Succulents are not a new interest for interior and exterior interest. However, the Kalanchoe daigremontiana is an especially interesting succulent that is easy to care for and even fun to have for children.
Kalanchoe daigremontiana is also known by many as the Mother of Millions. There are several similar varieties known as Mother of Thousands or Alligator Plant. All are a bit different looking, however, they all have the exact same interest that has made them valuable to me.
These types of Kalanchoes produce small babies off of the leaves of the mother plant. The babies form about 4 leaves and roots before dropping off the mother plant and rooting themselves in the soil where they drop. You can pluck many of these babies before they fall or wait for them to begin rooting before moving them to another location.
I would recommend ordering this plant or a similar variety over the internet as they are particularly difficult to find. I rarely see them, but when I do they have been at small family owned nurseries, and they have just one or two available. Cuttings, bare root plants, and babies travel well in the mail and root easily which is why this is preferred for a quality plant from growers (many of which are in California).
Hibiscus coccineus, more often known as Texas Star Hibiscus, is a Texas ‘Super Star’ and perennial shrub many have not given a chance. You can expect this plant to reach anywhere from 3′ to 8.’ This perennial dies back to the ground in the winter, grows from zone 6a to 11, and can withstand many of our winters in warmer climates. Texas Star Hibiscus will come back in spring when temperatures warm up. The dark red petals resemble a 5 point star and are much larger and open compared to standard hibiscus.
Texas Star Hibiscus can handle full sun to part shade, flowering best in full sun from mid-summer to early fall. Texas Star Hibiscus is known to handle drought conditions but can also handle quite a bit of water. Plant this perennial behind evergreen plants with plenty of room (about 4’) so that it is hidden when it dies back in winter.
Peas in general are fast germinating and fast growing which makes them a great indoor container plant or garden plant for kids to grow on their own. The fast germination of these plants are a quick reward for your child’s effort to start their own garden, and the fast growth rate will show them daily progress they can record and enjoy. After transplanting their plants outdoors children can watch their Sugar Snap Peas climb using tendrils, develop variegated leaves, begin to flower with creamy white blooms, and then watch pea pods emerge from the blossoms knowing they will soon be able to pick and eat them. If you have trouble convincing your child to eat greens, then having a garden just for them to take care of may help solve your problem.
For the Garden
Sugar Snap Peas can be started indoors or directly sowed outdoors in fall or spring. Peas that are started too late in fall may survive the winter in zone 9, but they will not put on flowers or fruit until the following spring. I personally find that sowing them outdoors allows them to stay more compact when first growing as opposed to getting leggy when they receive too much water and light when started indoors. I plant all Sugar Snap Peas along a wire fence so that tendrils can grab and climb to support the soft tissue plant as well as the additional weight of the pods when it begins fruiting. Make sure that sugar snap peas receive plenty of light during the day. It is always best to water plants in the morning, so make the effort to water gardens before starting your day. Pick pods when they are about 4 inches in length. If you rarely cook with sugar snap peas, then try them in a stir fry or as a raw snack by themselves or with a vegetable dip.
Tracey from Rosenberg (Southwest of the Houston area) asks how long should she keep newly planted trees staked before they should be removed. The rule of thumb is that tree staking should be removed at one year from the time of planting. Typically tree or landscape installation companies will end their tree warranties at one year for the same reason that tree stakes are removed at one year. If the tree is not established at the one year mark, then it is probably dead or never plans to establish (will die soon). After one year of growth, the tree trunk begins to outgrow the tree staking wires or cloth ties and will soon look like the first image of the set of six. The trunk grows around the obstacle, and you will have a hard time removing the obstacle ever again without damaging the tree.
Tree Staking Options
You can use any combination of metal, wire, rubber, cloth, or wood to stake a tree, and you probably won’t be wrong as long as you have kept slack in both the loops around the trunk and the material connecting to the stakes in the ground. Many types and combinations of staking are shown in the images provided, but my preference is to use cloth staking around the trees and connect to metal or wood stakes in the ground where the top of the stake is actually at ground level and not sticking up.
The following are my pros and cons for each material that can be selected.
Wire – Pro: durability, Con: not easily seen, can greatly harm a person if it is run into (at head/neck level or as a trip hazard)
Rubber – Pro: typically used to wrap wire and protect tree trunk
Cloth – Pro: a safer option than wire with good durability, protects tree trunk
Wood – Pro: stakes the root ball only while eliminating material to be wrapped around trunk, Con: can be a minor trip hazard if not installed properly
Metal – Pro: durability, Con: can cause harm if run into
As we quickly approach mosquito season Chelsea from Dallas asks what she can do to prevent these pests. Luckily there are several varieties of plants that can be purchased and placed in containers so that you and your guests can enjoy your patio and home without being covered in OFF!
Pelargonium citrosum is a zone 9b-11 tender perennial or annual in colder climates like Dallas and is often referred to as the Mosquito Plant, Citronella Geranium, or Citronella plant. These can grow up to 2’-3’ in height, will tolerate full sun to part shade, and is especially drought tolerant (although I would recommend watering it regularly if possible). Although most people are more interested in its repelling properties, Pelargonium citrosum will bloom repeatedly with lavender flowers, is a great container plant, and can grow from cuttings. You can set several of these plants out on your patio to deter mosquito pests, but the best method used to avoid them is to rub a couple of these leaves on your exposed skin to release the natural oils found in the plant. The parts of this plant should not be ingested as it can be poisonous.
Nepeta cataria is a zone 3 to 7 perennial and is often known as Catnip. These can grow up to 2’-3’ in height, will tolerate full sun to part shade, and tolerates drought and pollution as well as rocky soils. My recommendation is to contain this plant as it will seed itself throughout your garden and could become invasive. The parts of this plant have been used for teas (has a slight minty flavor), repelling insects, and for cats. Apply the leaves of the plant directly to the skin or infuse the dried and crushed plant into an oil such as olive oil for application.
Many other plants have been said to repel mosquitos, and research has shown that mosquitos are more likely to be attracted to those with a diet of processed or sugary foods as opposed to a more natural diet. Consider eating more garlic and onion during mosquito season.
The following list very well may repel mosquitos. For any plant recommended I would apply the leaves of the plant to the skin, and re-apply every 1-2 hours as it wears off. Keep in mind that some of the smells may be very nice while others are quite offensive.
– Mentha piperita
– Tagetes spp.
– Allium sativum
– Lavandula angustifolia
– Eucalyptus spp.
Tecoma stans, more often known as Yellow Bells or Esperanza, is a favorite perennial shrub for Texans. You can expect this plant to reach anywhere from 3′ to 25′ depending on the variety you have selected and your location. Many Esperanza can be treated as an annual to a perennial from zones 7-11. The 2″ trumpet-like flowers resembles the flower shape of the Trumpet Vine and Cross Vine with a stunningly yellow display.
My personal favorite is Tecoma stans ‘Gold Star’ which reaches 3′-4′ and is treated like an annual in zone 9. It is considered a ‘Texas Superstar’ as well as being especially heat tolerant and pest resistant compared to other varieties. I personally do not like to use Gold Star Esperanza as you would a typical annual, and instead I will place these in full sun behind evergreen shrubs around 2′-3′ tall that are less significant from April through November when the Tecoma stans varieties are expected to flower. In several zone 9 applications, this plant can survive a winter if the base of the plant is protected. Although Esperanza can be used in Dallas, zones 7-8, it would be better suited for patio container use or as an annual accent for the tropical themed backyard.
Tecoma stans var. angustata is a more drought tolerant and cold tolerant variety that is native to the southern United States. Although you may read that this variety is shorter than others, I would disagree as it has been found to grow closer to 10′ in height.
Tecoma stans var. stans is a variety that commonly grows up to 25′ in height and is used as an ornamental tree.