The name Acalypha is from the Greek meaning nettle. The majority of Acalyphas are native to the Americas with a few from Africa. Acalyphas are easy to grow; they have no special requirements and they are drought resistant.
A careful watch should be kept on Acalyphas as they can suffer from white-fly, mealybug, and spider mite. Once badly infested, it is best to prune out the infected areas. Updated 19/9/2018
Acalypha hispida, has large green leaves with a mass of hanging red flowers that give the plant its common name, ‘Red Cat’s Tails’. It does best in semi-shade. It can be planted in the ground or potted.
Acalypha wilkesiana, is grown for its leaf colour of which there are many different variations. It can grow into a large shrub or be kept pruned. To achieve the best colours it requires full sun.
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Hoffmannii’
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Hoffmannii’ Moorea
Both of these prefer light shade, and should be pruned when necessary.
The common name for this stately tree is the Baobab. It was named after Michel Adanson, the French naturalist who first described Adansonia digitata.
Most Adansonia are indigenous to Madagascar but Adansonia digitata is native to Africa. In the early stages, the Baobab is hardly recognisable as the ‘monster’ of a tree that it becomes. The Baobab is the largest succulent in the world. Shedding its leaves during the dry season, it can store as much as 100,000 litres of water in the trunk, and can reach heights of 30 metres, whilst the trunk can measure 15 metres in diameter.
After rain the tree produces large, heavy, sweet-scented white flowers which open in the late afternoon and last for one night only. The flowers are pollinated by fruit bats. The fruit of the Baobab tree is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium.
Radiocarbon dating has shown that some specimens, are at least 2000 years old.
Michel Adanson (1727-1806) was one of the most important naturalists of the eighteenth century. Naming Adansonia digitata was in recognition for all his research and work, collecting, recording, and writing volumes on many natural history subjects. Updated 19/09/2018
The Adenium obesum or desert rose, it is indigenous to Kenya and other parts of Africa. It is a succulent and stores water in its roots and can go for long periods without water.
Adenium obesum can be planted directly into the ground or into pots. Moving or re-potting is best done in the dry season giving the roots time to re-establish before the rains. (Root rot is one of the biggest problems with Adenium.) Whether planting them in the ground or pots, they should not be planted too deeply. This helps prevent root rot and exposed roots add character of the plant.
The soil used when growing Adenium in pots, should drain easily. This is especially important during the rainy season. Potted Adeniums will grow huge roots, so they should be re-potted regularly.
Adeniums are largely disease resistant. Occasionally scale attack the underside of the leaves, which then are best removed by hand. A yellow aphid, Aphis nerii Boyer de Fonscolombe, is particularly fond of this plant. Their favourite place is around new forming buds. To get rid of the aphids, spray using a little soapy water (1 quart of water, 1 teaspoon liquid washing-up liquid). The Kula miti beetle is deadly on the desert roses.
Propagate from cuttings or seeds. Fresh seeds germinate easily. Keep the seed compost on the dry side, even after germination. The best way to increase a collection is by air layering.
The sap of the Desert Roses is highly toxic. It is used to poison arrows for hunting. Updated 19/9/2018
In Greek mythology, Agave was the daughter of Cadmus, God of Lust and Desire! Agaves are succulents and have long thick fleshy leaves that naturally form a rosette and usually end with a sharp thorn. They are easy to grow, need only a small amount of attention, and more importantly they are extremely drought tolerant. When first planting Agaves, selected the position carefully as they don’t like to be moved. Updated 19/9/2018
Agave americana is originally from Mexico. It now grows worldwide and can be invasive. It grows well around the coast, wild and domesticated! It grows into a very large plant, sending out suckers. Grown as specimen, standing alone it is most beautiful.
Agave americana var marginata
Agave americana var marginata is not as common as its sister plant, but has the same requirements.
Agave angustifolia marginata
Agave angustifolia marginata is native to Mexico and central North America. It grows wild and domesticated and makes an impenetrable small hedge.
Agave desmettiana variegata
Agave desmettiana variegata is an architectural plant providing a perfect accent in the garden, especially when grown in pots, which delays its growth. In the ground it is fast growing, produces many off-sets and eventually flowers, after which the plant dies.
Agave flexiflora is called the thread Agave. It is a compact plant with a dense rosette and stiff pointed leaves that are edged with white fibres.
Agave gypsophila grows wild in Mexico. and is a slow growing solitary plant, with blue-grey leaves, reaching only 1 m in height.
Agave sisalana was originally shipped from the Spanish colonial port of Sisal in Yucatan hence the name. It has a life span of approximately ten years, during which the plant produces up to 250 usable leaves, which are turned into fibre.
In 2013, Brazil topped the leader board by producing 150.6 thousand tons Tanzania second, with 34.9 thousand tons and Kenya third with 28 thousand tons.
Agave victoriae-reginae is found the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico. It is a slow-growing long lived agave that is able to thrive in inhospitable conditions, including hot reflected sun.
Aglaonemas are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and New Guinea. They were first introduced into the ’West’ in 1885 and have since been hybridized many times. They are attractive easy to grow, shade loving foliage plants, that thrive inside as well as outdoors. Grow them in soil with rich compost added, Aglaonemas are poisonous and can cause irritate the skin giving a painful rash. Propagate by stem cuttings. Updated 19/9/2018
Aglaonema costatum The dark green leaves with the white spots makes it rather special. It likes to grow in deep shade with good moist soil and lots of compost. It is pest free.
Aglaonema marantifollum is rampant and makes an excellent ground cover, that is drought tolerant. It also makes a good and easy ‘house plant’.
Allamanda is native to South and Central America and was named to honour Frederich Allamand, the 18th century Swiss botanist.
Allamandas love the sun, and grow well near the sea front, withstanding the salty sea breeze. They are vigorous climbers, requiring strong support. They can be grown as standards or pruned into tidy shapes. They are extremely drought tolerant, are not attacked by garden pests but can suffer badly from a ‘rust’. Updated 19/9/2018
Allamanda blanchetii has funneled shaped reddish maroon flower. This is not as free flowering as the yellow varieties and the flowers fade when grown in full sun.
Allamanda cathartica is the largest flowering yellow variety.
Allamanda schotti has smaller yellow flowers. It flowers freely year round.
Alocasia is a large tropical or sub-tropical family with 79 species. They can be grown in the ground or in pots, preferring light shade. The growing medium should be rich and kept damp. If given the right conditions they can grow very large. Red Spider mite can be a problem, but increased humidity deters this pest. Updated 19/9/2018
Alocasia amazonica grows well outside but requires full shade and has to be kept on the dry side. Too much water or direct sun and it certainly goes into a decline.
Alocasia macrorrhiza is easy to grow and tolerate a fair amount of sun.
Alocasia plumbea is happy at the coast and liked to grow in dapple shade.
Alocasia sanderiana like A amazonica, keep it on the dry side and make sure the rhizomes are not planted too deeply.
Alocosia violacea is very easy and grows fast, even becoming invasive. It is best planted in open ground close to water.
There are over 250 species of Aloe. They are native to tropical and southern Africa, Madagascar, and some islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as to Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula. When Aloes are mentioned, Aloe-vera immediately comes to mind, but in fact, Aloes come in a range of different colours and sizes, all with thorns, making them rather unfriendly, and some are deadly poisonous. Aloes are slow growing and don’t like to be over-watered. They can grow in full sun, but prefer to be shaded during the hottest part of the day. Up dated 19/9/2018
Aloe barbadensis better known as Aloe vera originates from the Arabian Peninsula, now grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is grown as an ornamental plant and cultivated for and medicinal uses. It has been used for medicinal purposes for over 5000 years. It survives in areas of low natural rainfall, making it ideal for coastal gardens. The species requires well-drained sandy soil with bright sunny conditions in very hot and humid tropical climates.
Aloe dorothea was first found 1890, near the Pangani River in Tanzania, and was named to honour Miss Dorothy Westhead. It is an attractive Aloe, which is low growing, clump forming and has brightly coloured orange flowers. It is an excellent choice for xeriscape gardens. Requires well-draining sandy soil, and very little water.
Aloe hemmingii is native to Somalia and is now on the vulnerable list. It is a small sized plant that flowers easily especially if given some water.
Aloe jacksonii from Ethiopia, is a small clumping Aloe, which is easy to grow.
Aloe juvenna is native to Kenya it is a small plant, with sharp teeth on the leaf margins. It’s colour improves when grown in bright light.
Aloe pendens is from the Yemen, as are many of the other rock growing Aloes. It is a small growing Aloe, with a spreading habit that can form a dense cluster and flowers frequently. It makes a good ground cover plant.
Aloe variegata is indigenous to South Africa and Namibia. It doesn’t require much care and will grow in full morning or afternoon sun with slight shading during the hottest part of the day.
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Alpinia purpurata, are native to Malaysia, where they grow in tropical and subtropical climates. They are indigenous to parts of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. This is the largest genus in the ginger family, with approximately 230 species. In natural conditions, Apinia like to grow in the shade of forest trees. They are drought tolerant, but do much better if given a lot of water and good compost. Alpinias need space to be seen at their best. They are resistant to all garden pests. Updated 19/9/2018
Alpinia zerumbet likes a rich soil in full sun or partial shade. Like other Ginger’s it needs good rich compost and manure and as much water as can be spared, and in return it will produce beautiful flowers that resemble sea shells. It is not as free flowering as Alpinia purpurata.
Alpinia vittata has beautiful foliage but seldom flowers. If it gets too dry, the plant dies back, but returns with the rains.
Amaranthus tricolour is easily grown in open ground or pots from seed. It fairly drought tolerant, likes full sun and is very showy. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked taste of spinach flavour. They are susceptible to Red spider mite. Updated 19/9/2018
There is some confusion regarding the Amaryllis and the Hippeastrum. Most of the flowers called Amaryllis are in fact Hippeastrum. The true Amaryllis is a small genus, with only two species, which are native to South Africa and found in the Western Cape. Amaryllis belladonna often called the Belladonna Lily – or ‘naked lady’ (because the flower appear on a long stem before the leaves) is the best known. Updated 24/12/16
The Annona species originated in South America and now flourishes in most tropical climates. Both the Annona squamosa, Custard apple, and Annona muricata, Soursop, grow well with little or no extra attention. Mealy bug, particularly on the fruit, can be a problem. Updated 28/6/2018
Annona muricata, commonly called Soursop, is an attractive tree in the garden that grows well in full sun. The salty breezes can cause it to shed its leaves. The flowers are waxy and shaped like tiny cabbages. It fruits continuously; the huge-heart shaped shiny green fruit have spiky skin and can be up to 20 cm long. The fruit though slightly acidic taste quite palatable and can be eaten unprepared, made into a juice or ice cream. The leaves, seeds, bark, root and fruit are all used medicinally and the plant is reputedly an excellent in the fight against cancer.
Annona squamosa, the Custard apple, also grows freely at the coast. The tree is not as attractive as the Annona muricata but it fruits all the time. Mealy bug, particularly on the fruit, can be a problem.
The species originates from South America. There are 800 – 1500 species though this is only an approximate number as new species are still being found. Anthurium andraeanum is an epiphyte, and hermaphrodite; ‘spathe’ which is not the flower, carries tiny flowers, which are both male and female. To do well Anthuriums require high humidity and a course medium to grow, chopped coconut husk, mixed with a little proper garden compost (not garden soil). They prefer indirect light but a little direct sunlight will not hurt, especially if it is early morning or late afternoon. To propagate, divide the plant once it has become large enough.
The Anthurium is listed in the NASA Clean Air Study as removing ‘nasties’ like ammonia and formaldehyde from the air. Updated 28/6/2018
Anthurium bonpladii. It was quite a surprise when I realised that my plant was an Anthurium as it doesn’t look at all like any others I have. It is very easy to grow. Sometimes it has been in full sun; other times in deep shade, it seems to thrive where ever it is placed.
Anthurium crystallinum is difficult to keep of plants healthy looking and at its best. Unlike other anthuriums, it prefers to be grown on the dry side – too much water or direct sun and it goes into a decline.
Antigonon leptopus is native to Mexico. It is a fast growing perennial, tolerating poor soil, and a wide range of light conditions. It can cover coral within the reach of sea spray. Once established it is difficult to eradicate as it has underground tubers, that re-grow all constantly. In Florida it is categorized as invasive species and is listed as a Category II invasive exotic. Updated 28/6/2018
The Aphelandra is a genus of approximately 170 species of flowering plants, native to regions of the tropical Americas. The name is from the Greek ‘aphelesp’ simple + ‘andros’ genitive of ‘aner’ man, indicating that the plants are single celled. They grow in open ground, in full sun, with compost and mulch to retain dampness in the soil, although they are fairly drought tolerant. Updated 28/6/2018
Aphelandra sinclariana is not as easy to grow as Aphelandra tetragona but, when it does flower, it is outstanding. Aphelandra sinclariana likes to grow in dappled shade, with a medium that has plenty of compost. It is not drought tolerant and needs a fair amount of attention.
Aphelandra tetragona flowers most of the time, but when pruned it takes a while to come back into flower. Tips should not be pinched out as this is where the spike of flowers appears.
Argemone mexicana is native to Central America and Mexico. It is a tough, drought tolerant and robust pioneer plant that has been farmed as a dry land crop for biodiesel production (the oil is poisonous) and is widely used in traditional medicine. A recent study also shows it’s effectiveness in the treatment of malaria. Argemone mexicana has very decorative leaves and when the flowers appear it is quite beautiful. For a while this struggled at the coast, but now it is happy and it is growing everywhere. The problem is that it self-seeds, so tiny plants spring up. They are prickly and difficult to remove. Change of heart this is a nasty invasive prickly weed no longer welcome in the garden. Updated 18/9/2018
Aristolochia elegans is easy to grow from seed. It needs to be planted where it can clamber into the sun, so the support should to be strong as the plants massive foliage can become very heavy. The leaves get burnt by the sea breezes. Florida has classified this as an invasive weed. Updated 28/6/2018
The Aster grows happily anywhere in the garden. It does best in containers and mine are near the sea front in full sun. With a little water, it will flower continually. Once a flush of flowers is over, cut back the dead heads, top dress generously, and water – another flush of flowers will follow. It is fairly drought resistant and, without water, will lay dormant waiting for rain. It propagates easily by dividing the plant. Updated 28/6/2018
Aster macrophyllus white
Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’’
Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’
Averrhoa carambola makes an attractive ornamental tree. It is not fussy about soil or lack of it, growing well in heavy coral ground. It likes full sun and is drought tolerant. The sea breeze causes the leaves to fall badly, but the salinity does not seem to affect the roots.
Averrhoa carambola flowers after rain and bears fruit. The fruit is edible; the flesh is crunchy, firm, and extremely juicy, the texture similar in consistency to a grape. Fruits can be picked while still slightly green and will ripen at room temperature. Updated 28/6/2018
Azadirachta indica or the Neem tree, comes from India, where it is considered to be a sacred gift of nature It has been used for treatment of different ailments since prehistoric times. Locally it is called the Kilifi tree although it is not indigenous to Kenya.
This is a dirty tree, always ‘dropping’ something; leaves, fruit or dead twigs. The roots are a more serious problem—they have no respect for the foundations of houses and water tanks, and a careful eye has to be kept on any tree that is growing close to a building. It grows close to the sea shore, but suffers badly from the sea breeze and sheds all the leaves that catch the wind.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80 per cent of the population in developing countries rely on the Neem tree for their medicine. Updated 28/6/2018