Malvaviscus arboreus is native to the subtropical areas of southern Texas and Florida. It can easily be mistaken for a Hibiscus. Though they are members of the same family and the leaves and general appearance are similar to the Hibiscus, the difference is in the flower – the petals of Malvaviscus remain tightly closed whereas the Hibiscus opens wide, displaying all her colours.
Malvaviscus arboreus is easy to grow in pots or directly into the soil. It thrives at the coast, is fairly drought resistant, and not fussy about soil quality. The flowers come in two colours – a rather ordinary light pink, and a stunning bright red. It is easily propagated from cuttings. Mealy bug can be a serious problem.
Mansoa hymenaea is native to Mexico and South America. The name is confusing as I have found it named Cydista aequinoctialis – so which is right?
Mansoa hymenaea, called ‘Garlic Vine’ because of the garlic aroma, is a large climber which is happy reaching high up through a tree to the sunlight. As it flowers on new growth, pruning should be immediately after flowering and propagation is by cuttings or layering.
Maranta, the Pray Plant, was named after Bartolomeo Maranta (1500-1571), an Italian physician and botanist. It is native to Central and South America and the West Indies.
There are about 45 species and it is easily confused with Calathea species. Marantas have rhizomes and are low growing with decorative leaves. They are shade loving and will fail if placed in direct sun. They like a rich loamy soil, which must not dry out altogether, but hate to be soaking wet even more. The best method of propagation is by division. When re-potting, divide the plant in half and pot up each half.
Moringa oleifera is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in north western India has now spread wide and far. It is a fast growing tree, that will flower within six months of sowing the seeds, and is drought resistant. It is not a very beautiful tree and so will soon depart from my garden to make room for something that feeds the heart through the eyes.
It is widely cultivated at the coast mainly for the leaves, which are eaten as a vegetable; providing vitamin A and C, calcium, and potassium. The flowers are fairly fragrant and make an interesting tea. The young seed pods are said to make an alternative to asparagus, the dry seeds can be used to purify water, and the roots can be used in place of Horseradish.
This is a must for any garden at the coast. An ever green tree with luscious dark green leaves. It is very drought resistant and tolerant of poor soil conditions. When it rains, the tree is covered in small white flowers, which have a beautiful scent. It can be grown as a hedge and kept well trimmed, slightly resembling a box hedge, the down side of this being that there will be fewer flowers. This plant propagates easily from seed. Scale can be a problem but that is easily controlled.
Musa sumatrana, known as the Blood banana, is native to Sumatra and Indonesia. It is an excellent ornamental plant for the garden, especially when young. The stained leaves give it its name ‘blood banana’.
Musa sumatrana grows equally well in a large pot or in the open ground, giving height to the garden and a real ‘jungle effect’. It is not fussy about the soil but, like all bananas, the better the soil and generosity of water the more handsome the specimen. It likes to grow in full sun but can tolerate a certain degree of shade. As well as the need for the sun, Musa sumatrana needs a fairly sheltered spot in the garden, otherwise the leaves get badly torn. It does produce fruit but, so far, we have not tried to sample them as they are tiny. Once a stem has fruited, it should be removed, giving room for more new plants.