Why this colorfully flowering low-water plant is a favorite for gardeners – Press Enterprise
What bougainvillea is to pink, red, and purple, esperanza (Tecoma stans) is to yellow and orange. It is easy to see why Dan Olinger, who gardens in Rialto, refers to the Yellow Bells variety of Esperanza as “my favorite flowering plant.” In the manner of bougainvillea, not only does Esperanza flower nearly non-stop, but it can be coaxed into a vining or arboreal form, the latter growing as tall as 25 feet. Unlike bougainvillea, Esperanza blooms do have a slight fragrance.
While Esperanza can survive with no irrigation, it flowers best when given one deep soaking every two weeks during the growing season. Its thin, elongated seed pods should be removed as soon as they appear to increase flowering. Esperanza’s habitat stretches from southwest Texas all the way down to northern Argentina and although nominally subtropical and preferring fast-draining soil, is tolerant of every soil type. You can grow Esperanza from cuttings or seeds although plants coming from seed will not be as floriferous as Yellow Bells clones, grown from cuttings, which inherit the genes of their mother plant, a variety that has been selected for heavy flowering. Finally, adding phosphorus, whether in the form of bone meal or superphosphate, can enhance flowering in young plants.
In truth, there is only one other plant that flowers in yellow as long as Yellow Bells and that would be the Euryops daisy (Euryops pectinatus), a shrubby perennial with delicately cut green or grey foliage that blooms most heavily in early spring but will flower on and off throughout the year. There are three perennial vining species with yellow flowers that bloom in winter and spring but stop flowering when summer heat arrives. All can be planted now and will settle in nicely before the time to exhibit their golden glow arrives next year. Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) has delicate yellow trumpets and deep, sea-green foliage; primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi) has popcorn blooms in yellow that fade to white and, against a lattice or chainlink fence will vine up vertically while, left untrained, displays a soft and inviting fountainesque form; and cat’s claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati), so named on account of its tough tendrils that allow it to claw its way up any rough surface, such as that found on stone walls or wooden telephone poles.
When we come to the Orange Bells version of Yellow Bells, there is some controversy as to whether it’s a hybrid species with Yellow Bells as one of its parents, the other parent being cape honeysuckle (Tecoma/Tecomaria capensis). Cape honeysuckle is a rampant grower with reddish-orange flowers that are multi-tubular as opposed bell-shaped. It can take over a hillside in short order due to its rhizomes. There is no point in planting anything else in its vicinity since it will quickly strangle any less robust vegetation that gets in its way. When cape honeysuckle is hybridized with Yellow Bells, the resulting plant, growing to about eight feet, has flowers of a tangerine – as opposed to reddish-orange.
A reader wanted to know how to get rid of scales that had proliferated on a potted Christmas cactus. A proven way of overcoming this pest is to procure a 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol. Take a cotton swab and saturate it with the alcohol, after which you will rub the swab over the scales, removing them from the plant. Some scales will fall onto the soil in the container so before leaving your scale-less cactus (or any other plant that has received this treatment), you will want to repot it in fresh soil.
Another reader lamented the growth of oxalis in their Dymondia ground cover. Dymondia has a unique presence. Its small silvery-green leaves grow tightly together, and small yellow daisy flowers are also seen. It is highly drought-tolerant once it forms a watertight carpet but the challenge is getting it to reach that stage before weeds can get a footing in the same patch of earth. It is relatively easy to dispatch oxalis from a lawn since oxalis is a broadleaf, as opposed to a grass, and there are herbicides specific to broadleaves that do not harm grasses. However, since oxalis and dymondia are both broad leaves, a different strategy for oxalis abatement must be employed. In this case, you will need to don rubber gloves and spray any weed control product that contains glyphosate onto a sponge. Then sponge the herbicide onto the oxalis leaves. Repeat treatments will probably be necessary until control is achieved.
I recently wrote about the rare sight of a snake plant (Sansevieria) in bloom. Serendipitously, I received an email from Jim Phillips of Garden Grove as follows: “Good timing on your article this morning! Have had snake plants (indoors and out) for decades and besides one over-watering death they do fine but I have never seen one in bloom. A few days ago I saw this strange growth on my outdoor snake plant and was wondering what the heck it was. First time I have ever seen this! It’s in a shaded connecting area from the house to the garage that gets some indirect sunlight but nothing direct. I water it maybe once every two weeks or so from the hose but don’t do anything else with it.”
Speaking of snake plants, I received an email from Patricia Barth noting that they are toxic to birds. She also informed me that a comprehensive list of plants toxic to birds can be found at plannedparrothood.com.
California native of the week: BIgelow’s coreopsis (Coreopsis/Leptosyne bigelovii) is a ground cover endemic to California, which means that its native habitat is exclusive to this state. The Coreopsis genus belongs to the daisy or sunflower family as attested to by the flowers of its member species. These flowers consist of yellow ray florets that are attached to central yellow disc florets. Bigelow’s coreopsis was found and photographed in the western Mojave Desert by reader Richard Jones. All parts of this species were eaten both raw and cooked by the indigenous Kawaiisu and Tubatulabal peoples of California. You can order seeds of Bigelow’s coreopsis from S&S Seeds (ssseeds.com), a Carpinteria company that specializes in seeds of California natives and drought-tolerant wildflowers in general.
Richard Jones extols Moosa Creek Nursery (moosacreeknursery.com), whose retail outlets include Anawalt Lumber stores in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and Malibu. Container-grown native coreopsis species of any kind are almost impossible to find, but Moosa Creek Nursery has a few specimens of sea dahlia (Coreopsis/Leptosyne maritima) available. Sea dahlia is a succulent that grows along the Southern California coast and is endangered in this state. However, its special qualities have seen it planted extensively from Texas to Florida, so it is not under threat of extinction.
If you have a favorite plant that you think more readers of this column should know about, please send a horizontally oriented photo to email@example.com for possible publication. Your questions and comments pertaining to any gardening practice or problem are always welcome.
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