Pachystachys spicata is native to the rain forests of the Caribbean and South America. It is great in the garden and, with a little care, it flowers all the year round. I have it planted in the ground where it receive good compost, a topping up of manure from time to time, and is dead headed when necessary. It is quite drought tolerant and likes to be in dappled shade. Aphids and garden sucking creatures find other plants around the garden more palatable!
Pancratium zeylanicum is native to Asia and the Islands of the Indian Ocean. It is a beautiful small flowering bulb that flowers after rain. The plant has glossy strap leaves and the flowers are particularly graceful. It does best in pots but, after they have finished flowering, these bulbs don’t require a rest period, so keep them slightly watered until the next rains.
The first Pavetta galpinii we bought was sold as a dwarf Ixora and we were pleased with our ‘new find’. As time went by our error was pointed out, and we went in search for the proper name. It is not surprising that Pavetta is confused with Ixora as the flower and the leaves look much the same, except that Pavetta capensis has whiskers coming from the flowers. It is a lovely flower, which lasts for a long time, and then black berries appear. It is not fast growing and does best in full sun, but it has been in deep shade, and grew well though there were no flowers! It is not fussy about soil and is fairly drought tolerant.
Since we found our plant we have noticed it growing wild in several places including the Shimba Hills Game Park.
Pellionia daveauanas is native to Southeast Asia. It is an attractive plant that can be grown as trailing plant, in a basket, or used for ground cover. The occasional flowers are small and insignificant. It is happiest in light shade but it can take a fair amount of sun, as long as it is not allowed to dry out. It needs to be planted in plenty of good compost. Propagation is by cuttings; break off a piece and plant it in the ground and it will take, it is as easy as that!
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
Purple fountain grass
Pennisetum setaceum or Purple fountain grass is a useful plant in the garden. It can put on a good show with the bronze purple foliage and fluffy seed heads flowing. It is best to grow it in a tall container as, when planted in the ground, it tends to become untidy.
It is easy to grow, not requiring any special soil or treatment; except for keeping the clump tidy. When the grass begins to look tired, it is time to chop off its ‘head’ (the untidy old red grass). Take it up, divide, and replant it in fresh compost. Dudus don’t seem to like this plant.
Pereskia grandifolia is native to Northeastern Brazil. Cacti can take one by surprise and this one certainly took me in. It has a pink flower similar to a small dog rose but, as roses do not thrive at the coast, this is an alternative.
It does not look like a succulent and can grow as a shrub and become very large. It likes full sun but will grow in light shade. It is not fussy about soil and is drought resistant. The down side of this vigorous plant is that it has very sharp thin spines, which can penetrate any glove. It propagates easily by cuttings, which should be planted immediately without a drying out period (unlike other cacti). It will also root whilst sitting in a jar of water.
Petrea volubilis is native to Mexico and Central America and the plant is named after Lord Robert James Petre, 8th Baron Petre (1713-1742) from Ingatestone Hall in Essex, a patron of botany.
This is regarded as the best blue flowering climber for our climate. It can be grown in a pot or as a standard but it certainly does not flower as freely. As it flowers on new growth, it should be pruned immediately after flowering to encourage the next flush of flowers. Propagation is by hardwood cuttings or seeds.
Petunias grow at the coast though not with the greatest ease and not all varieties. The seeds germinate easily and, with a bit of extra care, they can be brought to the stage of flowering. Once this is achieved, Petunia gives of its very best, flowering in full sun for months on end, just asking for lots to drink and an occasional feed.
There estimated to be approximately 1000 known Philodendrons and many more have yet to be discovered.
They are extremely diverse in their growing habits and have been divided into three major groups: some are epiphytic (plant that grows on other plants but taking nourishment and moisture from the air); others are hemiepiphytic (seeds start in the canopy of trees, sending their roots into the ground); and others are terrestrial.
The aerial roots of the Philodendron serve two purposes; the shorter aerial roots are used to attach themselves to their host; the thicker and longer roots collect water and nutrients to feed the plant. The sex life of the Philodendron is also very interesting – reproduction is dependant on a beetle. On many plants, it is a specific beetle and, in some plants, the spadix generates infrared radiation to help the beetle to find it!
They do well at the Coast growing strongly. Sometimes they seem to be indestructible, unless a dog gets to them as mine do.
Philodendron melinoii is happy growing in my garden. It is in a pot in deep shade, with the normal amount of water.
Phoenix canariensis is native to Canary Islands and North Africa. It is dioecious, (male and female grow on the same flower head). The flowers are followed by orange-brown to dark purple round fruits, half an inch in diameter. Fruits are fleshy, date-like, and grow in clusters. They are edible but not tasty
Phoenix canariensis grows well close to the sea despite the salt laden winds that blow all the time. It is not fussy about the soil, and does best in full sun. To keep this palm looking at its best, cut off the dead leaves and prune
This plant has been with me for many years. It even followed me to Kenya! When it arrived it was about 10″ high – now it is over 15′ and flowers continually. I have tried to establish the correct name but this is as close as I can come. It has no special treatment, no extra water and is undoubtedly very happy.
Pistia stratiotes is the proper name but water cabbage is easier to remember. It floats on the surface of the water, looking like a cabbage with soft light green leaves that form a rosette. It is a good indicator of the pH level of pond water as it will not tolerant a high pH. The rosette soon becomes smaller and the leaves turn a lighter green and eventually yellow. The remedy is to adjust the pH by adding either vinegar or pH adjuster to bring the pH down. When adjusting the pond take great care not to harm the fish.
It is important to make sure that a pond has only 75% of the water covered with growing plants.
FOLK MEDICINAL USES
Pistia straitiotes is found in ponds and streams throughout India up to 1000 m. The plant is used as an antiseptic; a pain killer, and in the management of tuberculosis and dysentery. The juice is used for ear complaints and the ash of plant is applied to cure the ringworm of the scalp, and the roots as a laxative. Leaves are used in the tretment of eczema, leprosy, ulcers, piles, and syphilis. Juice of leaves boiled in coconut oil is applied externally in chronic skin diseases.
The Platycerium bifurcatum is native to Java, New Guinea and parts of Australia. It is an epiphyte and grows well at the coast. When growing Playcerium, it is best to treat it much like an orchid, spraying the fern at the same time as you spray the orchids.
Plectranthus scutellarioides, better known as Coleus, is from the nettle family but has no sting. It is a happy with some shade although, for the brightest colouring, the plants need sun. It grows well in pots or in the open ground. When young, keep the plant well pinched to get a good shape and keep the flowers (not worth having) pinched to prevent the plant from going to seed. Coleus should not be allowed to dry, although too much water kills the plant. It is easily propagated from cuttings, which should be kept slightly dry. Mealy bug can be a problem.
Pleioblastus pygmaeus distichus ‘Mini’
Pleioblastus pygmaeus is a dwarf bamboo. The rich green foliage gives a feeling of abundance, especially when everything else is turning brown. It is easy to grow and is happiest in dappled shade but will also do in dense shade. Don’t let it dry out altogether as it will die. It is not fussy about soils and spreads even to the point of becoming invasive. It does not like saline water. Propagation is by root division.
Plumbago auriculata is a great asset to any garden. It grows in bright sun or dappled shade and can become rather invasive if not cared for.
Plumeria, better known as Frangipani, was named in honour of the seventeenth-century French botanist, Charles Plumier. There are seven species and more than 300 named varieties of Plumeria. Each of the separate species bear differently shaped leaves, with distinct form and growth habits. The common name “Frangipani” comes from a sixteenth-century Italian Marquee who invented a perfume that reminded people of the Plumeria flower. Plumeria is related to the Nerium oldeander and both possess a white sap that may irritate eyes and skin.
Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night; although they have no nectar. The scent lures the sphinx moth to transfer pollen from flower to flower in a fruitless search for nectar.
A rust called Coleosporium plumeria can be a real problem. The best form of treatment is to carefully pick off infected leaves, trying not to let the ‘spores’ float away. Spray the leaves at the first sign with a fungicide and repeat.
As a sufferer from cold sores I felt I must share this piece of information. According to Mr. James Muthotho, a microbiologist with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the plant has been shown to “virtually cure” the common cold sore “herpes zoster”. After cleaning the wounds, apply drops of Frangipani Sap /milk from the flower onto the wounds. Only use white and yellow flowers. The frangipani sap, Mr. Muthotho says, stops the itchiness of herpes zoster sores, healing them without leaving any scars. It also kills the intense post-treatment pain, and prevents recurrence, unlike the conventional drugs. I tried this and it works.)
Search James Muthotho on the net to find the full story
Plumeria rubra is the most common frangipani and is more heat tolerant than the Plumeria obtusa. It comes in many colours; and has the most fragrant flowers. The leaves are long and oval with a pointed end.
Plumeria obtusa has the common name “Singapore,” although in fact it is originally from Colombia. It is one of the most popular frangipanis. The leaves are rounded (obtuse), and are a glossy dark green and leathery. It has thick succulent branches that are often “knobby”. The petals on a Plumeria obtusa flower are rounder than those of Plumeria rubra.
Plumeria obtuse ‘Dwarf Singapore Pink’
Plumeria obtuse ‘Dwarf Singapore Pink is a true dwarf plumeria, growing about seven inches a year. Apart from the fact that this is a dwarf plant, there is nothing much to say about it. It grows happily in the garden, producing flowers most of the time, but these are not very exciting. It is very prone to rust which is a real disadvantage.
Plumeria pudica is native to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. This is a different looking plant from other plumerias. It is a tall upright plant with little sideways growth, and the leaves are unusual being thin, narrow and rather curly. The very white and sweetly scented flowers are produced in abundance. Like most plumerias it is easy to grow and is not fussy about soil. The good thing about this variety is it does not suffer from rust and is not attacked by any other dudus.
The Polianthes tuberosa is indigenous to Mexico. It is best grown in a large pot with rich compost in full sun. With regular feeding, the plants will thrive and produce wonderful spikes of tubular, waxy white strongly scented flowers. We tried growing them in open ground but it was a failure and, if we hadn’t moved them into a pot, all would have been lost. It is worth the effort to grow these plants as they flower frequently and give great pleasure, especially from to the wonderful fragrance, which is something we lack at the coast.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek words “polys” much and “skia” shade.
Polyscias balfouriana is native to Queensland /Australia and Papua New Guinea. The species is named in honour of the English botanist John Hutton Balfour. It is an attractive tree or small shrub which, so far, has proved to be rather difficult to grow and very slow. It has had the best treatment and still sulks.
Polyscias filicifolia is an ever green, slow growing shrub like tree, with fern-like leaves. It is an easy plant to grow, is not fussy about soil. and is drought tolerant. We have these around the garden and they grow happily in shade or sun.
The Polyscias fruticose is an attractive small tree with variegated leaves. Ours grows in a pot that stands five meters from the sea front and yet it does not appear to mind the strong salt laden breezes. It receives the morning sun and is shaded from the mid day sun but otherwise receives no special treatment and is very happy.
Polyscias paniculata is a robust and a faster growing Polyscias. It is an evergreen tree that, if left un-pruned, can reach up to 6 metres. It is an easy plant to grow in the garden as it is not fussy about soil, is drought tolerant, and is happy in full sun or shade. Polyscias paniculata makes an excellent backdrop for smaller plants and is a useful wind break.
Pontederia lanceolata, called Pickerel weed, was named in honour of the Italian botanist Giulio Pontedera. It is native to North America, and would be a beautiful sight seen growing naturally in a large swamp where it’s happiest. In the garden it grows best at the edge of a pond, not planted too deeply, in full sun and then if will flower continually. It will not flower much in shade. The flowers attract butterflies, bees and dragonflies. It can become rampant, and must be kept in bounds.
The Portulaca grandiflora is native to Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay. It has now spread worldwide. Its name in local languages usually refers to the time the plant is in full bloom; for instance in India it is called “nau bajiya” the 9 o’clock flower“ There are several very different looking flowers and all seem to have the same name.
This does well in any part of the garden nut it needs full sun to flower and makes a colourful ground cover. It can also be grown in a large pot where it will give great value. When it is grown in the ground, care must be taken not to let grass or weeds grow through the portulaca as it then looks a mess. Bee’s love the flowers, busily collecting pollen each morning. Mealy bugs are attracted too and this can be a problem. Remember the bees. If it is necessary to spray for the mealy bug; do this in the late evening. Another way to get rid of mealy but is to cut the plant back, so removing the dudus. After it has been flowering for several months, it is advisable to cut back hard, top dress, and give it a rest.
Portulaca grandiflora bicolour
Portulaca grandiflora bi-colour is common to coastal regions of Australia. It is new in our garden where these large flowers put on a great show.
Proiphys amboinensis was named after the island of Ambiona, now Ambon, in Indonesia. It is a bulbous plant that grows fairly fast, especially if it planted in rich compost in pots and left undisturbed. In return Proiphys amboinensis will delight you with beautiful almost circular leaves that resemble a Hosta, After a while the most attractive scented white flowers will appear. It grows best in shady sheltered areas of the garden though it does not mind early morning or late afternoon sun. Watch out for the Amaryllis caterpillar as it can destroy the whole plant.
There are several plants from this family that do well in the garden. They are easy to grow and worth cultivating to fill gaps within a group of plants. They also form good wind breaks and are relatively free of dudus but they need to be kept well pruned (the prunings root easily).
Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum has attractive colourful leaves, especially when they are young; and it is very useful in the garden as it can be grown as a wind break for more delicate plants, to fill in gaps or used as an informal hedge. It will grow in full sun or heavy shade, will thrive in most soils, and is drought resistant. For the best results, keep it well pruned and don’t let the plant flower (these are rather insignificant). It grows very easily from cuttings.
Pseuderanthemum reticulatum is another favourite. It is a fantastic foliage plant, having bright lime green and yellow leaves. It requires full sun, though it behaves quite well in semi shade. The spikes of white flowers with pink centers are conspicuous. It will grow anywhere in the garden, even quite close to the sea front, but it needs to be kept well pruned, and will grow easily from cuttings.
Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides is native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. It is a very easy, vigorous climber, with bright orange flowers. It needs full sun to flower freely, and grows happily everywhere. It can be propagated by cuttings or seeds.
Pteris cretica is an attractive fern that is easy to grow in pots at the coast. It is a tough plant that thrives if neglected. It is fairly drought tolerant and can take quite a bit of afternoon sun.
Ptychosperma macarthurii was originally from northeastern Australia and areas of New Guinea. It was named after The Honorable Sir William Macarthur (1800 – 1882) who was a leading horticulturist in Australia in the late 19th C. This is a fairly fast growing clump forming palm. It grows well in shade or sun and in relatively poor soil with very little water during the dry season. To see it at its best, top dress and feed during the rains. Our clump produces seed and when ripe they are vivid red and most attractive.
Punica granatum nana
Punica granatum or the Pomegranate is thought to have originated in the region of modern day Iran. A dry pomegranate was found in the tomb of Djehuty, butler to Queen Hatshepsut. Fruit samples have been carbonized and found to date from the early Bronze Age. It was introduced into Latin America by Spanish colonists in 1769. In France some plants are known to have survived for 200 years.
Punica granatum nana is a tough plant, that grows and thrives in very little soil, with roots penetrating coral ground. They receive no special treatment like top dressing and no water in the dry season. They grow equally well, producing fruit, in full sun and heavy shade. They are not very beautiful plants and so should be used as background or planted in the vegetable section of the garden. They are a little unfriendly with multiple spiny branches. Propagation is easy by seed or cuttings
It has been widely used in different forms in traditional medicine from heart tonic to eye drops to slow the development of cataracts and as a contraceptive!