Caladiums are from South America. The beauty is their variegated leaves, which come in many shapes and colours. They should be grown in good soil that is well draining as the tubers (root system) rot if there is excess water and they are drought tolerant and even die back, returning once watered, although they are improved with a rest period. Caladiums are happiest in bright shady areas as sunlight improves the colour. Updated 17/9/2018
Calatheas are native to tropical America. Due to habitat destruction, several species are threatened with extinction. Originally Calathea leaves were used for wrapping fish and other foods, and also in handicrafts and to make quivers by the Nukak people of Colombia.
Calatheas are grown for their attractive foliage, and there is a huge variation of colours and patterns. The soil should be rich but, more importantly, it must be well draining as Calatheas die when over watered. These are not hungry plants and seldom require feeding. They are happiest in jungle like conditions with no direct sun to burn their leaves. Updated 17/9/2018
Callistemon citrinus was first formally described in 1814, by David Brown. It flowers profusely twice a year attracting birds and butterflies to the garden if it is cared for. It is drought tolerant, but enjoys as much water as can be spared. It grows in full sun and should be top dressed frequently, and pruned after flowering to keep it bushy. Updated 17/9/2018
Camptolepis ramiflora is native to Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania and is also found in Madagascar. The species is endangered due to loss of habitat.
It grows well at the coast, even in the coral. This tree was planted beside a Azadirachta indica (Neem) and when it became established the Neem was removed allowing the Camptolepis ramiflora roots to take the place of the Neem’s roots in the coral. This has worked well and the tree is flourishing. Updated 18/9/2018
Cannas are one of the easiest plants to grow, even close to the sea. They are so bright and cheerful, their place in the garden is well deserved. Cannas like rich compost that is high in nutrients. They can tolerate dry conditions, but do better with more water, and the soil mulched to feed and preserve the moisture. Cannas should be grown in full sun, in the ground or in pots. Once the flower has died, the stem should be cut out as it will not flower on that stem again.
Cannas can suffer badly from rust. This should be treated immediately with a fungicide, though diluted milk works well but has to be repeated. The affected leaves should be removed. Propagate by dividing the tubers.
Capsicum annuum, or Kenya bird’s eye chilli originated from Central America, the original home of all chillies worldwide. The Portuguese first brought chillies to Europe in the 17th century.
Capsicum annuum self seeds, and the little red pods make an attractive addition to the garden. It is drought tolerant and has no special soil requirements, but it is badly affected by Whitefly. African bird’s eye chillies, particularly those grown in Kenya, are amongst the most pungent chillies in the world. Updated 18/9/2018
Caralluma speciosa is native to East Africa, and parts of Northern Africa, and is extremely easy to grow. It does best in open ground, with good drainage and full sun. A little neglect encourages flowering’ the flowers are beautiful, but the smell is terrible (to attract flies to pollinate the flower). Up dated 17/9/2018
Carex morrowii is native to Japan. It is easy to grow either in pots, containers, or the open ground, it can grow in direct sun or dappled shade. Propagate by dividing when it becomes too big. Updated 17/9/2018
Carica papaya, originally from tropical America and Mexico, has now become naturalised throughout the tropical world. Carica papaya is one of 22 accepted species. Papayas are dioecious (the male and female flowers are on different plants). The flowers are sweet scented and open at night attracting moths to pollinate them. The male flower produces pollen but never fruit, while the female will produce small inedible fruit if it is not pollinated. Some Papayas are hermaphrodite and self-pollinating and produce fruit.
Carica papaya self-seeds. It prefers well-drained soil and if left to grow in too wet soil it can die very quickly.
In 2014, 12.7 million tones of papaya were sold, 44 per cent of which were grown in India being the leader. Updated 18/9/2018
Catharanthus roseus, native to South and Eastern Madagascar, is called the Madagascan Periwinkle. The name Catharanthus comes from the Greek for “pure flower”. It is an invasive weed, but is worth having as it flowers freely and fills the garden with white or magenta flowers. It survives without any care or attention. Be selective, allow it to grow where it is wanted and not where it wants to grow.
The Madagascar periwinkle has long been being used far and wide to treat many different ailments, from wasp stings to diabetes, tuberculosis and malaria. It is said that thousands of children suffering from leukemia have been saved by this plant.
Ref: Duke, J. A Handbook of Medicinal Herbs 1985; and Medicine of Plants 1993. Updated 18/9/2018
Celosia spicata. The name Celosia comes from the Greek kelos meaning burned, referring to the flame-like flower heads. The Swahili name is mfungu. This attractive plant is a weed, but it is worth a place in the garden. Once in flower the blossoms last for up to 10 weeks, and can be dried and used in the house. Celosias grow best in full sun, they are drought tolerant, but do better with some water. Whilst still young the growing tip should be pinched to produce a good shaped plant. Red spider mite can be a problem.
In Nigeria the plant is known as ‘soko yokoto’ meaning “make your husband fat and happy”
The plant has many medical uses including treatment for intestinal worms, blood diseases, and lots more.
Originally, in the cactus taxonomy, Cereus was the name given to nearly all known cactus species that were ribbed, columnar plants. Now Cereus is a genus of cacti that are large columnar cacti from South America. The name is derived from Greek and Latin words meaning “wax” or “torch”. Updated 18/9/2018
Cereus repandus is from South America, it is easy to grow in full sun and flowers each year, these only last one night.
Ceropegia variegata was named by Carl Linnaeus, who first described the plant in 1753. It is distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Australia and the tropical Pacific. The plant has no leaves but it twines up anything at hand. There are 180 known species and more are still being discovered. The flowers are pollinated by flies of the genus Desmometopa, which get trapped inside the flower and pollinate as they move about. Updated 18/9/2018
Chlorophytum comosum is native to South Eastern Kenya and Tanzania and was first described by Carl Thunberg in 1794 in his book on South African plants as Anthericum comosum. In 1862 after several name changes in 1862 its name was fixed as Chlorophytum.
This is an easy plant to grow and it is very forgiving. It makes a useful ground cover or edging to paths. It likes a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Updated 18/9/2018
Clerodendrum paniculatum produces an abundance of red flowers. It grows well in the shade in pots or in open ground. Cut back after flowering enables new branches to develop. It seeds easily close to the mother plant.
Clerodendrum splendens is native to West Africa. It is a woody evergreen vine that climbs by twining. It is easy to grow, managing to grow through Petria and Bougainvillea. Cutting back after flowering stimulates new growth.
Clitoria ternatea is a perennial vine with vivid blue or white flowers. It can become a menace in the garden as it re-seeds everywhere, particularly the white variety. Clitoria is a legume it improves the soil quality, which is a plus!
Codiaeum variegatum, is one of the most colourful shrubs for the coast. There are many varieties with different shaped leaves and foliage colour combinations. Requiring little water during the dry season, it tolerates everything except saline water, which causes it to shed its leaves. A position in the full sun gives the best coloured foliage. During the rainy season, the plants should be top dressed with manure. Old and woody plants can be pruned back hard and cuttings taken. Scale and mealy bug can be troublesome. Updated 18/9/2018
Cordia sebestena is native to the American tropics, and was named after the German botanist Valerius Cordus (1515-1544). This tree is recommended for coastal gardens as it flowers most of the year round, attracting bees and butterflies. It tolerates all soils and is drought tolerant. It is prone to red-spider mite during the dry season.
Cordyline fruticosa comes from the Greek ‘kordyle’ meaning a club. In Hawaii, it was known as the Ti or Good Luck Tree and was planted at the corners of boundaries to keep away ghosts . They were also planted near the house to bring good luck. It had many uses. The starchy sweet rhizomes are edible, and were also used as a glossy covering on surfboards. The Hawaiian hula skirt is made from green cordyline leaves using 50 or more leaves for one skirt. Leaves were used as thatch, to wrap and store food, and for ‘lava sledding’.
Cordyline are fairly drought tolerant. They prefer to grow in the shade, as hot sun burns the leaves, and they do not tolerate the salty winds. Brown margins on the leaves usually indicate that the plant is too dry. They are fairly pest free, but can be attacked by scale or mealybug. Updated 18/9/2018
Costus was described by Linnaeus in 1754. It is related to the Zingiber family and is widespread throughout the tropics Costus like dappled shade, and the growing medium should be rich and moist. Updated 18/9/2018
Costus afer is a tall growing plant that needs space to be seen at its best. The foliage is luxuriant, and reminiscent of a jungle. The flowers, are rather inconspicuous at the end of the stems.
Costus malortieanus Was first described by Wendland in 1863. It is a short growing plant with deep green and velvety leaves. It likes fertile. well drained soil, that must not dry out and likes to grow in dapple shade. shadier conditions than most, but I have grown it with no problems in a couple of hours of direct mid-day sun, so long as the soil was kept moist.
Crinum is a genus of about 180 species of bulbous plants. Most of them are extremely tolerant, flowering in sun or light shade, and wet or dry soil. They can be lifted and moved and will flower after the rains. Their one enemy is the Amaryllis caterpillar – these can do very serious damage very quickly so watch out for them. The caterpillars are easy to remove by hand, or by cutting away the leaf that the caterpillar is hiding in. Updated 18/9/2018
Crinum asiaticum is a giant that is imposing anywhere it is planted. In time it grows into a massive plant surrounded by young plantlets. The dark green strap-like leaves grow up to 2m long and the flower are sweetly scented.
In this garden it is planted near the sea front where its architectural appearance has not only become a focal point but acts as a wind break. It is drought tolerant. It is important to top dress the plant twice a year using good compost mixed with manure. All parts of this plant are poisonous, the sap may cause skin irritation.
Crinum jagus is native to tropical West Africa and was named by James Edgar Dandy in 1939. It is happiest dappled shade in growing in a container of rich soil and prefers not to be disturbed. The foliage is attractive when the plant is not in flower. In the wild, these grow in swampy areas; stagnant water can cause the bulbs to rot.
Crinum macowanii is native to East Africa. It grows well in the garden whether planted in pots or the ground, it will grow in shade and flowers, but it happier in full sun and doesn’t like being moved. It flowers after the rains, sadly the flower only lasts for the day. Amaryllis caterpillar can be a problem.
Cryptostegia madagascariensis is native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. It requires no special attention and grows well mixed in with Allamanda cathartica and schottii. It is no trouble and copes well with the sea breeze. It can suffer badly from ’rust’ on the underside of the leaves, in extreme cases prune out the affected parts. NOTE: It is extremely toxic to livestock. Updated 18/9/2018
CUPHEA HYSSOPIFOLIA uphea hyssopifolia
Cuphea hyssopifolia is native to parts of South America. It is a beautiful tidy plant that blooms continuously if given the correct conditions. It prefers good rich soil with a regular top dressing, and full sun to bloom.
Cydista aequinoctialis a native of Southern Mexico, Paraguay and Eastern Brazil, is a climbing vine that can reach great heights. It requires no special treatment and flowers twice a year, the flowers initially purple and becoming progressively lighter during the day.