September is an odd month in So. Florida gardens. By late summer, most hardy perennials are calling “Time-Out” from brutal sun and tropical downpours, yet the jungle species are gearing up and raring to go Intense heat and convective rains make VERY happy orchids
Like the orchids, my garden succulents are in peak form now, too!
The Portulacaria Afra (aka Elephant Bush/Dwarf Jade) seen on the diagonal in the above picture, has totally taken off!! In July, I removed it from its original 3″ pot and planted it in the Ranchero: what began as a slightly wizened, T-shaped, 4 inch branch is now plump, multi-stalked and spreading. If this South African native reaches full height, perhaps I’ll try my hand at Bonsai sculpting. or maybe I’ll just make zillions of cuttings!
Aloe Juvenna is another African plant that’s doubled in size and spread via offsets since mid summer:
I was really impressed with A. juvenna’s bright green leaves, and the lighter green spots that appear both inside and out. Lowes sold these two-per-6″pot, which i split immediately and planted at seperate ends of the Ranchero. The one in the picture receives better sun exposure and has produced 7 pups. When mature, it should send up a tall spike bearing bright coral-to-red flowers.
I didn’t realize I’d bought the fastest climbing aloe in the world….or that it might reach a height of 32ft. (though I doubt it will get that tall here!) The mistakes you make when you’re new, yeah?
In its South African habitat, the serrated leaf edges and slender, pliable stalks help anchor A. Ciliaris on its climb toward the forest canopy and sunshine. Don’t have a rainforest in your yard? ;) No problem….propping against trellises (or a fenceline) works just fine!
I have one more succulent to share today: Brasiliopuntia Brasiliensis, the strangest “volunteer” plant in my garden, thus far:
Brasiliopuntias begin life as thin cylindrical “stems” resembling pencil cacti. I discovered this plant’s original “cylinder” in Dec. 2009, growing from leaf matter within the boot of a felled palm tree in our new backyard. With zero knowledge of tropical plants, I carefully removed it and saw tiny roots…yaaaaayyyyyy! I potted it up and was very excited by my first Florida whatever-it-was!
By spring, the stem appeared to be flattening out, and a few delicate, thin, bright green pads emerged. It was beginning to look like a cactus!
In the middle of summer, little yellow dots cover the oldest pads: some fall away but others morph into little leaves that drop just shy of flowering….maybe this will change as the plant matures.
The spines are sharp, and appear almost overnight, typically on stems, but randomly along the pad edges, too. As seen in the next picture, the original stem gains mass as pads are added and the plant’s overall height increases:
While waiting for the bottom stem to grow strong and woody, it’s a good idea to stake this most unusual conversation piece!
Until next time!