Flowering Plants

The earth laughs in flowers.”
…  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flowering Plants – A History

Flowering Plants - Mixed BouquetFlowering plants (Angiosperms) are seed-bearing vascular plants—the largest grouping within the plant kingdom in terms of the number of described species—about 352,000 species or 90% of all known species of plants; also the most varied group of land plants. Found in almost all habitats, the reproductive structures are flowers with the ovules enclosed in an ovary. Angiosperms have a large number and variety of life forms; the largest plant families being Orchids, Compositae (daisies) and Legumes (beans). There are various theories of flower evolution as described in Wikipedia. The first flowering plants (also referred to as fruiting plants) known to exist are from well over a million years ago; they became widespread about 120 million years ago, replacing conifers (plants that bear cones) approximately 60-100 million years ago. Many beautiful flowering plants are also very poisonous plants, so be cautious when selecting them for your home or yard if you have pets or children.

The orchid has 21, 950 species; the daisy has 22,750 species and the legumes have 19, 400 species.

Flowering Plants and Reproduction

The main feature of angiosperms is the flower, whose function is to ensure fertilization of the ovule as well as the development of fruit that has seeds. Flowers enable a wider range of adaptability for the species. The flowering plants have stamens with two pairs of pollen sacs, which have become modified over the centuries in order to prevent self-fertilization. The male parts are reduced to three cells. Fertilization begins quickly after pollination, allowing the species to produce seeds early. After the ovary has been fertilized, the carpel and surrounding tissue develop into a fruit, which attracts seed-dispersing animals thus helping the plant to spread and adapt to other areas.

Flowering Plants - Lavender PansiesThe flowering plants have reduced female gametophyte – 7 cells, 8 nuclei, possibly an adaptation for more rapid seed set. Endosperm is a nutritious tissue that provides food for the embryo, the cotyledons and more rarely the tiny seedling. These specific traits together have made flowering plants the most commercially viable group of plants to our existence. Some plants (like Spider Plants, many Succulent Plants and Palm Plants) are valued for their foliage, but still produce flowers for reproduction or when the plant is stressed.

Popular Flowering Plants

Modern flowering plants are used to brighten our homes, clean the air, increase humidity, improve our health and sharpen our attentiveness.

Examples include:

Hibiscus

Flowering Plants - HibiscusThe Hibiscus are beautiful tropical plants that create an exotic atmosphere with their huge blooms that last for only a short time; however, similar to Gardenias, the plant will bloom from spring through autumn. Keep the soil moist and give it lots of sunlight. The flowering plants can be trained to grow into trees.

Roses

Roses are one of the oldest flowers known to humans and are still one of the most-loved for their beauty and scent—honored also in medicine, art, literature, romance and ballads.  Roses do best in full sunlight, well-drained soil and lots of organic matter. In 1986 the rose became America’s national flower.

Cyclamen

Cyclamen is a popular plant for both indoor and outdoor growth. It is in the list of Best Indoor Plants for Beginners, and is hardy and easy to grow.

Hydrangea

Flowering Plants - HydrangeaSome Hydrangea plants are flowering plants native to Asia and the Americas. The most diverse plants are in China, Korea and Japan – some are shrubs, some small trees and some are lianas that climb up taller trees as high as 98 feet (30m).

Flowering Plants - Pink Hydrangea

The Hydrangea can also be grown in your garden or indoors. It will bloom from spring until autumn. Some species of the Hydrangea have 2 types of flowers s—mophead (large, round flowerheads) and lacecap (round, flat flowerheads). Most species of Hydrangea have white flowers but the color is affected by the level of soil acidity – an acid soil will normally produce a bluish flower; an alkaline soil will produce a pink Hydrangea bloom. The Hydrangeas can be deciduous or evergreen; the commonly seen plants here in the US are normally deciduous

Orchids

In 1922 a physiologist discovered how to germinate Orchid seeds, leading to mass production. Orchid breeders have now created in excess of 100,000 hybrid orchids. Some varieties of Orchids are not hard to grow. The plants do not grow in soil but in a chunky-textured medium such as moss, bark, charcoal and other ingredients mixed in. The roots must have exposure to air otherwise the plant will die! Mist the leaves lightly; after the flower stem dies the Orchid will go into a resting mode. It isn’t dead—don’t throw it out! The Phalaenopsis Orchid is a good plant to begin with. We have a Basic Orchid Care page on this website, but, for questions that we don’t address, there is an orchid care forum at: http://www.justaddiceorchids.com/frequently-asked-questions.

Peonies

Flowering Plants - PeoniesThe horticulture of Peonies is native to Western North America, Asia and Southern Europe. The number of species of this perennial is approximately 35-40 and boundaries between the species are not clear. The flowers are beautifully fragrant and appearing in colors of red, white, pink or yellow. The leaves are actually many leaflets with deeply indented margins and a single stem. Garden peonies start from tubers, while tree Peonies are grown from seed or from a graft.

Peonies are robust plants that take little care and can handle severe cold. They need a full day of sunlight unless you live where there is intense heat—in which case the plants may want partial shade. Peonies are often used in landscaping or planted just in a row. Do not overcrowd them—since that reduces air flow, and make sure the soil is well-drained or disease and rot could result. The plants have beautiful bright green foliage up to 3 feet high. Peonies can be grown in many zones if you prepare the soil properly, and once established in a garden they bloom regularly in the spring. If Peonies are growing where they have the correct balance of space, water, drainage, sunlight and air they may possibly bloom for a century with minimal care.

African Violets

African Violets are popular houseplants and are easy to grow when you keep in mind basic plant health care. They produce beautiful flowers and have velvety leaves. These plants can be gorgeous when displayed on suitable indoor plant stands.

Chrysanthemum

Flowering Plants - CrysanthemumThe Chrysanthemum flowers come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Each Chrysanthemum flower is a cluster of several flowers—short disk flowers and rings of longer ray flowers; there are 9 categories depending on the type and arrangement of disk and ray flowers. This plant is not specific to any season; can be grown in most types of soil; needs sunny weather; they are easy to grow and flower for months.

Azalea

Plant an Azalea in loose, well-drained soil with good organic matter during the early spring or early autumn. Azalea roots are shallow; pH needs to be kept at about 4.5-5.5; soak the plant while in the pot prior to planting it in the garden. Flowering Plants - AzaleaPlant the azalea higher than the surrounding soil; they usually settle some—then water the area and add a layer of compost: pine needles, bark that has been shredded up or just pine bark. A mulch helps to keep the area damp and cool and deters weeds. If the weather is dry water the azalea weekly.

Sources and Citations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowering_plant – research source

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/flowering/blooming-houseplants/#page=2 – research source

http://www.colonialdistrictroses.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/abriefhistoryoftherose.pdf – research source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrangea – research source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrangea – research source

http://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/mostpopularflowers/morepopularflowers/peonies – research source

http://www.gardeners.com/Peony-Care/8106,default,pg.html – research source

http://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/aboutflowers/tropicalflowers/chrysanthemum – research source

http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/faqs/azaleafaq2.html – research source

 

Succulent Plants

Succulent Plants - Desert Cactus Dish Garden

Figure 1: Desert Cactus Dish Garden

Succulent plants are sometimes referred to as ‘Succulents’ or ‘fat plants’ since parts of them are thick and they usually retain more water in dry climates/soils, according to Wikipedia. Their low demand for water allows them to survive periods of neglect, making them some of the best indoor plants for beginners. They are perennial tropical plants often grown as ornamental plants in flower pots and gardens because many of them have a very unusual appearance. Joshua Trees (pictured in Figure 2, below) are often confused with succulent plants, but they are actually a variety of Yucca.

Succulent Plants - Joshua Tree Yucca

Figure 2: Joshua Tree

Many Succulent plants are flowering plants that offer easy care and look beautiful in your home alone or with a companion plant such as CyclamenHibiscus, Hydrangea, Azaleas or Geraniums–which have similar requirements for lighting. Succulent plants come in a myriad of colors and leaf shapes and a current trend that is gaining popularity is to include different varieties of succulent plants with Peonies and other flowers in bridal bouquets. Unlike Spider Plants and Palm Plants, Succulents generally like the low humidity and warm conditions found in many houses; they seem to be able to adapt to direct or lower light. Many of the smaller plants look great on indoor plant stands, and stands with wheels are available for larger plants. Succulent Plants prefer a good draining soil that’s not watered often, and it’s best to let the soil become completely dry between waterings.

Succulent Plants – Interesting facts

  • The tallest free-standing Cactus is about 63 feet tall (19.2 m); the smallest is approximately 0.4 inches (1 cm) at maturity
  • Plant health care for Succulents is less demanding than Orchid care
  • A fully mature Saguaro Cactus (Figure 3) can absorb as much as 200 US gallons of water during heavy rainfall.

    Succulent Plants - Saguaro Cactus

    Figure 3: Saguaro Cactus

  • Both Succulent Plants and Orchids produce oxygen at night, unlike most other types of plants which only produce oxygen while they are receiving light. For that reason they are a great option for bedrooms.
  • Remember that all Cacti are succulents but all succulents are not Cacti
  • Popular because they use less water and have less impact in droughts
  • They are fire-resistant and fire retardant
  • Many of them are not poisonous plants, but use barbs or needles for their protection, similar to Roses

Some of the Simplest Succulent Plants to Care For

Aloe Vera: Although the sap of this plant has been used for hundreds of years to heal wounds or sunburn, it has sharp teeth on the edge of the leaves that can cut – needs to be placed where it will not be bumped into for that reason.

Succulent Plants - Aloe Vera

Figure 4: Aloe Vera

Let the soil dry out between heavy waterings but do not leave it standing in water. Keep Aloe Vera in direct sunlight and fertilize 3 (three) times in the summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. If you have African Violet fertilizer you can use that on your succulent plants as well. Do not repot unless you particularly want to or the roots are pushing their way out of the pot.

 

Pin Cushion Cactus: There are approximately 200 species of this group for home-growing, most of them coming from Mexico.

Succulent Plants - Cactus Garden with Pincushion Cactus

Figure 5: Cactus Garden with Pincushion Cactus

The spines (modified leaves) appear fine and harmless but have hooked ends like a porcupine quill, which makes it difficult to pull out of the skin.  These cacti may take different shapes and often flower in the house. They require a lot of light. Let the soil get fairly dry between waterings; do not water in the winter time as the plant is in a dormant period, necessary for flowering. A balanced fertilizer, 10-10-10 is needed three times during the summer months.

Burros Tail: This succulent plant looks cute in a hanging plant pot or basket with its tails out over the side; gray with green or blue ‘leaves’ can grow up to 3 feet long.

Succulent Plants - Burros Tail

Figure 6: Burros Tail

Allow the soil to dry a little between waterings and fertilize in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer; be aware that it rarely flowers but it is possible that pink or red flowers could appear during the summer. Leaves fall off of a Burros Tail easily; try to keep it where it will not be bumped by anything. If you move it outside for the summer, put it in the shade so that it does not get sunburned, or, on the patio where it could get morning light then shade from the afternoon sun.

Ponytail Palm: The Ponytail Palm is not a palm tree and does not appear to be a succulent plant although related to the agave. Use a quick draining soil for this plant – cactus potting soil is a good one.

Succulent Plants - Ponytail Palm

Figure 7: Ponytail Palm

It is a long-lived indoor houseplant with average room temperature good for most of the year in a location with bright light. Winters it prefers temperatures around 50-55°F. Spring through fall you should allow the surface soil to dry before watering; during the winter only water once-in-a-while. Fertilize in the spring with a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer, and give it a very bright room for the summer months. Repotting every second year is adequate for this succulent. This plant can grow up to twenty (20) feet high indoors!

                                                     

Snake Plant (also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue):

Succulent Plants - Snake Plant

Figure 8: Snake Plant

These succulent plants have stiff, upright leaves that can grow to 3-4 feet tall. The Snake Plant has a green border on the leaves while the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue has a yellow border.

They make a tough houseplant and can withstand almost any conditions with the exception of over-watering or not watering. Soil should be a loose and well-drained potting material; preferably with sand in it. Give it a mild 10-10-10 cactus fertilizer in the growing season. Prune out damaged leaves.

Hens and Chicks: Two succulent plants use this name – both produce chicks – little plants offset from the mother. The flowering patterns are different: one grows bell-shaped blooms while the other grows pink star-shape flowers on plants that die after flowering.

Succulent Plants - Hens & Chicks

Figure 9: Hens and Chicks

Grown in the house, the two perform identically; both should be allowed to dry a little between waterings – overwatering will rot both plants. Water very little during dormant period. Feed them a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the summer. New growth can be started by removing the offsets and potting them. The plants will be scarred if water touches them or the leaves get bumped.

Panda Plant: This succulent plant is a native of Madagascar and is grown for its foliage – thick, green leaves covered with silver hairs; the edges tipped with brown or rust-colored hairs.

Succulent Plants - Panda Plant

Figure 10: Panda Plant

Let the top couple of inches of soil dry out between waterings and in winter, its dormant period, barely water it at all – just don’t let it dry out completely. The panda plant likes medium to bright filtered light. A 10-10-10 fertilizer should be used in the summer. The plant doesn’t require much in the way of pruning.

Jade Plant: this succulent plant, originally from South Africa, is so easy to grow. It has thick stems with shiny green leaves that have a touch of red. Allow the soil to become bone dry between waterings, but don’t leave it that way.

Succulent Plants - Jade Plant

Figure 11: Jade Plant

Jade plants are most commonly killed by too much water. Fertilize three times in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. The terra cotta pot offers good air movement through the soil; repotting is rarely necessary as the plant has a small root system. Keep the plant pruned for balance – both appearance and weight – if one side grows too large it could upset the whole plant.

 Sources and Citations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulents – research source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulent_plant – research source

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/projects/top-10-succulents-for-home/ – research source

http://www.skh.com/gardeningatoz/cactus-succulent-care/ – research source