Habranthus robustus, better known as the Rain Lily, was discovered by William Herbert in 1831 and is native to Central and South America. It is a bulbous plant, requiring little attention, and thrives in coastal gardens. The strap leaves of Habranthus can become straggly during the dry season and sometimes disappear altogether. It will burst into flower immediately it rains and, though the flower only lasts one day, more come but they do not flower well if planted in the shade. Some people find it difficult to distinguish Habranthus lilies from Zephyranthes. Both are called Rain Lilies but Habranthus points up at an angle and has four unequal stamens whereas Zephyranthes points straight up and has equal stamens.
Formerly Scadoxus multiflorus
Haemanthus multiflorus is a bulbous plant, native to sub-Saharan Africa. It thrives at the coast and grows wild around Kilifi. I have seen it growing in an area beside the Indian Ocean, in full sun and on solid coral, the plants pushing themselves through cracks. I have also seen it growing and flowering well in total shade. In both cases, once the flower dies, large leaves appear which also eventually die down and the plant is forgotten about until the next rains.
In the garden they don’t do as well, possibly because, when the bulb is dormant, it is sometimes mistakenly dug up and disturbed, which it hates.
The plant is toxic to animals. Poison is taken from the plant for arrows and fishing arrows.
Haworthia attenuate is from Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The name “attenuate” means ‘tapering’ and describes the tapering leaves of this plant.
Haworthia attenuate can be confused with the Haworthia fasciata as they look quite similar but the difference is easy to spot. Haworthia attenuate has white tubercles on both sides of its leaves whilst Haworthia fasciata only has them on the underside, with a smooth upper surface to its leaves.
Haworthia attenuata must have good soil with adequate drainage. It likes bright light, but too much direct sun, this can cause the leaves to turn yellow.
Hedychium coronarium is from Nepal and India. It was taken to Brazil by the slaves and is now considered to be an invasive weed. It is not a weed in my garden, struggling to thrive, however kind we are to it. When is it happy it flowers freely and has a beautiful scent.
Helianthus’s name is from the Greek Helios “sun” anathos “flower”. Better known as Sunflower, it is native to America. There are 70 species in the family. Helianthus comes in wide range of colours and sizes which all do well at the coast. Whilst sunflowers are growing they tilt their face towards the sun (called heliotropism) but, once the plant is mature and ready to bloom, this movement ceases.
Most species Heliconia of are native to the tropical Americas. They are related to bananas, cannas, gingers and Strelitzia.
To do well, Heliconias need rich compost as they are heavy feeders and as much water as can be spared. They like sun, but can grow in light shade. Leaves should not be cut until after flowering as the flowers emerge from the top of the stem and, once it has flowered, it will not flower on the same stem again. Heliconias need lots of space and shelter from high winds as the large leaves get damaged easily.
Heliconia indica is native to the South Pacific islands from Vanuatu to Sulawesi, Indonesia. At first glance this looks like a Banana without a stem. It is grown for the stately appearance and the beautiful colourful foliage.
It is happy in dappled shade but not in a windy a spot. Propagation is by division.
Heliconia upright grows well in the garden. It likes shade and to be as far as possible from any wind. It should have lots of water but, if it can’t be spared, it still flowers and grows quite well.
Hemigraphis colorata is native to South East Asia. It is a colourful plant, the top of the leaves being green and the underside purple. It works well as a ground cover in shady places or grown in a pot. It is not fussy about soil but does not like to get too dry. It is supposed to be good for stopping bleeding on fresh wounds and promoting healing but I have not tried it.
Hibiscus mutabilis better known as the Confederate Rose is a welcome challenge in the garden. I grew it from seed but, as the label got lost, did not know what I was growing. The plants were not happy and struggled for a long while, with mealy bugs making matters worse. The plants reached over 6 feet and suddenly a flower appeared – what excitement! Out came the cameras, then a ladder, and photos were taken. As the day passed the flower changed colour from pure white to a light pink, eventually ending in a dark pink. I delved into books and searched the internet and found out the name of this beautiful plant. I also discovered that the change of colour is due to temperature. If the white flower is placed in the fridge it will stay white.
At the onset of the rains, I took my courage in both hands and cut off the top of the plant, bringing it down to a manageable size. It has sent out side shoots and looks quite happy now. It is planted in the garden where the soil is fairly good but now we know what we have, compost and manure are added regularly. When it is dry it is watered, and it is growing in partial shade. The off cuts were planted and the cuttings grew, so good news all round.
Hibiscus rosa sinenses
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis was named by Carolus Linnaeus (1707 1778) a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist. He laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme and is known as the father of modern taxonomy. He is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology. The Latin term rosa-sinensis literally means “rose of China”. It is not related to the true rose and probably not native to China.
When grown unchecked Hibiscus rosa-sinensis can reach 2 – 3 meters in height. The stronger Hibiscus can tolerate full sun but the more exotic forms prefer a little light shade and do better when grown in pots. All Hibiscus need the best soil, with good drainage and added rich compost and manure. Hibiscus should never be allowed to dry out but nor should the pot sit in water. They should be fed with folia feed once a month and top dressing bimonthly.
SINGLE AND DOUBLE HIBISCUS – EASY TO GROW
MORE CHALLENGING AND BEST GROWN IN POTS WITH LIGHT SHADE
The five petal brilliant red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis was introduced to the Malay Peninsula in the 12th century. On 28th July 1960 the government of Malaysia chose this to be their national flower, beating Yland ylang, Jasmine, Lotus, and the Rose.
The flowers of white Hibiscus rosa-sinensis can be used as a pH indicator. When used, the flower turns acidic solutions to a dark pink or magenta colour and basic solutions to green. The flowers are edible and are used in salads in the Pacific Islands.
The flowers of pink Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have a number of medical uses in Chinese herbology. It has been shown to function as an anti-solar agent by absorbing ultraviolet radiation.
Hibiscus sabdariffa is native to West Africa but it seems to have found favour in the tropics worldwide. I found my first plant growing wild on a disused air field in Kilifi (Kenya). It was hot and very dry and the plant seemed to be the only thing that looked happy as it was full of the beautiful red fruit and it immediately became a ‘must have’ plant. Eventually a plant was found and it came to grow in my garden but it soon became a problem, wanting to take over. This was compounded by a serious mealy bug problem. They flocked to it in droves and our Hibiscus sabdariffa became a maternity ward for these creatures so the plant had to go.
Hibiscus sabdariffa is happy at the coast. It needs lots of room but no special care. If the mealy bug can be kept away from the plant, the fruit can be harvested and used fresh or dry to make a Ribena type drink though it is a little sour. Pour boiling water over the pods, let them soak, and then strain. Sweeten to taste and serve chilled. The juice contains high amounts of vitamin C, and it is believed to have anti hypertensive, diuretic, and laxative properties.
Hibiscus sabdariffa is a very popular plant worldwide. The West imports the red calyces as a food colouring. The leaves are used as a spicy spinach and for several curry dishes. ‘Sudan tea’ is a popular drink, and Roselle juice taken with salt, pepper, and molasses is a remedy for biliousness. The list is endless and the question is why don’t we grow this as a crop in Kenya? Hibiscus sabdariffa was introduced in Malaysia and in 1993, 30 acres were commercially planted. This had increased to 1,000 acres by 2000.
Hibiscus schizopetalus is indigenous to Kenya, Tanzania, and Northern Mozambique. The name ‘schizo’ means split and ‘petalus’ petal which describes the flower accurately. Grow this like any other Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. It is a tough plant and sometimes overlooked for the more exotic Hibiscus. Propagation is by cuttings.
Hibiscus syriacus is native to much of Asia. I read that this species has naturalized very well in many suburban areas, and might even be termed slightly invasive. Not so at the cost where we struggle to keep our one specimen alive. It is given all the treatment the other Hibiscus get (even better) but, apart from not dying altogether, we get little thanks.
Hippeastrum reticulatum var striatifolium
Hippeastrum is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. The name was given to it by William Herbert and it means ‘Knight’s –star-lily’. There are approx 90 species and over 600 hybrids.
Hippeastrum is the correct name for these bulbous plants. They do best in dappled shade, planted in rich soil that has had a top dressing from time to time. To encourage the plant to flower well, the bulbs should be planted with the neck of the bulb above soil level. We tried the bulbs in the open ground but found they did far better in pots. Somehow in open ground the bulb seems eventually to disappear.
To encourage flowering, don’t let it become too pot bound. When re potting, sort the bulbs into sizes, and replant anything smaller than 6cm in new compost. Feed and care for these small bulbs until they reach flowering size. Let the larger bulbs rest in a cool place out of their pots for up to a month, then re pot into fresh good compost. Depending on the pot size, plant three to five to a pot, water and wait – they should all come into flower at the same time, giving a great show. Watch out for amaryllis caterpillar and cockchafer grubs which can kill the plant
Note the example of an Amaryllis caterpillar on the plant below.
The Hippeastrum shown below are more difficult to get to flower again.
Holmskioldia is native to the Himalayan lowlands. It was named after the 18th C Danish physician and professor Theodor Holmskiold. This needs full sun to bloom with flowers looking like a mandarin’s hat. This shrub that can be encouraged to climb. It is very rampant and can become invasive so keep it well pruned after flowering.
Hoya was named by Scottish botanist Robert Brown (1773 – 1858), in honour of his friend, botanist Thomas Hoy (1750-1822) who was a gardener to the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House, a position he held for 40 years.
Hoyas are mostly creepers or vines and like to grow epiphytically on trees. Once they are happy and settled they seem to want nothing. They enjoy and do best when neglected and certainly don’t like being over-watered or pampered in anyway.
Hoya lacunose. This little plant survived in spite of us. When we first got it we nearly killed it with kindness. Then it was placed on the stump of a tree, high up and forgotten about. The plant has taken off and grows all over the tree and flowers most of the time. As it is so high, it is seldom watered, apart from a bit of spray when the orchids are being watered.
Hoya pubicalyx grows very fast. It has green leaves with splashes of silver( which turn pinkish-silver when exposed with more light and sun). This has grown up a Neem tree and flowers continually.
Hymenocallis littoralis grow and bloom all year in ordinary garden soil and often rather neglected. They like to grow where they get plenty of sun or, at worst, dappled shade. The flowers are large, pure white, with a slight fragrance of vanilla. Propagation is by division of a clump. Bulbs need to be planted deeply.
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, better known as the Bottle Palm, is native to the Eastern Mascarene Islands. It has a single ‘bottle shaped’ trunk, It is slow growing but can reach up to 20 feet in height, given the right conditions. It is monoecious, with male and female flowers are on the same plant. It is not fussy about the soil apart from requiring it to drain well. Top dressing during the rains helps the plant to stay healthy. Propagation is by seed where germination can take up to six months.
This palm is on the RED threatened list.
Hyphaene thebaica, better known as the Doum Palm, it is native to the Northern half of Africa including Kenya.
The Doum Palm was sacred to the Ancient Egyptians and it’s seeds have been found in many Pharaoh’s tombs, including that of Tutankhamun. Those seeds would have been 3,000 years old.
Hyphaene thebaica a dioecious palm (male and female flower are produced on separate palms) Many parts of the palm are used as vegetables, to make sweets and fruit juices and, like the coconut, wine is also made from the young fruit sap.