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Growing a lions tail

April 19, 2013
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

There really is a lions tail shrub available for your garden, yard or even in your container. Lions tail, Leonotis ocymifolia, is a woody, perennial shrub that will liven up the background of a planting area, or stand alone as it matures up to 5 feet tall and almost as wide.

Leonotis ocymifolia is the same as the well known Leonotus leonuris. Same growth habits with confusing names. There is a dwarf, Leonotis menthiflora, which would probably be the best bet for a container as it stays around 3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide. This shrub is a nice shade of green and the bright orange flowers top off its slender stems.

This South African shrub is so named because these tufts of bloom resemble the tip of a lion's tail. Bees and butterflies love it and it is easy care and drought tolerant, once it is settled in. It only needs some good balanced fertilizer in the spring. This is a full shrub, which will tolerate a quick cold drop in temperatures.

A real freeze will bring it down but it should come back easily. You can always cover it up if in doubt.

Lions tail blooms off and on all year. The best time to prune is after a stem of blooms have turned an orangey brown. Then cut back that stem to crown of plant or a little less. When you trim, you will see seeds in the tiny bloom cups so turn them upside down and shake out the seeds. Just plant them directly in the soil - moist soil and in the sun and several feet away from the original plant. This plant does not like to be crowded and it looks its best when not crowded.

Its bright blooms do well in floral designs, but it is a strong color accent so will not need more than a stem or two.

When cutting this shrub and handling seeds, wear gloves. Nothing is poisonous, however, skin may be irritated and the stems have sharp edges.

I have never noticed this plant in any plant nurseries but will definitely be looking to find it.

It came to my attention last Saturday when I was at Terry Park, in Fort Myers, at the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange sale. It was one of those hot and humid days that are starting to creep into our area more and more.

I knew that it would be cooler over at the Extension Gardens so stopped there as I was leaving. They had some beautiful golden rod plants also a tall and striking plant. While I usually think of bright yellows and oranges as fall flowers, these fit in well with all the other colors of blue porter weed, the blue pmbago, and a sparse showing of a large red sprawling rose bush.

I was interested in the many verities of the lovely plumeria trees they grow. There are the Plumeria Obuosa, with its very scaly bark, the Plumeria Obtusa, verity Scricifolia, which seemed to have the most leaves already this spring. The Plumeria Stenopetala, a real eye catcher. A very sprawling tree which looked like someone had sat right in the middle of it making it look like a giant spider with several spidery white blooms. Not sure if that is Mother Nature's work or a wayward gardeners mistake.

There is a dwarf Singapore, with only a bunch of leaflets on it tips. A very nicely formed 5-foot tree. That would be excellent for those of us with smaller yard spaces that are not roomy enough for the rather large Plumeria Alba.

I seem to have the alba and there is not one leaf on mine, encouraging signs of new growth at tips but nothing else so far. I must be in the yard more this year because it seems that it should be leafing out by now. I see a lot of these trees that have not, so maybe the recent chills have held them back.

There are actually two gardens at the center. One has a selection of palms that people do not know about. Have you ever seen a teddy bear palm, a triangle palm, a Licuala, or a bottle palm?

It really is a nice site to visit not only for the gardens but also for the gardening events it sponsors I missed the Herb Day Saturday again this year. This area does have a lot going on in the spring. People who have nothing to do must not read the papers because all the many festivals and outdoor events are publicized ahead of time and they all love to have a crowd.

This weekend you can be outdoors at the Rotary Park native Plant Sale at Rotary Park, starts at 9 a.m. They have good mulch and a nice butterfly house to visit, in case you do not want any of their excellent plant and tree offerings.

In case you are strictly an inside person, visit the Cape Coral Library Book Sale, Friday and Saturday, at the library just west of Skyline Boulevard, off Mohawk Parkway. See the signs.

A bit of interest to report, in case some people think gardeners just garden all the time - the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. FFGC, will be holding its 87th annual convention at the Sanibel Harbor Marriott. There will be over 250 gardening enthusiast attending this two-day event. Fort Myers and Cape Coral are in District 9 and we are the host district. State President Jan Sillik chose the theme for her past two years as president, KNOW-SOW-GROW. A great idea for all gardeners. "A Toast To The Coast " is the actual theme of the convention and I am sure that is a great idea also.

I found the perfect way to grow a successful crop of mini tomatoes or maybe chili peppers in a recent food magazine. This is for indoor gardeners. It is called the Click and Grow battery-powered system. It uses built in sensors to measure and release the perfect amount of water and fertilizer. All you have to do is set up the box in a well-lit area and wait about two weeks and then harvest.

As an experienced gardener, I would never guarantee a perfect harvest. I am also not responsible for the cost of, nor any problems occurring during Click and Grow.

Please get out the sunscreen, and hydrate yourself as well as your gardens and plants.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.

 
 
 

 

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