Wednesday, September 28th, 2011...12:00 am

How TheGardenLady Identifies Plants


ForageSF by Jaymi Heimbuch

What does one do if one does not know the name of a plant that has no label or tag on it?

Two friends came to me this week with just such a request. I am pretty good at identifying plants that grow in my temperature zone 6 and try to recall the Latin name as well as the various common names of these plants. I also pride myself on being able to identify many of the native wild flowers or plants in my area. But there are so many flowering plants in the world, that it is impossible for any person to be able to name them all.

For a scientific account on the number of plants in the world, you can read this article. One of the sources I use says it lists 15,000 ornamental plants in the book. So though I know a number of tropical plants or plants that grow in different temperature growing zones, there are too many for me to really know. But when friends come to me and ask me to identify a plant, I am challenged. Then I am like a bulldog with a meat bone tenaciously trying to find the name of the plant in question.

tibouchina urvilleana by nestmaker

This week one plant that was fairly easy for me to identify was the Tibouchina urvillieana- Princess flower or glory bush because I had seen it before.  See here.  This gorgeous flower is a native of Brazil but is a noxious weed in Hawaii. In our temperature zone 6 it has to be taken in for the cold weather because frost will kill it. It will grow in zones 9-11 and perhaps zone 8. If grown indoors, grow Tibouchina in a soil-based potting mix in full light with shade from the hot sun. During the growing season water it freely and feed it a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly but water sparingly in the winter. If you grow it outdoors, grow it in moist fertile soil in the full sun.

VERBENACEAE 馬鞭草科 – Bleeding Heart Vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) 龍吐珠 by kaiyanwong223

The other plant I was asked to identify was much more of a challenge, because this GardenLady had never seen it before. I found it. It is a stunning flower called Clerodendrum thomsoniae that is native to West Africa. Its common names include glory-bower or bleeding- heart vine. This plant was popular in the 19th century but does not seem popular now. It likes to have its root system partially submerged in water when it is growing and it wants very good light. If grown indoors it needs shade from hot sun and good ventilation. It wants a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly in its growing period, but it wants little water in the winter. If grown outdoors it likes fertile, humus rich, moist but well drained soil in full sun.

How do I find the names of these plants? It is purely by the hard work of checking out all the plants from A to Z. One good source of photos of tropical and unusual plants is called Top Tropicals. I love this site for its photos.

Other good sources to look for plants are: “A-Z encyclopedia of Garden Plants” and “The Color Dictionary of Flowers and Plants for Home and Garden” by Roy Hay and Patrick M. Synge.

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