Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday morning Nina picture

Supply your own caption:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Errata, Taxonomy

This is a minor, housekeeping-related post, to which you do not need to pay any attention if you don't want to.

The following changes have been made to PATSP posts recently:

  • The blogger Aerelonian's name was spelled as Aerolonian in previous references; this is now spelled correctly.
  • The plant previously identified as Aloe 'Dapple Green' is presently thought to be Aloe 'Dorian Black;' names have been changed to reflect this. (UPDATE: Name subsequently changed to 'Doran Black')
  • Due to a plant tag which used a font where lowercase "G" and "Q" looked the same, I have been thinking that Asplenium antiquum was Asplenium antiguum for a really long time. References to the plant are now spelled correctly.
  • I was misspelling Bougainvillea as "Bouganvillea;" posts have been updated with the correct spelling.
  • Previous mentions of Cissus voineriana have been updated, and spelling corrected, and now give the plant's name as Tetrastigma voinierianum.
  • The Dracaena deremensis variety for which I had no name and was calling "Warneckei Compacta" is now thought to be, probably, 'Jade Jewel;' posts have been edited to reflect this new belief but may change again at some point.
  • There were also a couple references to Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii,' which have been changed to 'Warneckei,' though one does see both fairly often, and I'm not necessarily positive that the -ei ending is correct.
  • The plant I was calling Kalanchoe daigremontiana is probably more correctly Bryophyllum daigremontianum; although I find this personally distasteful for some reason, I went ahead and changed that too.
  • Ludisia discolor was renamed as Haemaria discolor, which appeared to be the current "correct" name. And then it was changed back, when Andrew told me that no, it wasn't the correct name. So that whole thing was all a big waste of time.
  • Peperomia pereskiifolia was previously identified as Peperomia verticillata, which was wrong. (I always thought the pictures didn't look quite right. . . .) This is now fixed.
  • Philodendron 'Imperial Red' was previously misidentified as P. 'Black Cardinal.' This has been corrected.
  • Earlier posts had Scaevola misspelled as Scaveola, and have been corrected.
  • The Solenostemon scutellarioides variety 'Dappled Apple' was called 'Dapple Green' in the Solenostemon scutellarioides profile, because I glitched and confused it with the Aloe cultivar 'Dapple Green,' see above, which the name 'Dapple Green' wasn't right for the Aloe either and basically this means that any time I call something 'Dapple Green,' you should not believe me.
  • Yucca elephantipes has been corrected to Yucca guatemalensis, which is currently the correct name. As far as I know.
  • References to Zygocactus have been replaced with Schlumbergera.
Spelling errors in photo filenames cannot be corrected without deleting the photo, changing the file's name in my computer, and then re-uploading the photo to the computer. Which, frankly, is too much work for something nobody is going to notice anyway. So I didn't do that. Also, link names, once established by Blogger, cannot be altered without deleting the post and then re-posting it, which would lose me all the comments on the pages in question and would make a hash of any links to that page, so those will still be wrong also.

Changes NOT made to PATSP posts recently:
  • I did NOT change references to Dracaena deremensis to Dracaena fragrans, even though I'm occasionally seeing people saying stuff like "Dracaena fragrans Deremensis Group," and this makes me think that maybe I ought to. But they still look like different species to me. So I'm not ready to go there yet.
  • I also did NOT change Dizygotheca elegantissima to the more correct Schefflera elegantissima, though I'm at least trying to include both names when I post about the plant. I am not ready to give up "Dizygotheca."
  • Ivynettle says Dracaena marginata is D. reflexa var. angustifolia, which strikes me as being just crazy talk.
  • Plants in the genus Fittonia may or may not be given the correct species names; I see F. verschaffeltii, F. argyroneura, F. albivenis, and maybe one or two other names being thrown around with wild abandon and am completely unable to make sense of any of them. If I figure it out at some point, I'll let you know. UPDATE: Since writing this, I have become more or less convinced that Fittonia albivenis is the correct name for cultivated varieties of Fittonia.
  • Pilea 'Moon Valley' is sometimes presented as a cultivar of P. involucrata or P. mollis. I have no good guess on its ancestry, and decline to take a side, so I'm just calling it P. 'Moon Valley' for now.
  • When it comes to the Aloe vera / Aloe barbadensis fight, I am firmly in the barbadensis camp, though that doesn't mean I'm convinced I'm right, or even that I'm convinced that they're not separate species (haven't really investigated yet). Mostly it means that I like saying "barbadensis." UPDATE: Sadly, I guessed wrong, and A. vera is correct.
  • I am so far resisting the pressure to change Solenostemon scutellarioides to Plectranthus scutellarioides, mostly because, as with Dracaena deremensis / D. fragrans, it just doesn't look like a Plectranthus to me.

Random plant event: Indecisive Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckei'

Hey, here's something you don't see every day. This plant was sitting with a bunch of Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckei' plants at the greenhouse where I used to work, and something seemed a little off about it. When I checked it out more carefully, I saw that it was in the process of trying to become a Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime.'

I don't know how obvious this will be on your monitor, but if you look carefully, or open the picture in a separate window, you can see that the plant's lowest leaves look like 'Warneckei' (gray-green center, white margin), then there's a stretch where they look like 'Lemon-Lime' instead (gray-green center, chartreuse margin), then back to 'Warneckei,' then back to 'Lemon-Lime' again for the newest leaves. Plus there are a few leaves here and there which are both white and chartreuse, at different points along the margin.

I almost included this in the last Walkaways post, because it was very, very close: I actually brought it up to the counter and was going to buy it, and then at the last minute I was like no, wait, I don't want this, I have enough Dracaenas already, and this one isn't even pretty. So I put it back. But it was still strange enough to warrant its own post.

Incidentally, something very much like this must have happened long ago, when the variety 'Lemon-Lime' first appeared: I'm told it originated as a sport of 'Warneckei.'

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pretty picture: Dendrobium 'Karen' flowers

This actually happened a while ago (I think on the 4th or 5th of February), but I've been unusually capable of writing posts in advance lately (much more so than normal; I'm not sure why), so I had other, older, stuff to show first.

'Karen' flowered for me once before, too, and actually seemed happier about it then: it produced two buds that time, as compared to one bud this time. (It had a second one, but dropped it before it developed very far.) I know it's capable of quite a lot more than one flower at a time, but oh well. We get what we get.

I want to note here that 'Karen' is the only orchid, of any genus or variety, that has bloomed for me at home even once, much less two times. I don't like 'Karen's flower as much as some of my other orchids' flowers (If I were going to get a Dendrobium bloom, I'd much rather it be the "Humphrey Bogart" variety.), but at least 'Karen' gives me some flowers. One flower. So I suppose it has to be my favorite.

I hadn't noticed the yellow in the sepals previously. It's subtle, but nice.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

List: Houseplants Which Produce Pleasantly-Scented Flowers

I have to specify pleasantly-scented, because there are a fair number of unpleasant flowers out there, too (e.g. Gynura aurantiaca, Crassula muscosa). There are also potential lists to be written about plants with pleasantly- (or unpleasantly-) scented foliage, and maybe I'll get to that someday.

Instead of recommending for or against three at the end of the list, like I've been doing with most of the lists so far, I'm giving brief comments about each (ease of care, quality of smell). Suggestions for plants to add to the list, or differing opinions about difficulty, smell quality, etc. are welcome.

Cyclamen persicum (florist's cyclamen), at least some cvv.; possibly not all of them. SMELL: light, powdery, sort of pleasant but nondescript. EASE OF CARE: varies considerably depending on the person. Reblooming is said to be somewhat difficult. PATSP difficulty level 7.1.

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana.' (corn plant; mass cane, massangeana) SMELL: overpowering, floral-perfumey. Plants generally have to be quite old before they will flower. EASE OF CARE: Easy as long as you don't overwater. PATSP difficulty level 2.6.

Eucharis grandiflora (amazon lily). SMELL: faint, sweet/floral. Flowers are fairly short-lived and appear in January; I haven't yet figured out the trick to blooming this plant indoors. EASE OF CARE: moderate to difficult. PATSP difficulty level 4.9.

Exacum affine (Persian violet). SMELL: light, delicate, floral, really pleasant. Extremely difficult to rebloom. EASE OF CARE: a lot of people don't even try to rebloom them. PATSP difficulty level: insufficient data for a number, but it's hard.

Gardenia jasminoides (gardenia). SMELL: just about perfect, delicious, sweet. Reblooming can be triggered by cool night temperatures. EASE OF CARE: For the love of god do not get a Gardenia unless you can grow it outdoors year-round. PATSP difficulty level 9.5.

Hoya lacunosa (shown), and most/all Hoya spp. SMELL: varies by species; Hoya lacunosa smells like a flower cooler full of roses and carnations. EASE OF CARE: about average for houseplants. Flowering requires a lot of light. PATSP difficulty level 3.3. Highly recommended.

Murraya paniculata (orange jasmine). SMELL: a lot like orange blossoms. Kind of heavy, musky. EASE OF CARE: slightly difficult. Flowers are not difficult to produce if the plant is otherwise reasonably happy: lots of light, water and fertilizer appear to be critical. PATSP difficulty level 4.8 but highly recommended anyway; a personal favorite.

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Moonglow' (shown), and other Sansevieria trifasciata cvv. (snake plant, mother-in-law tongue) Probably also most/all Sansevieria spp. SMELL: S. trifasciata smells like a funeral. I don't know how else to describe it. It's not unpleasant, but it somehow also smells mournful. Flowers don't appear with any particular consistency, but (in my experience) tend to happen in winter and summer when they happen, and plants won't bloom without strong light. EASE OF CARE: I have trouble with them during winter (either too much water or too little), but otherwise they're not bad. PATSP difficulty level 2.0.

Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls, string of beads). SMELL: almost precisely like Big Red (cinnamon) gum. There is a trick to making flowers happen, but I'm not sure what it is. EASE OF CARE: You've probably grown worse. PATSP difficulty level 2.7.

Spathiphyllum sp. (peace lily) (Not all varieties: only a few like 'Sweet Pablo' and 'Sweet Chico.') SMELL: powdery, light, faint, clean. Getting plants to flower is pretty easy: reluctant plants will usually start blooming if you boost the light level or add fertilizer. EASE OF CARE: watering can be tricky, but otherwise they're very accomodating. PATSP difficulty level 2.5.

Not pictured (NOTE: I did not try to verify odors, track down common or alternate names, or confirm indoor growability on the orchids, and there are a lot of orchids in the list -- thanks Andrew):
Aerangis cvv./spp. (most)
Aeranthes cvv./spp. (a few)
Aerides cvv./spp.
Ancistrochilum rothschildianum
Angraecum cvv./spp.
Barkeria spectabilis
allegedly Beallara Peggy Ruth Carpenter, though I have seen this one before and don't remember it having a scent
Bifrenaria harrisoniae
Brassolaeliocattleya cvv. (most/all)
Brassovola Little Stars, and most/all other Brassavolas
Brassia cvv./spp.
Brassidium cvv.
Brugmansia cvv. (angel's trumpet)
A few Bulbophyllum cvv./spp., particularly B. ambrosia (most others do not smell good)
Callisia fragrans (basket plant)
Catasetum cvv./spp. (some)
Cattleya cvv./spp. (most/all)
Caularthron bicoroutum
Cestrum nocturnum (night-blooming jasmine)
Cischweinfia sheehanae
Citrus/Fortunella spp. (orange/lemon/lime/kumquat)
Clowesia cvv./spp.
Cochleanthes cvv.
Coffea arabica (coffee tree, coffee plant)
Coelogyne cvv./spp.
Cymbidium cvv./spp., though I haven't noticed this personally
Datura cvv. (devil's trumpet)
some Dendrobium cvv.
Dendrochilum cvv./spp.
Diplocaulobium arachnoideum
Dracaena surculosa (gold dust dracaena, D. godseffiana) (Smell is not universally thought pleasant)
Duranta erecta, some cvv. (golden dew drop, sky flower, pigeon berry) Uncommon as houseplant.
Encyclia cvv./spp.
Epiphyllum cvv. (most cvv.?) (orchid cactus, night-blooming cereus)
Euphorbia drupifera (giraffe tree) Scent is faint and extremely hard to pin down, see post.
Eurychone rothschildiana
Gomesa crispa
Gongora spp.
Grammangis stapeliflora
Haraella odorata
Hyacinthus orientalis (hyacinth) (Not really a houseplant in any long-term sense, but forced bulbs are common enough that it kind of counts.)
Hylocereus spp. (pitaya, dragon fruit cactus, night-blooming cereus) (Scent is supposed to be faint.)
Iwanagara (Collierara) Apple Blossom
Jasminum sambac cvv. (jasmine)
Laeliocattleya cvv. (most/all)
Lycaste aromatica
Maxillaria cvv.
some Miltonia cvv.
Miltonidium Red Tide (but not Miltonidium Pupukea Sunset, which is said to smell like soap + hot garbage)
Miltoniopsis cvv. (some? all?)
Narcissus 'Ziva' (paperwhite narcissus) (I hate the smell, personally, but some people like it.)
Neofinetia falcata
Neostylis Lou Sneary
Oncidium Sharry Baby (see post) and lots of other Oncidium cvv./spp.
Osmanthus fragrans (sweet olive)
Pandanus utilis, other Pandanus spp. (screw pine) Plants have to be somewhat old and very large before they'll flower; some Pandanus spp. apparently don't flower.
Peristeria pendula
some Phalaenopsis cvv., particularly those derived from crosses of P. bellina, P. schilleriana, & P. violacea
Plumeria cvv., some cvv. (frangipani)
Rhynchovanda Colmarie 'Merlot'
Sedirea japonica
Senecio macroglossus (turtle ivy, cape ivy) Allegedly has a smell, though not in my personal experience.
Smitinandia micrantha
Sobralia decora 'Santa Barbara'
Stanhopea cvv.
Stapelia spp. (carrion flower) A few species are said to smell nice. (Most do not. You were warned.)
Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine)
Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine)
Trichoglottis philippinensis
Some Vandas
Wilsonara 'Snowshell'
Zygoneria cvv., at least some cvv.
Zygopetalum cvv. (most)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Walkaways Part 7

I would just like to point out, for the record, that I'm really not-buying an awful lot of plants lately. I mean, considering the number of opportunities, I'm being very good.

(Possibly so good that I deserve a new plant, actually. Hmmmm. . . .)

First up, a bizarre Dracaena sanderiana.

It doesn't photograph well (the leaves are too narrow for the camera to focus on successfully), but that's the best I could do, sorry. I don't see anything attractive about this plant at all, and am kind of baffled that they're being sold. It's like somebody took the only even barely attractive thing about the species, the variegated leaves, and stretched them out until the variegation almost disappeared. I don't get it.

If they must be sold, surely we could at least pot seven or eight stems together in a single pot? One stem by itself just seems sad, guys.

Asiatica sells a variety which is either very similar to this, or which is precisely this, called Dracaena sanderiana 'Whiskers.'

The second one I might go back for at some point; I suspect it's a Huernia (maybe H. distincta?) but I'm not positive, so this is also a Question For The Hive Mind: can anybody identify this for sure as a Huernia, or, failing that, suggest another possibility? I'll go back and get it if it's a Huernia.

Finally, Syngonium podophyllum 'Pink Margarita.' I'm not a huge fan of Syngonium podophyllum. I want to like it, but Syngoniums either do badly for me, falling apart shortly after I get them and looking like crap within six months of purchase, or they do really well for me, growing like crazy and beginning to vine, which makes them look like crap within about six months of purchase.

But I'll admit: 'Pink Margarita' is kind of cool. I was tempted. If I thought it'd still look anything like this in August, I'd have been at least halfway to making a purchase.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Random nonplant event: Mushroom

I was bopping around the house the other day, like I do, and happened to catch a glimpse of this guy peeking through the thicket of Hatiora salicornioides cuttings. I think it photographed awfully well, considering.

Mushrooms will occasionally appear in potted plants. It can be really alarming, if you're relatively new to houseplants: they're pretty big, they pop up really fast, and they're not something you expect to see. Sometimes there's a weird color, too. (Around the time of the flood, we started having a weird variety of mushroom pop up in pots around the greenhouse: they were fairly normal-shaped, but they were also brilliant, fluorescent yellow. Yellow the way a yellow highlighter is yellow. They were freaky. For some reason, also probably related to the flood, I didn't manage to get a picture of them.)

So the question of whether mushrooms are bad for potted plants gets asked fairly regularly at Garden Web, and something I occasionally was asked at the garden center too.

The answer is: kinda.

Most of the time, a mushroom's primary interest is going to be in the pieces of bark your plant is growing in, and not the plant itself. A fair number of fungi will attack houseplants, but the ones that do are rarely large, mushroom-shaped things. They're usually more powdery, like mildew or soot. The one exception I can think of, from my experience anyway, was this stuff, which I found growing directly on a Spathiphyllum petiole once:

But most of the time, your mushroom isn't going to threaten the plant directly. However. Finding mushrooms is kind of like having fungus gnats, in that it's indicative of overwatering, or a bad potting mix. Sometimes both. The solution in both cases is basically the same: either repot the plant into a mix that will drain faster and dry out faster, or water less often, or both. Because both fungus gnats and mushrooms require a fairly steady source of moisture in order to function, letting your plants dry out between thorough waterings (which is what most of them would prefer anyway) will usually take care of the problem within a few weeks.

In the meantime, go ahead and pull the mushrooms out of the pot and throw them away. They'll eventually stop coming up.

I forget what plant these were in, but this is a nice little collection of birds'-nest fungi growing out of the drainage hole of something or another. They came off the truck like that, if I remember correctly, and didn't last in the greenhouse for very long at all.

I have occasionally bought bags of potting mix that must have had mushroom spores in them. You'll know this has happened if everything you repot for a while sprouts the same kind of mushroom. (I think the aforementioned "highlighter" mushrooms came from a few bags of the Ball mix we used at work.)

I don't think the mushroom in the Hatiora cuttings was from the soil I was using; I think it was my fault. The Hatioras are in a flat with some of the Salvia elegans (pineapple sage) cuttings I'm growing, and the Salvia need to be watered about every three days, so sometimes the Hatioras get water when they don't need it. I doubt it'll make any difference in the long run.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Crush (Salvia elegans)

It's a strange thing to say, but: I kind of have a crush on Salvia elegans.

Like most crushes, it was never supposed to happen like this. I shouldn't even own one of these. I don't grow any herbs otherwise,1 nobody considers this a "houseplant," it was only ever supposed to be a temporary outdoor thing (something to have outdoors for the hummingbirds and/or butterflies to get excited about), and I'm not terribly fond of most of the other Salvias I've met so why should this be any different.2

But you know how it is. A look here, an accidental brush of the hands there, and suddenly you're head over heels.3

My plant never managed to attract much in the way of hummingbirds or butterflies. By the time it bloomed, in September and October, the weather had already turned way too cold for either one (and we'd not had much in the way of butterflies all summer, because it was unusually cool and wet). So that much was disappointing. But even so. When I bought the plant, it was maybe four or five inches tall, and after a repotting and a summer outside, it had shot up to something like four feet. I appreciate quick growth, the flowers were pretty on their own even if the wildlife didn't seem to notice, and the few times I'd stopped to smell the foliage, I liked it very much. Plus it seemed a shame to waste a whole summer's worth of growth and then just let the plant die.

A very bad picture of the parent plant, which has now been cut back a number of times and plundered for cuttings and so forth. Kind of a shadow of its former self, really. But I figured I needed to include at least one picture of the parent, for size comparison if nothing else. The scruffy-looking long-leafed plant at the bottom is one of the two Gazanias that have survived so far; this was a group planting to begin with. Probably not doing that again, though it worked out pretty well for the summer.

So in it came. Adjustment to the house took a little while (I wasn't keeping it as wet as it preferred, to begin with), but it's settled in okay, and is actually making do with surprisingly little light. So naturally my thoughts turned to propagation.

And propagation is actually the point where everything changed for me, because not only did it propagate very easily (I now have 43 48 of them), but it turned out that the most convenient place to put the new cuttings was right next to the door in my office. Which means that every time I go in or out of the room, I have the opportunity to run my hands across the top of the cuttings and take in the aroma. And, you know, you do this enough times, it'll eventually grow on you.

About 2/3 of the current cuttings collection.

The common name for Salvia elegans is "pineapple sage." This is really the only thing it could be called, since it's a sage (Salvia) that smells like pineapple. I'm not sure if the plants are changing, or if I am, but as the cuttings have aged, they seem to be smelling a little less like pineapple and a little more like Juicy Fruit gum (seriously), often with a note of garden sage underneath (which is kind of a weird combination), but it's still pleasant.4

The cuttings, unfortunately, have grown really fast, and had to be moved out of the office last Wednesday, which is kind of a bummer. But, looked at the right way, maybe this is just an opportunity to make even more of them. I had vague plans at one time to rip up the lawn in the back yard and replace it with pineapple sage:5 maybe moving the cuttings out and starting a bunch of new ones would be a step toward that goal.


I don't know how well it would really do as a long-term indoor plant. Possibly, like with coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), it's better off if you minimize the amount of time it's indoors. But here's how I've been taking care of mine:

LIGHT: I have the cuttings under fairly intense artificial light, which they seem to like, but the parent plant is under considerably less artificial light (off to the side of one of the shelves: there's some light from above, but most of it is blocked by the plants that are actually on the shelves) and also seems to be fine. And then there are still-rooting cuttings in the south-facing kitchen window, which seem, again: fine. So I'm thinking this should be flexible enough for most people's homes, but the more the better. Outdoors, they're supposed to be able to take full sun, though a couple people on-line have said that they planted theirs in full sun and it immediately burned up and died. This might be because they failed to water in a timely fashion, because their soil sucked, or because they were starting with a bad plant. Couldn't say. I had mine on the west side of the house, and it seemed perfectly happy there.

I really like the full-size version of this photo.

WATERING: A truly astounding number of websites say that pineapple sage is drought-resistant. I suppose this is true to a degree, in that it won't necessarily die if it gets dried out, but it may defoliate if it's too dry, and I have to water the cuttings about every three days, which is highly unusual.6 When I had the plant outdoors, it was considerably more often than that -- and it wasn't even a particularly hot or sunny summer, by Iowa standards. Water thoroughly, water often. The leaves will begin to curl up when the plant is dry, showing the slightly silvery underside; water as soon as you see this happen and you'll be fine.

HUMIDITY: Doesn't seem to be a particularly big issue, except insofar as really dry air will cause the soil to dry out that much faster. I caution the reader, though, that I haven't really had any experience growing this plant indoors in dry air, so it's possible that this is still an issue.

TEMPERATURE: Anything down to freezing (32F/0C), apparently. Outdoors, they're supposed to be hardy from zone 8 to 11, but if you mulch heavily, plant in a sheltered spot near a building or something, etc., you might be able to push that up to zone 7. Crazier things have happened.

PROPAGATION: These are pretty easy from cuttings, at least for me. I've only had trouble in the beginning, when I was taking cuttings from the darker-colored, woody stems. That doesn't work. Or, well, I shouldn't say it never works; I don't know whether that's true. But the ones that have done best for me are those from relatively new shoots, where the stems were still green. I take a piece maybe three inches (7.6 cm) long, remove the bottom pair or two of leaves,7 stick it in water, and then pot it in soil when roots have appeared.

Other people do it differently: Frances at Faire Garden, for example, starts her cuttings directly in soil, and uses rooting hormone, and covers the cuttings with a plastic dome while they root to keep in humidity: this appears to work also. I like my way better,8 but the point is, these are pretty easy to do from cuttings, and most roads lead to rooting. If you are here because you've had trouble getting cuttings to take in the past, I'm really not sure what advice to give you beyond this.

PESTS: I haven't experienced any yet, personally, nor do I remember any of the work plants ever having any pest problems. Googling turned up a couple people who had problems with them outdoors (one that looked like possibly a fungus, and one that said small white bugs were hollowing out the stems), but it appears to be fairly pest-resistant under most circumstances.

GROOMING: They do drop quite a lot of leaves as they grow, especially if they get too dry between waterings. On the plus side, picking off dead leaves is a great excuse get your face up close and huff the pineapple smell a bit. So it's not much of a hardship.

Plants look best if they're pinched fairly often, at least to begin with; this will give you a nice, bushy, full plant.

Flowers don't appear until nights get pretty long: like I said, mine didn't start blooming until September or October, and it was blooming most heavily after it was already too cold for it to be outside. The variety 'Honey Melon' is said to bloom earlier; I don't know how easy it is to find, though.

FEEDING: They are heavy, heavy feeders, has been my experience. I've been using the Osmocote 14-14-14 stuff, for the sake of convenience, though it seems likely that something higher in nitrogen (like a 24-8-16) would be more appropriate. Some of my plants have gone chlorotic (green veins, yellow between the veins) from lack of nitrogen,9 but they turn around relatively fast, once you feed them again.

Salvia elegans has a few cultivars, though I think I personally have only encountered the species. lists 'Honey Melon,' a smaller, earlier-blooming variety, and 'Tangerine,' which is said to have a more orangey, citrus smell to the leaves. The one I hear the most about is 'Golden Delicious,' which has chartreuse leaves instead of the usual green, and which can be seen en masse and in full bloom, in the below photo (UPDATE: Frances tells me in comments that this is a single plant, not a mass planting.):

Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious.' Photo by Frances at Faire Garden. Used by permission.

Where hardy, Salvia elegans can get very, very tall. As with most claims of plant height, there's no solid consensus on what the maximum might be, but I saw claims of 6 and 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters), and virtually everybody agrees that it can hit at least 4 feet (1.2 meters). Or, well -- hell, I've seen it hit four feet with my own eyes, so I don't want to hear any arguing about that. Indoors, I'm honestly not sure what you can expect from one -- nobody seems to grow them indoors year-round. My cuttings, though, have gone from being about 2 inches tall when I started them (November and December) to about six inches tall now, in February, so I would be surprised if similar heights couldn't be achieved indoors, especially under lights.

Oh! I can't believe I've written this much without mentioning -- Salvia elegans is totally edible, also. I found recipes for chicken, smoothies, salsa, bread, and pound cake (link to first four) (link to cake). You can add leaves to lemonade, jellies, kebabs, soup, fruit salad, regular salad, dark chocolate, with vanilla ice cream, in iced tea, or as a tea by itself10 -- basically in or with anything you can eat. I haven't tried cooking with it myself, mostly because I am not much of a cook, but perhaps someday. Eating a single leaf by itself, just to try, didn't do a lot to impress me -- it mostly tasted like, you know, leaf -- but the pineapple and sage odors were there, and lingered in the mouth after I swallowed, which was nice. So, you know. It's a thing to experiment with.

I like this picture, too. One of the cuttings in the middle of the flat bloomed not too long ago, and this is how that looked from within the cuttings forest.

Be sure, though, if you do try it, that you use a plant you can trust not to have been sprayed with pesticides. Not that there's likely to be that much pesticide residue on a handful of leaves anyway, but there's no sense in going out of your way to eat pesticide.

Wikipedia includes the information that pineapple sage tea is used in traditional folk medicine in Mexico and Guatemala (where the plant is from; it's apparently known as "mirto" in its native range) for treatment of depression and anxiety. I think you should take this with a lot of salt, both because it's Wikipedia and because it's folk medicine, but I can kind of see it, and there's at least a scientific paper cited, which is better than most questionable Wikipedia claims get. I do genuinely enjoy smelling the leaves, and get a bit of a lift from doing so,11 and it does make a certain amount of logical/emotional sense to me that it'd be hard to be anxious while you're smelling pineapple sage. Another website lists it as a sort of all-around digestive tonic, which is vague enough as to be basically meaningless, but I suppose this at least means that the plant's not likely to make stomach problems any worse. The anxiety claim seems more plausible to me. I don't know. Maybe I should leave medicinal uses as a homework exercise for the reader.

One spray of flowers from the parent plant. I don't remember why I didn't get a picture of the whole plant while it was in bloom, but I'm sure I must have had a really good reason.

I am, alas, not the only person out there with a crush on this plant: virtually everywhere I went on the internet, people raved about it. The only negative comments had to do with it as a perennial: sometimes people can overwinter it, sometimes they can't. Even when you can, apparently it won't necessarily come back reliably year after year. But everybody just thinks the flowers are wonderful, and the fragrance, and swears that they attract hummingbirds and butterflies like crazy, and honestly I don't think I've ever seen commenters so unanimously smitten with a plant. Garden Webbers either, actually.

Perhaps it's the anxiety-reducing effects. Maybe they're in love.

Of course, love is also widely-acknowledged to have anxiety-reducing effects. So.


Photo credits: Mine except where otherwise credited.

1 We tried basil (Ocimum basilicum) once. Didn't work out well. Also I guess technically Plectranthus amboinicus (Cuban oregano), which I also have, probably counts as an herb. But I don't grow rosemary, or thyme, or sage, or any of the other usual potted herbs. Nor, I have to admit, am I especially interested in doing so.
2 Not that I hate Salvias, but I definitely like some better than others. Which ones I like, and which ones I don't, mostly depends on their behavior when I worked with them in the garden center, and has little to do with their actual merits or defects. In some cases, I barely ever even got to see them bloom. So I'm not a fair judge of Salvias, but I'm still not nuts about the genus.
3 This expression has been troubling me for a while now. Isn't one's head normally above one's heels? And if so, why do people say this? I mean, if you're looking for a head-and-heels related metaphor for being suddenly and intensely in love, it seems like you'd go with a configuration of body parts that's unusual and unexpected, like being in love itself, not something that describes most people in most circumstances.
4 One of the commenters noted that the pineapple smell seems most pronounced in the younger leaves; this may explain the difference.
5 Imagine what it would be like to MOW! I'm not serious that replacing the whole lawn was ever the idea, but I do think I'm going to try to plant a solid section of it in pineapple sage at some point. Just 'cause.
6 I grow almost nothing that needs water that often, because with this many plants, I'm doing good to get around to checking a plant for water once every twelve days or so. I'm willing to make an exception in this case because I like the plant so well, and also because my plants are mostly in flats, so I can water 32 plants at once in the downstairs shower and not have to waste a lot of time on the process.
7 Roots on Salvia elegans will only grow from nodes (the places where leaves attach). See picture:

So you do have to have at least one leafless node under water for this to work.
8 Duh: if I liked Frances's way better, then Frances's way would also be my way, and I'd have had no need to mention Frances.
9 Or at least I think it was nitrogen, since adding more of the 14-14-14 made it stop. Chlorosis can sometimes happen due to other mineral deficiencies, like nitrogen or iron, among plants in general, and I'm not sure how you tell them apart. But with this particular plant, in this particular instance, I think the problem was nitrogen.
10 A tip from a Garden Web forum thread about uses for pineapple sage: making a tea of pineapple sage and pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens) combined is significantly better than tea from either one by itself. Something about Salvia has aroma but not much flavor, and Mentha has flavor but not a lot of aroma.
11 An extremely short-lived lift, it should be noted. But hey, sometimes that's all you need.