Ferns, flowering plants, freaks of nature; they may not eat insects but these plants are strange and beautiful enough in their own right!
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Companion Ferns -$6
Ferns are favored for their tropical looks, and often great ease of growth and tolerance to shady conditions. A wide variety of fern species have popped up over the years from various soils in the greenhouse and other places, and I have more than a few to offer. Most are variants of the maidenhair fern group, with delicate, highly branched fronds and can get quite large over time.
Epidendrum radicans -$10
An easy to grow, even weedy terrestrial to semi-epiphytic orchid in the right conditions; this plant develops clambering, branching stems that can grow 2-3 feet tall, with short solid leaves sprouting alternately up the stem. Long roots grow out the sides to anchor the plant on moist substrate, and once established each main branch will send up a tall stalk topped with potentially dozens of brilliant yellow and crimson red blooms, which give it the common name of "fire star orchid."
Available plants are rooted cuttings developing new growth points, between 4-6" in length.
Cynorkis fastigiata -$6
A perfect beginner's orchid with unusual flowers. Plants grow from underground tubers, producing a pair to three tapered green leaves up to almost a foot in length. From the center grows a tall, lanky stem that may hold up to a dozen or more blooms that look somewhat like a person wearing a hood, with two narrow bottom and two side lobes on the lower lip, and a pair of triangular projections on either side of the "hood" covering the reproductive organs. The whole bloom is washed in white to pale lavender and edged in deeper purple. In winter, the plants die back, resting in drier conditions as tubers.
Available plants are young seedlings with leaves up to 1.5" long.
Theobroma cacao 'Forastero' -$40
There are few trees more unusualand yet iconic than the one we get chocolate from. 'Forastero' is the most common genetic cluster in the species from which most chocolate is made. Trees can begin fruiting at under 10 feet tall, and be maintained pruned at 10-15 feet or can be allowed to grow to full size of 20-30 feet tall. They form huge, papery leaves and tiny white flowers along the trunks naturally pollinated by gnats, that then grow into pods up to a foot long filled with a citrus-fruity white pulp and the seeds that become cocoa.
This is a plant that expects warm temperatures and moderate humidity, year-round; it prefers semi-shade rather than direct sunlight, and will not tolerate temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit for any extended period.
Available plants are seedlings approx. 10 inches tall, with 6 inch leaves.
Inga edulis -$30
Referred to by the common name of "Ice cream bean," this is a tropical tree from the legume family (meaning it will fix nitrogen into the soil wherever it is planted). Adult trees can grow to more than 60 feet tall, though if heavily pruned can be maintained at 20 feet or less, and form branches covered in winged, multi-part glossy and fuzzy leaves. They are most famed for their fruits, bean pods up to 2 feet long (more commonly just over 1) filled with not only seeds that can be cooked and eaten but also a white fluffy pulp that surrounds them that is purported to taste like vanilla ice cream. This is a species that will tolerate light frosts briefly, but otherwise is tropical and expects warm, humid, and sunny conditions year round, best for a greenhouse.
Available plants are seedlings approx. 3-20 inches tall with 3-6 inch leaves.
Inga spectabilis -$50
This is a less common species than edulis, with similar growth habits (winged multi-part leaves on trees that can reach 60+ feet tall when mature), but the pods that carry edible pulp and seeds are different, being broader and curved with "sharper" edges, lending to it the nickname "Machete ice-cream bean." They can reach up to a foot long when mature, the pulp inside with a supposed vanilla ice cream flavor. Plants are mildly tolerant of light frost once established, but prefer constant warm, sunny conditions.
Available plants are seedlings approx. 15 inches tall, with 3-5 inch leaves.
Viola lanceolata -$5
A very easy to grow bog companion plant that is beautiful in vegetation and in bloom. Lance-leaved violets produce arrowhead-shaped leaves of various length depending on lighting conditiosn (brighter will produce shorter, stouter leaves) that are broadest near the base and narrow toward the tip, and particularly in early to late spring or in shady conditions produces small but beautiful white flowers decorated with violet veins at the base of the lower petals. Hot conditions will trigger cleistogamous flower production, buds that skip the bloom and go straight to seedpod production; seeds are catapulted from dried seedpods and help spread the plants rapidly, alongside runners that plants will use to colonize their pots with.
Available plants are typically 1/4" or so in rhizome length; the underground portions are very small in this species.
Citrus x microcarpa -$15
Known as the Calamansi or Calamondin, this hybrid citrus is a relatively dwarf plant growing 10-20 feet tall but can be kept pruned at much shorter sizes for container growth. Plants are somewhat spiny as most of their relatives are with thick waxy segmented leaves, and fragrant flowers that give way to small, greenish to orange fruits with thin, sweet rinds and very sour pulps. Great for use wherever citrus fruit might be called for, be it desserts, beverages, or seasonings and sauces.
Available plants are young seedlings, genetically unique, between 3-5 inches tall and wide. Can be shipped bare-root or potted.
Iris dichotoma "lavender form" -$9
A native of northeastern-central Asia, this iris is rather different from many other species in the genus, developing similar spikes of long spear-shaped leaves, but blooming in mid to late summer and producing branching stalks that bear numerous short-lived, heavily patterned blooms. This form develops lavender petals with darker mottled markings, and each flower will open in mid to late afternoon and last only into the night, but will be followed by other blooms along the stalk over consecutive several weeks. Prefers rich but well-drained, slightly acid soils.
Available plants are seedlings approx. 2-4 inches tall, in starter pots.
Denbrobium kingianum -$15
A large epiphytic orchid with thick fleshy stems that form folded ovular leaves near their tips and can last for years at a time each; older stems may produce new leaves each season or instead form plantlets on their ends early in the year. A dry, cool winter season may trigger bloom production, stalks rising from within the leaf rosettes to produce large pink and white blooms.
Available plants are young plantlets approx. 3 inches long with new roots.
Azorina vidalii -$15
The Azores Bellflower is a strange plant endemic to the islands of its name; critically endangered in the wild with a population estimated at under 1,000 plants across all the islands, it inhabits exposed cliff crevices and sharp slopes facing the sea and develops into a large rosette or branching shrub between 1-6 feet tall. Fleshy leaves support a spike covered in small pink bell-shaped blooms. These are easy to grow in a sunny, warm location without frost and well-drained soils.
Available plants are currently approx. 1.5-2.5" in diameter.
Agave lechuguilla -$15
A defining species of the Chihuahan Desert, the Lechuguilla is a slow-growing succulent that eventually develops 2 foot rosettes of folded, sharp-tipped leaves lined with spindly white fibers along their edges and a habit of all growing in one direction. These are dry-adapted and slow to respond, so will take many years to reach full size...and like their relatives, will only flower once in a grand spectacle at the end of their lives.
Available plants are young, still 1-1.5" across.
Citrus hystrix -$10
For those who want a citrus tree that they can utilize within months, and something that can be kept small and easily indoors container-grown, this is a good option. Kaffir Limes are essential to making Southeast Asian dishes such as Tom Yum, Rendang, and proper Pho, the leaves cooked to impart mild flavor, and the fruits can be used much like true limes and other citrus, rinds and all. Plants are thorny when mature and can grow to over 30 feet tall, or be trimmed to stay less than 6.
Available plants are young seedlings between 2-4 inches tall, and similar width.
Freesia laxa -$10
A mix of two lineages both from parents that produce white flowers with red spots, this South African bulb is not US winter hardy in most places, but can be kept indoors in winter. Leaves grow in 12 inch tall fans, flowers are borne on stalks just above them and number a dozen or two at a time. Best grown in moist but well-drained soils in nice sunny locations.
Available plants are 6-12 inches tall.
Dietes bicolor -$15
A tropical African iris relative found across the eastern half of the continent, forming rhizomes and clumps of leaves up to 2 feet tall with spikes of lily or iris-like flowers up to 4 feet that are primarily white to creamy, but with reddish brown to black highlights marking the sepals. They may go dormant in cooler conditions (hard frosts not appreciated).
Available plants are between 4-6 inches tall.
Aristolochia argentina -$14
One of the many species of infamous pipevine, this South American variety forms clumping vines covered in heart-shaped leaves, between which come a number of reddish or purple veined and yellow "pipe" shaped flowers whose narrow throats open up at the top in a yellow flag with maroon flushing within.
Available plants are between 2-4 inches tall.
Iris x norrisii -$10
A hybrid between I. domestica (sometimes called the Blackberry Lily) and I. dichotoma, this particular strain will produce the classic iris leaves (broad, sword-shaped and flat) on stems that develop over time up to 2 feet tall, above which stalks bearing a dozen plus short-lived bright orange and spotted flowers will be borne. Seeds are covered in a shiny black coating like its parents. Hardy to at least Zone 4.
Available plants are between 2-5 inches tall. DORMANT
Randia formosa -$20
Known as the Blackberry Jam plant, this tropical shrub grows to around 4 feet or so on average and develops dense banches of shiny, ovular green leaves. Mature plants will flower throughout the year in warm conditions, or seasonally otherwise, covering themselves in very large, white, star-shaped fragrant blooms that give way to grape-sized yellowish fruits filled with a seedy black pulp. Strain the pulp from the seeds and it is purported to taste like already cooked blackberry preserves.
Available plants are seedlings approx. 4-6 inches tall.
Callicarpa americana -$15
American Beautyberry; bushy, leafy green plant that can get to on average 3-5 feet tall and wide, and can take full sun or partial shade (being it is an understory plant). It is a US native species, at least to the eastern half, and is particularly famous for mature plants producing clusters of densely packed pink flowers that during fall and winter mature into brilliant porcelain-purple berries. They're edible too, though don't have much flavor (so they can add color to jams without altering flavor too much), but especially tend to bring in wildlife that rely on them during winter.
Available plants are currently between 3-6 inches tall, and once settled can grow at explosive rates. DORMANT
Iris giganticaerulea -$20
This iris species earns its name in all forms; hailing from the Louisiana Gulf coast, mature plants can reach nearly 6 feet tall and are topped with bright blue/lavender flowers with broad spreading falls and short stands. These tend to be roughly similar in cold-hardiness to Sarracenia (so protect them in colder climates) and also enjoy similarly acidic, moist conditions.
Available plants are seedlings between 4-9 inches tall. DORMANT
Iris lactea "Kazakhstan" -$20
A central-Asian locality of this widespread oriental species, plants grow to around 2 feet tall with light lavender-blue flowers composed of very slender arching stands and falls. This is a very cold-hardy species and likes it slightly on the drier side.
Available plants are seedlings currently between 4-7 inches tall. DORMANT
Kniphofia sp. -$10
Commonly known as Torch or Poker Lilies, these moderately cold-hardy (to zone 5) South African plants grow in a similar habit to irises or lilies, forming thick grass-like clumps of leaves up to about 2 feet tall, and once established can tolerate fairly dry conditions (though they do best in moderate moisture). Spikes up to almost 4 feet support a tall gradually maturing scape of buds that will mature from red to bright yellow or orange, creating an advancing color scheme up the stalk.
Available plants are seedlings currently between 6-12 inches tall. DORMANT
Aquilegia shockleyi -$15
One of several species referred to as Desert Columbine, this western Great Basin native forms clumps of greenish leaves and short stalks topped in rich red and yellow blooms. They grow in moiser microhabitats within mountainous or desert canyons and washes, so they like it wetter and shadier than the name suggests.
Available plants are seedlings currently approx. 3-6 inches in diameter. DORMANT
Amorphophallus konjac -$10
Returning to availability, this most classic of the corpse flowers is also one of the easiest species to grow, even tolerating moderate freezes in-ground. The plants can produce leaves between 3-6 feet tall and of similar width, bearing dark green petioles speckled in lime, and once tubers are mature (anywhere between 1-20 pounds and a foot plus in diameter) they can send up flower stalks between 2-6 feet tall, topped by a ruffled maroon spathe surrounding a similarly colored spadix and cream flowers near its base. And of course, famously "corpse flower" due to the powerfully rotten odor it gives off for the first few days after opening.
Available tubers range from around 1" ($4), 2" ($7) to almost 3" in diameter ($10)
Sauromatum venosum -$7
Another classically easy to grow plant with slender bright green petioles spotted in deep green or purple, topped by a spreading "hand" like set of leaflets that can reach almost 2 feet across, and up to 3 feet tall. Mature bulbs between 8-40 ounces will flower in early spring (even if left completely dry and out of the soil), with an up to 2 foot tall flower structure that opens up along most of its leangth to show off a red-speckled yellow interior and deep reddish brown spadix that gives off a pungent odor for a day or two.
Most available tubers are offsets around 1-1.5" in diameter.
Gonatopus boivinii -$5
Known as the "Giraffe's Knee," this odd aroid is a very easy grower (even considered weedy in some places) that will tolerate moist soil even when dormant. Leaves can reach over 3 feet tall with petioles banded in various shades of green, and sporting swollen nodules in the middle from whence the common name arose; the leaflets are rhombic and often knocked off quite easily, and when laid on soil rapidly root and form new plantlets. Flowers are produced on slightly shorter stalks, green spathes and cream colored spadices that give off a mildly sweet odor.
Available tubers are half-inch or so across, likely to produce leaves about 5-7 inches tall.
Chrysophyllum cainito -$35
The Star Apple is a tropical fruit tree that will need some space when it matures as adult plants can reach more than 60 feet tall (though pruning can keep it more manageable). mature plants after a few years produce tiny purple-white blooms that develop when pollinated into 2-3 inch, rounded deep purple fruits. When cut open, these fruits reveal a star-shaped pattern inside corresponding to the pockets where the seeds lay, hence the common name. The sweet fruits are often compared to apples (also hence the name) with hints of grape or other more tropical flavors.
One seed-grown plant currently about 12 inches tall available.
'Eureka' Pink Lemon F2 -$20
Grown from seeds produced by a variegated version of this cultivar, these plants aren't producing variegation themselves but appear to be fairly sturdy growers with deep green foliage (and thorns, like most citrus), and once they start maturing in a couple of years should be capable of producing tangy, mildly sweet yellow lemons with bright pink interiors; you can make pink lemonade without adding food coloring!
Available plants are between 5-7 inches tall.