflowers do not benefit greatly form being nurtured indoors and you can confidently plant them directly in the ground outside. If you’re going to planting giant sunflowers, the seeds should be planted about twelve inches apart.

    A lot of people tend to grow sunflowers next to houses or sheds, but it is actually best to grow them in an open area, so that they get the maximum sun possible. If for aesthetic purposes, you really want to plant them against a wall, a southern facing wall is best. Each year that sunflowers grow, they will grow taller and taller if your soil is good. They can grow even in poor soil, but a two to three foot compost bed with soil compact enough to support the heavy stalks will result in the best plants. Be mindful not to overwater because it may loosen the soil too much.

    After you’ve enjoyed the flowers and the back of the head has turned brown, you should cut off the head about a foot down the stem. The seeds can be harvested by simply rubbing your hand over them, then you have yourself a tasty snack. Those seeds though are also the downside of growing sunflowers because birds and other animals think they are delicious too. One of the easiest ways to protect them is by putting a paper bag of the heads, but sometimes sharing is nice.

    If you’re interested in a type of sunflower other than the traditional type, you can look into Maximillian’s sunflower (Helianthus maximulianni) or prairie sunflower. It is still a perennial, but it has many, many three-foot heads per stalk and grows up to ten feet tall. Watch out though because this variety can be invasive if not kept in check. Without the risk of taking over your garden, you can also check out some of the annuals. They are still just as easy to grow. The vanilla ice (Helianthus debilis) is almost completely white and has five-inch heads on multi-branched stems, growing five or six feet tall. If you’re not interested in towering behemoth plants, there are a number of dwarf hybrids as well, coming in all of the color varieties, but not getting higher than six feet.

  • Thyme after Time

    Around 350 species of aromatic herbs and subshrubs make up the thyme (thymus) genus. They are native to temperate regions of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The best-known species is the culinary herb we simply call thyme or Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). A number of other species are used in cooking and there are some that make nice ornamentals as well. The stems are narrow, sometimes wiry, and the leaves are evergreen and arranged in opposite pairs. The largest species, the subshrubs, only reach around sixteen inches in height. The naming of various thymes causes some confusion because common names are used more often than binomial ones and more often than not people use the same common names for multiple cultivars.

    Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a low-growing European native of about eight inches in height. French, German, and English varieties have slightly different leaf shapes and colors. Medieval herbalists believed thyme to be a stimulant and antispasmodic, recommending it to relieve melancholy. Drinking tea made from the leaves was said to prevent nightmares, and sprigs of thyme symbolized luck. The essential oils of the herb contain thymol, an antimicrobial with antibiotic and antioxidant properties. Ancient Egyptians used thyme oil in the mummification process. Today we use thyme regularly in sauces as a seasoning. It grows well in full sun from USDA zones 6a to 9b and has rose or mauve colored blooms.

    One variety of Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus) or Citrus Thyme is a hybrid of Common Thyme and Mother of Thyme (Thymus pulegioides), also called Broad-leaved Thyme and Large Thyme. Thymus fragrantissimus, Thymus serpyllum citratus, and Thymus serpyllum citriodorum are also often referred to as Lemon Thyme, and they are all extremely similar. Lemon Thyme blooms with pink or lavender blossoms from mid to late summer and is attractive to butterflies and bees. Like Common Thyme, it is used in the culinary arts as well as herbal medicine. Ornamentally, it makes a good ground cover. It is drought-tolerant once established and grows from zones 4a to 8b, reaching twelve inches in height with full sun. There are a variety of cultivars, bred to have scents of different citrus plants.

    Wooly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus or Thymus lanuginosus) is another popular thyme used as ground cover, growing only an inch in height. It has thick, hairy leaves with barely any fragrance. It is known as a creeping thyme because it spreads out instead of growing up. It performs best in dry, well-draining locations in zones 5 through 8, tolerating poor soil. It is easy to grow as long as there is not too much moisture because it is prone to root rot. Wooly Thyme has pink blooms, also attractive to butterflies.

    Harvesting the flavorful thyme plants can be done at any time by snipping a few stems. The blooms are also edible after they first open. Most thyme grows slowly from seed and should be left alone for a few months before cutting. Depending on the variety, a number of species can be over-wintered outdoors as long as the winters are not too harsh, and they are perennials in temperate climates similar to their native regions. Thyme can be propagated easily from cuttings and division, and from there it basically grows itself given lean, dry soil. It can be grown indoors as well if given enough sunlight. If you have a bushier thyme, like Large Thyme, they can be trimmed and shaped if you desire.

  • Hardy Hibiscus

    When most people think of hibiscus (Hibiscus), they think of the Chinese
    Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis). It is the most popular and well-known
    with its large, bright red flowers and attractiveness to hummingbirds. They
    are often grown as ornamental houseplants and can only be grown outdoors in
    USDA zones 9a through 10b. They require full sun and are often a hassle to
    maintain, having absolutely no tolerance for cold. Unbeknownst to many,
    there are also non-tropical varieties of hibiscus that can make it through
    winter as far north as zone 4, commonly referred to as Hardy Hibiscus. This
    group of plants includes Hibiscus moscheutos, Hibiscus coccineus, Hibiscus
    laevis, Hibiscus palustris, Hibiscus grandiflorus, and numerous crosses and
    hybrids of each. Most hybrids have been derived from the Swamp-rose Mallow
    (H. moscheutos), which grows naturally from Florida to southern Canada.

    All hibiscus look similar at a glance and are in the mallow family. There
    are several hundred species that grow throughout the world. Tropicals have
    glossy, dark green leaves while the hardy hibiscus have duller, medium green
    leaves. Hardy Hibiscus flowers are actually larger and the famous dinner
    plate-sized blooms belong to the hardy varieties, but all have five petals
    and are trumpet-shaped. Hardy Hibiscus also have two to four-inch
    bomb-shaped buds.

    Hardy Hibiscus are versatile perennial shrubs, growing three to ten feet
    tall, depending on the variety. They tolerate full to partial sun and any
    well-draining soil, including sand. Once established, most will grow with no
    special treatment whatsoever. They are easy to propagate with seeds They are
    easy to trim down and can be used as groupings, hedges, borders, and
    specimens. They all feature the popular large flowers, up to a whopping
    twelve-inches across, with colors from white to pink to red and even purple
    and blue. Only tropical species come in salmon, peach, orange, and yellow.
    The blooms last only one day each, but then more bloom the following day for
    months at a time, creating more than a hundred blooms per flowering season.
    The only significant problem that these hibiscus face are Japanese Beetles,
    which will make a mess of the flowers and leaves.

    One thing you must do is resist the temptation to cut the stems back after
    the plant has been hit by cold. The stems are hollow and should be left up
    over the winter and cut down in the spring after the danger of frost has
    passed. If you cut the stems down to the ground in the fall or winter, you
    run the risk of water flowing from the stems to the root stock causing the
    root stock to freeze and killing the plant.

  • Butterflies Bushes - Buddleias

    Buddleias (Buddleia) or buddlejas are commonly referred to as Butterfly Bushes due to their attractiveness to butterflies. The first variety of buddleia, Buddleia americana, was sent to England from the Caribbean in 1730. There are around 100 species and almost all of them are shrubs around sixteen feet tall. A few species qualify as trees with the largest ones reaching more than ninety feet. There are both deciduous and evergreen varieties, but all have leaves arranged in opposite pairs that are up to twelve inches long. The flowers grow in panicles from four to twenty inches. Individual flowers are small and tube-shaped with the corolla divided into four spreading petals. The flowers come in a variety of colors from shades of white, pink, and red to oranges and yellows. They are usually strongly scented due to being rich in nectar.

    Plants in the buddleia genus are native to the southern United States down to Chile and also Africa and Asia. Since their introduction to Europe in the late 18th century, buddleias have become common garden shrubs and are staples to a modern butterfly garden. Some South American species have longer red flowers that are pollinated by humming birds. The most popular species is probably the Summer Lilac (Buddleia davidii) or Orange Eye, which originated in central China. It has an arching habit and grows to fifteen feet in height. The blooms are scented like honey and range from light purple to darker purple. It has become an invasive species in a number of countries and is considered a weed in Oregon and Washington.

    The Orange Ball Buddleia (Buddleia globosa) is another popular variety, native to Chile and Argentina. It is larger than the Summer Lilac and has deep-yellow to orange flowers, which are also heavily scented. It is relatively frost-hardy and is not invasive. In folk medicine, the Orange Ball Buddleia has healing properties. Another notable species is the Fountain Butterfly Bush (Buddleia alternifolia), which is a weeping variety. It originated in China like the Summer Lilac, but it was not introduced to Europe or North America until 1915 and since then it has become very popular in large gardens. When it is not flowering, it resembled a weeping willow due to its long pendulous stems. The flowers are a bright lavender and in very dense clusters. It flowers throughout summer and is very hardy, but prefers a sunny position and loamy soil. Unfortunately, it is less fragrant than the previously mentioned species.

    In the wild, buddleias grow in rocky ravines, so they do not tolerate soils that retains too much water, especially in winter. They perform best in alkaline soil, but most varieties are otherwise very hardy. Faded flowers need to be deadheaded and they do need pruning, particularly the taller species. Pruning should occur in late-spring and never in the fall. They can be propagated from cuttings. The cuttings should be taken at the end of spring when the soft stems begin to harden. Seek out the newest looking shoots of about six inches in length and trim below the leaf node then snip the top. Insert the cuttings into a horticultural sand and compost mixture for the best results. They root quickly and then can be transplanted. The majority of buddleia varieties are most suited for USDA zones 5 through 10.

  • Cleomes

    Cleomes (Cleome hassleriana) are commonly known as spiderflowers, spiderplants, spiderweeds, or beeplants. The cleome gets its “spider” names from the spidery-looking flowers with long stamen and dangling seedpods. They are annuals and when planted in a group they can look like blooming shrubs with eight inch blossoms because they grow in racemes (clusters of flowers). Under the right conditions, they can reach six feet in height and a foot wide. Their stems are usually very strong and they seldom require staking, but take precautions with strong winds. The blooms come in white, shades of pink, red, lavender, and violet. They tend to remain nice looking well into the summer. They also make excellent cut flowers, but beware - some varieties have spines and sharp edges. Some people find their scent unpleasant and musky and there are new odor-less cultivars.

    Cleomes are grown from seeds and thrive in all USDA zones. They do fine in average, but well-draining, soil with full or nearly full sun. You can start them indoors four weeks before the last frost or you can plant them outdoors, but you have to be sure there are no more frosts in store for your area. Plant the seeds about a foot apart. It usually takes around ten days for the seeds to germinate and later they will reseed themselves. They tend to reseed quickly and may need to be thinned. Due to their scent, you may not want to plant them near windows or doors. They tolerate heat and dry weather very well, but their lower leaves fall at the end of summer. They will look best if watered well. You can use companion plants to cover their bare stems at that time.

    Most people use cleomes as back-up border plants or put them in the center of island beds. They are very dramatic and will stand out. They have been a longtime favorite of southern cottage gardens, but they actually originated in South America. Cleomes grew from Brazil to southern Argentina and their adaptability has resulted in them becoming naturalized in the United States

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