Favorite Plants of Somervell County Master Gardener
Favorite Plants of SCMGA for 2010
(Yard Long Cucumber)
By Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardener
Common Name/Scientific Name: Armenian Cucumber/Cucumismelo Native/Adapted: This plant is a native of Armenia that grows well here.
Height: Armenian Cucumbers grow in vines.
Spread: Runners need a lot of space or provide a trellis for the plants.
Light: Requires continuous direct sunlight six to eight hours a day.
Evergreen/Deciduous: The Armenian Cucumber is an unusual annual vegetable plant.
Seasonal Interest: Tolerates heat and sun better than other varieties. It is best to sow seeds when night time temperatures are above 60 degrees.
Color/Features: Boasts showy yellow flowers that produce a fruit 30-36 inches long and two to three inches in diameter.
Water: Heavy on the water, but should be in soil that drains well.
Maintenance: Fertilize a week after plants blossom with a 10-10-10 fertilizer and every three to four weeks thereafter. Do not to over fertilize as it could have a negative effect on the fruit.
Wildlife: The bright yellow flowers of the Armenian Cucumber will be a temptation to some wildlife including deer.
Comments/Experience with the plant: If you desire a long straight cucumber, plan on using a trellis for your plants. Otherwise, if left to grow on the ground, the cucumbers will grow in shapes that often resemble a curled-up snake. In that case, you will have grown the “snake melon”. Although, the Armenian Cucumber tastes like a mild regular cucumber, it is actually in the melon family. It produces very few seeds and is at its burp less best when picked at 15-18 inches long. It is not necessary to peel this cucumber, as the skin is thin and usually has no bitter taste. After all danger of frost has passed, plant the seeds in hills three feet apart with five seeds in each hill at a depth of one-half to one inch. Planting in hills allows the root system to start from the center of the hill and grow to the outside where each plant will find their own nutrients. After the seedlings come up, thin the hills to three plants each. Try to keep a three inch layer of mulch around the plants to help them grow faster. Companion plants that will help deter harmful insects include radishes, peas, beets, carrots, dill, nasturtiums and marigolds. It is best to plant any type of cucumber away from tomatoes, sage or any aromatic herbs. If cucumbers beetles do come around, use the safest control by hand picking them from the plants. Other small winged insects such as thrips and whiteflies can be deterred with a steady shower of water. Just remember to apply the water during daylight hours so the plants will have time to dry out before dark. This way the plants are not a draw for other insects in the evening hours. Keep your plants watered well and in 55-70 days they will produce in abundance and will make for great conversation for those who have never seen the Armenian Cucumber.
Reference: Texas A&M University Horticulture Website
Serves 4 as a side dish
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 small cove of garlic, crushed
Healthy pinch of salt
1 Armenian cucumber, thinly sliced, about 2 cups
1/4 cup thinly sliced red pepper
2T finely diced red onion
2T finely diced yellow pepper
1 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
Combine cider vinegar, water, sugar and garlic in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir and remove from the heat when the sugar is fully dissolved. Add a pinch of salt and let cool.
Meanwhile, toss all the remaining ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. When the dressing is cool, pour over the vegetables; you may not want to use all the dressing if you prefer a drier salad. Toss and serve right away. Also, since the salad improves with sitting, it’s fine to do this up to several hours ahead of time. Alternatively, carefully lay out the cucumber slices on four white plates. Sprinkle on the red and yellow peppers and the red onion. Follow with the dried dill and black mustard seed. When dressing is cool, drizzle over the vegetables and serve. * I used another wonderful Mystery Box treat for the red pepper in this recipe: the red piquillo pepper which is a nice blend of juicy-sweet and slightly hot. You can substitute all red bell pepper or a combination of red bell pepper and something with a little heat, like a red jalapeno.
by Glenda Marsh, Somervell Co. Master Gardener Intern
Common Name/Scientific Name: Mother of Thousands, Mexican Hat Plant/ Kalanchoe daigremontiana (1); also called Maternity Plant/Bryophyllum daigremontianum (formerly Kalanchoe daigremontiana) (2)
Native/Adapted: adapted I assume (no information is found); in the cactus/succulent category
Height: 36 to 48 inches
Spread: nothing found; but our largest is about 10 inches across Light: sun to partial shade
Evergreen/Deciduous: Evergreen Seasonal Interest: will continue to grow if moved inside during winter; blooms are described but we have not seen any yet
Color/features: Pink, Magenta, Orange blooms are described; leaves are green or variegated
Water: average water needs; water regularly but do not overwater
Maintenance: very little
Wildlife: have seen no problems with any wildlife eating this plant!
Deer Resistant: yes
Comments/Experience with plant: An appropriately named plant, our „Mother of 1000‟ has been most prolific. Purchased about two years ago from Master Gardeners in Montgomery County, it was a „new plant someone brought in‟ but no one seemed to know what it was. Originally we put this small potted plant on our back porch. The „babies‟ began to drop off the edge of the leaves and were apparently blown into the soil nearby. In no time we noticed many „babies‟ springing up in the soil near the porch. We now have several pots of varying sizes of this interesting plant. Suitable for growing indoors, one is cautioned that all parts of the plant are poisonous.(2) If you have young kids this plant may not be a good choice as these „babies‟ are always falling off and kids seem to find the smallest things on our floor to put in their mouth!!. These plants are described as hardy to 25 degrees (2) & our plants have done well in morning sun areas & weathered through the winter in a greenhouse. Any good potting soil should ensure good plant growth of the mother plant and babies. Some consider this plant “invasive and a noxious weed” (1). TIP: BE CAREFUL where you plant it as you may have more babies than you ever wanted. For more information about this plant & many others, visit http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/forums (2) http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/594/ (1) Be sure and attend the next Somervell Master Gardener Community Education program…….you might just win one of these little plants as a door prize!
Favorite Plants of SCMGA for 2009
July’s Favorite Plant
By Joan Orr Somervell County Master Gardener
Common Name/Scientific Name: Lamb’s Ear / Stachys byzantina
Native/ Adapted: Well adapted to this area
Height: 6-12 inches
Spread: Leafy mat
Light: Full sun to partial shade/the more sun the stronger the plant
Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous, cold hardy in the South Seasonal Interest: Flowers in early summer
Color/ Features: Silvery gray foliage with purple/pink spikes
Water: Low to medium / keep water off leaves to prevent leaf rot
Maintenance: Prune plants in late winter
Wildlife: No pest or wildlife problems
Deer Resistant: Yes
Comments/Experience with the plant: The leaves of this plant resemble a lamb’s ear. Lamb’s Ear is a deceiving name for this most aggressive and hardy plant. Its growing habits are not gentle as a lamb and in order to keep it under control, one must keep it thinned and trimmed. But its other attributes are definitely worth the effort. The beauty of this plant is its ability to survive with little water, which makes it a very desirable plant for water wise landscaping. It is versatile in that it makes a fine border plant. Because of its silvery gray color, Lamb’s Ear is a great contrast against vivid color throughout the garden. Keep a watchful eye wherever you plant Lamb’s Ear. It can surprise you and multiply in “a shake of a lamb’s tail”. Lamb’s Ear is a fun thing for everyone to touch because the leaves are soft as lamb’s ears. So soft, that as the story goes, our ancestors utilized the leaves long before Charmin came along. Today, we find it as a reliable beautiful and versatile garden choice. Lamb’s Ear has been given the designation of being an honorary herb. Source: Southern Living Annuals and Perennials
August Favorite Plant
By Julie Conner,
Somervell County Master Gardener
The stately Iris is a garden favorite with its elegant and graceful bloom. The Bearded Iris has a sword like leaf foliage on a tall stalk with three petals which arch upward and three which fall downward, they come in a large range of single color and multi colored petals. Iris is a Texas favorite as they are hardy in drought and hot summers. Depending on its genetics the Iris will bloom during the spring to early summer with some blooming again in the fall.
The best time to plant Iris rhizomes in North Texas is August-September in a well-drained site allowing 12 to 16 inches between. Plant the Iris with the top of the rhizome just below ground level. Water well then water again in a few days. The Iris does best in full sun to part shade but to meet the max bloom they need 5 to 6 hrs of sun a day. Plant in a well-amended bed of organic matter but have your soil tested in case additional nutrients are needed. Do not over water as the moisture will rot the rhizomes.
If your Iris fails to bloom it is usually due to overcrowding, to avoid this issue divide the rhizomes in late summer every 3 to 5 years keeping the ones with white roots and green leaves. When the blooms wither cut them back to one inch above the rhizome, do not trim the foliage.
Best way to enjoy your Iris is to share the rhizomes with family, friends, and neighbors.
Source: Ft. Worth Star Telegram
Submitted by: Yvonna Brown
Somervell County Master Gardener
Common Name/Scientific Name: Hardy Hibiscus / Hibiscus Moscheutos
Native/Adapted: This particular species is adapted , however, Desert, Heartleaf, Halberd-Leaf, Rock, and Yellow Hibiscus are listed as Texas Native Shrubs at Aggie- Horticulture.tamu.edu.
Height: Can grow to heights of five to six feet.
Spread: 2 to 3 feet wide.
Light: Full sun to part shade.
Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous in our area. Dies to the ground in the winter.
Seasonal Interest: Beautiful huge Crepe Paper looking blooms from late June to early fall. In the center of each bloom a prominent pistil and stamen structure adds to their beauty.
Color/Features: The Hibiscus in my garden are a beautiful crimson rose and white, however, thanks to plant collectors and breeders, they can now be purchased in incredible vibrant colors such as raspberry, blood red, plum, hot pink, and many others. Blooms can be up to 12 inches in diameter. Although the blooms only last a day or so, this repeat bloomer is seldom without flowers. The robust bushy plant has attractive medium green leaves which compliment the beauty of blooms. Bees, Butterflies, and Hummingbirds are frequent visitors.
Water: Likes fairly moist soil.
Maintenance: None other than monitoring moisture in soil. Dead heads itself.
Wildlife: Deer Deer Resistant: Our deer “love” the blooms, so be prepared to cage them if you want to grow them in deer country.
Comments/Experience with plant: The beautiful crimson rose colored hibiscus, which I believe to be either “Southern Belle” or “Fantasia”, have been a part of my garden for several years and have proven to be maintenance free with minimal insect damage. I started with one plant and it has multiplied several times. When they are all in bloom it is a mass of color. About four years ago, beautiful white blooms started appearing in the midst of all the crimson ones. I have never planted a white Hibiscus so this is a bit of a mystery but not one I mind at all. Hardy Hibiscus are late returnees each year, sometimes I think they have died, then there they are around mid to late June. This must explain why they do not appear in the Nurseries and Garden Centers until late June or early July. Be cautious when looking for Hardy Hibiscus as their sisters”, the Tropical Hibiscus, rg. start arriving in May. While just as beautiful and colorful as the Hardies, they do not winter as well here and may not return year after year if planted in the ground. Parts of this article were researched at: www.gardening-tips-perennials.com and www.bachmans.com .
By Nelda Tandy
Somervell County Master Gardener Intern
Common Name/Scientific Name: Hen and Chicks/ Echeveria (about 150 species),
Family: Crassula, Species: ‘Perle von Nurnberg’ Native/Adapted: Native, abundant in California, Mexico and Texas Height: 6 inches or less, trails about 24 inches
Spread: Rosettes are approximately 3-4 inches across
Light: Full Sun, grows well if under artificial light 16 hours per day
Evergreen/Deciduous: Evergreen Seasonal Interest: Semi-hardy perennial with fleshy leaves
Color/Features: Echeveria produce thick blue-gray leaves that have a waxen appearance which form the rosettes. The rosettes send up spikes of tubular yellow blossoms in the spring.
Water: Dry Soil, water just enough to stop leaves from drying, too much water causes root rot, do not mist or raise humidity.
Maintenance: One resource states that the rosettes can be lost if the temperature drops below the upper twenties after an extended warm spell. Therefore, before winter one might bring in a few rosettes to assure a start for the next season.
Propagate by offsets in the spring or leaf cuttings in the fall
. For information and illustrations regarding propagating from offsets and leaves see Illustrated Guide to Gardening.
Wildlife: Birds are sometimes attracted to the fluid source from the leaves. Honeybees like the nectar from the flowers.
Deer Resistant: Information was not found on deer attraction.
Comments/Experience with the Plant: Plant lovers never meet a stranger and most share quite freely! I observed this plant in the yard of an elderly lady in Odessa (whom I did not know). In passing I observed the numerous pots and garden spots that contained this plant which looked very similar to my grandmother’s Hen and Chicks, but a little different. We became friends immediately because of the love of plants. This plant comes to mind when I think of a favorite because of the elderly gardener who gave me the plant and the ease of maintenance. Echeveria, is the succulent’s genus name. It requires very little attention, no special soils, no fertilizers, hardly any water, very seldom needs re-potting and does not need to be moved indoors in the winter (in Glen Rose), and it still multiplies. It has small yellow flowers but no spectacular coloration, but I can totally ignore it! Want a plant without all the work, ask me for a start. I’ll be glad to share. Echeveria adapt well to Living Murals (one of my next projects). For information on Living Murals using succulents see Cactus & Succulents.
Sources: Birds and Blooms, July 2009, Bulletproof Flowers for the South, Jim Wilson Cactus & Succulents, Sunset, Growing Cacti & Succulents , Douglas Bartrum Illustrated Guide to Gardening , Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. New Houseplants Book, Better Homes and Gardens
November’s Favorite Plant
By Nancy Hillin Somervell County Master Gardener Intern
Common Name/Scientific Name: Luffa / L. Aegyptiaca Native/ Adapted: Luffa is a tropical plant well adapted to this area Height: 12-20 inch fruits on vines Spread: Runners and climbers Light: Full sun and will tolerate some shade Evergreen/Deciduous: This is an annual plant and dies after 1 full season Seasonal Interest: Flowers in early summer, young fruit used like squash or cucumbers
Color/Features: Yellow Hibiscus-like flowers/mature fruits makes a sponge
Water: Likes water in a well-drained soil
Maintenance: Little required
Wildlife: The yellow blooms can be a temptation for some for some wildlife.
Deer Resistant: Yes
Comments/ Experience: If you have ever purchased a “loofa” sponge for your bath, you might have imagined that it was made from something from the sea or some other mysterious material. To the contrary, it is made from a fascinating plant that you may grow in your own yard. It is a tropical gourd, belonging to the cucumber family. It is also called the “towel gourd’ or the ‘vegetable sponge”. The accepted spelling is Luffa. Luffa will grow in many different sizes and shapes, similar to cucumbers, squash, and gourds. It is best to trellis Luffa in order to support the fruits. When the fruits are young, it may be cooked and eaten like squash. There is a sweet variety that may be sliced and eaten like cucumbers. At maturity, the inside of Luffa is a mass of spongy tissue that can be harvested and processed for various household uses. Luffa seeds are available from most seed companies. As with growing squash, a soil with humus and well-rotted manure is essential. Usually, I plant Luffa seeds the same time I plant cucumbers, after all danger of frost has past. Luffa used for sponges are not mature and ready to harvest until just before the last frost. It is a long growing season, but well worth the wait. When Luffa turns a light brown, it is ready to harvest for sponges. Another way to know when Luffa is ready to pick is when you can hear the seed rattle inside the Luffa when you shake it. Refrain from letting the skin becoming too dry, as it makes it difficult to peel the Luffa. In case some slip by you and do dry out too much, just try soaking them in a container of water for a few hours. After peeling the skin from the Luffa, shake all the seeds out and save for the next year’s planting. Take the Luffa you want to use as bath sponges and place them in a mild bleach solution for only ONE minute. This softens the Luffa. Try to make sure most of the seeds are out of the sponge. Next, machine wash on a gentle, cold water cycle with little to no detergent. NEVER put Luffa in the dryer, as it will shrivel to nothing. Luffa is a great gift. Just add some bath or shower items to the gift bag. Most recipients are pleasantly surprised at this useful gift that you grew just for them. The Luffa you would like to use as a dish rag or scouring pad should not be bleached. It is not necessary to wash these. Just cut with scissors into the sizes and shapes you would like to have in the kitchen. Luffa always goes back to its original shape after being wet.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening By: Nancy Hillin Somervell County Master Gardener Intern
By Bonnah Boyd Somervell County Master Gardener
The December calendar contains religious and cultural holidays and indoor plants help commemorate and celebrate these holidays.
The most popular of the holiday plants, the poinsettia, is native to Central America and Mexico. When selecting a poinsettia, choose one that has small, tightly closed flower buds (surrounded by colorful bracts). Also, choose a plant that is about as wide as it is tall.
This is a great holiday gift. All you need to do is plant the bulb in a small pot with good potting soil and have the top (pointed end) of the bulb sticking up out of the soil about 1 inch. Add water and bright indoor light, and plant growth will begin. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
This is a favorite holiday plant that produces a profusion of gaudy blooms ranging from hot pink to apricot, red, purple, and white. Purchase plants with many flower buds that are just beginning to elongate and open. This is not your normal cactus that lives in the desert. The plant lives in tropical jungles in the crotches of trees, so take care when watering it. The soil should be moist but neither completely dry nor saturated. When the top 1 inch of the soil is dry to the touch, water lightly. Keep the blooming plant in bright indoor light. Bright light is required for blooming.
Source: Doug Welch’s Texas Garden Almanac