Hen and Chicks

Plant Highlights

April

  • Aechmea recurvata v. benrathii

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    Santa Catarina, Brazil

    Growth Habit:

    This low-growing clumping bromeliad makes a great addition to a small area or rock garden. In habitat it grows on rocks near beaches.

    Growing Requirements:

    Most Aechmea grow easily in Santa Barbara and A. recurvata v. benrathii is no exception. It is not picky about soils and will grow epiphytically or in the ground. Water overhead once a week during dry periods. Hardy to 25°F.

    Leaf size and color is highly variable, depending on light levels. When grown in full sun, plants are very compact (4” high) with black-spotted bulbous leaf bases and purple tips. When grown in shade, the leaves become lanky and dark green, but the plant will still flower.

    Features:

    When individual plants in the clump are ready to flower the inner leaf sheaths flush bright pink and hold a sunken inflorescence of pink flowers maturing to lavender. Flowering plants in the cluster eventually die but produce abundant offsets.

    It was named and described by Carl Mez in 1919 as Aechmea benrathii in honor of Karl Benrath, a church historian from Königsberg, Germany, and later given varietal status in 1952. Aechmea comes from the Greek, aichme, meaning spear point, in reference to the pointy bracts and sepals of some species. The specific epithet, recurvata, refers to the backwards curving leaves.

    Where at Lotusland:

    Upper and Lower Bromeliad Gardens

  • Furcraea macdougallii

    MacDougall’s century plant

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    This Mexican Agave relative is native to Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Puebla where it grows in dry forests at elevations of 2,600 to 3,300 feet.

    Growth Habit:

    Mature F. macdougallii form a swollen trunk up to 15 feet tall topped with a rosette of thick dark green leaves reaching 7’ in length with curved marginal teeth. This species is monocarpic and will die after flowering. However, the dramatic 20’ inflorescence produces hundreds of bulbils (small plantlets) that can be easily propagated as clones of the parent plant.

    Growing Requirements:

    This species prefers full sun and has very low water needs.

    Features:

    F. macdougallii was first described by Eizi Matuda, a Japanese-born Mexican botanist who named this plant in honor of his friend Thomas MacDougall, a Scottish naturalist who studied southern Mexican flora for almost 50 years. MacDougall is credited with discovering this plant in the wild near Tehuantepec in Oaxaca.

    Where at Lotusland:

    At Lotusland there are three specimens of F. macdougallii near the intersection of the Succulent Garden and Blue Garden. These plants were donated to Lotusland from the International Succulent Introductions (ISI) 1965 distribution via the UC Santa Barbara Greenhouses and planted in 1995.

  • Encephalartos lehmannii

    Karoo cycad

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    This cycad hails from the Eastern Cape of South Africa where it grows on semi-arid sandstone slopes.

    Growth Habit:

    Mature plants can reach 4-6’ tall and form a clump with pleasing blue leaves with recurved tips.

    Growing Requirements:

    E. lehmannii can withstand dry conditions once established in the landscape, prefers full sun, and is frost tolerant (25-30°F).

    Features:

    The name honors Professor Johann Georg Christian Lehmann, a 19th century German botanist, who published several papers on cycads and described the genus Encephalartos.

    Where at Lotusland:

    Cycad Garden

  • Agave victoriae-reginae

    Queen Victoria agave

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    NE Mexico (Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León)

    Growth Habit:

    This geometrically pleasing agave grows in a tight rosette with distinctive white markings on its leaves. It is native to the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico where it grows in limestone between 4,000-5,000’ in elevation. After reaching a considerable age, this species will produce yellow to reddish-purple flowers on an impressive 15’ spike. It rarely offsets and dies after flowering so new plants must be propagated via seed or tissue culture.

    Growing Requirements:

    Full sun, well drained soil with little water.

    Features:

    Due to its small size and slow growth, this agave makes an excellent container plant, though keep it away from walkways since each leaf is tipped with one very sharp spine. The specific epithet honors Queen Victoria, ruler of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837-1901.

    Where at Lotusland:

    A planting of A. victoriae-reginae grows on the slope along the path to the Water Garden.

  • Dianella tasmanica

    Australian iris, flax lily

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    D. tasmanica is native to SE Australia including Tasmania.

    Growth Habit:

    A clumping perennial with strap-shaped leaves growing 3-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. It spreads rapidly by underground rhizomes.

    Growing Requirements:

    It will grow in sun to partial shade; it needs more shade in hot climates. It can be drought-tolerant but the foliage will look better with some additional water. Grows best in well-drained soil.

    Features:

    Clusters of small blue star-shaped flowers in spring are followed by bright blue berries which hang on their stems for over a month. There is a cultivar ‘Variegata’ that has white-striped leaves.

    Where at Lotusland:

    Flax lily is planted in many of the beds bordering the Visitor’s Center parking lot in the Australian Garden.

  • Leptospermum laevigatum

    Australian or coastal tea tree

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    Coastal dunes of southeastern Australia

    Growth Habit:

    Leptospermum laevigatum can be easily trained into different forms. If the lower growth is pruned away, it will develop into a small tree 30 feet tall by 20 feet wide. Young plants can be placed close together to make a hedge or windbreak. They can also be trained over a fence or arbor. There are a few cultivars including ‘Reevesii’, a compact form growing to only 5 ft. x 5 ft., and ‘Raelene’ which has variegated foliage.

    Growing Requirements:

    Australian tea tree does best in full sun to partial shade, and needs good drainage in a slightly acid soil or neutral soil. If planted in heavy clay soils it may become chlorotic or develop root rot. Once established it is a drought tolerant and salt tolerant plant. Cold hardiness is around 20 degrees.

    Features:

    The finely textured olive-green foliage is arranged on weeping branches. Small white flowers bloom in spring. The trunk has unusual shaggy, fibrous bark and older specimens develop twisting, gnarled branches which spread out along the ground. The commonly used tea tree oil is not derived from this species, but instead from Melaleuca alternifolia.

    Where at Lotusland:

    The Tea Tree Arbor at the Visitor’s  Center. There are also some specimens in the surrounding Australian Garden.

  • xGraptosedum 

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    Garden Origin

    Growth Habit:

    This succulent plant is a hybrid between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Sedum adolphi. It combines the gray-green rosettes of a Graptopetalum with the yellow flowers of Sedum.

    Growing Requirements:

    Full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil are needed. Plants are frost tender, but can be grown in pots and wintered indoors if kept dry.

    Where at Lotusland:

    This specimen is planted in an antique baptismal font on the Parterre.

  • Cymbidium lowianum var. concolor

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    Assam to China (S. Yunnan) and N. Indo-China

    Growth Habit:

    This orchid in the genus Cymbidium has long arching sprays of medium-sized flowers. The plant eventually forms large clumps and blooms for several months in spring.

    Growing Requirements:

    Partial shade and typical orchid bark as a substrate. Fertilize on a regular schedule with water soluble products developed just for orchids.

    Features:

    This variety lacks the distinctive red lip of the straight species and comes from the periphery of its native distribution.

    Where at Lotusland:

    This specimen is planted in the large cast iron whaling pot. This pot was used to boil down whale blubber for its valuable oil.

  • Clivia hybrids

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    Cultivated origin, but the several species from which they were hybridized are native to South Africa where they are known as the “flame of the forest.”

    Growth Habit:

    Clivia are perennials growing in clumps of dark green, glossy leaves are handsome year round. In spring, each clump produces a single flower stalk topped with a profusion of tubular flowers. The species are typically orange, but many forms from pink, salmon and now the rarest, yellow are available. There are even variegated selections.

    Growing Requirements:

    Full to partial shade and moderate water are needed. They can tolerate some dry periods in winter. Plants are frost tender.

    Where at Lotusland:

    There is a mass planting across from the Citrus Orchard and several clumps in the Fern and Tropical Gardens. The yellow flowered form is across the path from the drinking fountain in the Fern Garden.

  • Woodwardia radicans

    European chain fern

    Highlight Month:

    Nativity:

    Southern Europe

    Growth Habit:

    This fern has long, arching fronds. Where the tip of the frond touches the ground, it may form a new plant that roots into the ground.

    Growing Requirements:

    Chain fern needs moist soil, partial shade and can withstand mild frosts.

    Features:

    In this photo, the frond is just unfurling.

    Where at Lotusland:

    Throughout the Fern Garden and also in the Japanese Garden near the waterfall.

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