Monthly Archives: May 2012

Mexican Hats

This week we have a new plant in bloom.

Our Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera, have began to open.

A friend of ours gave us a few of these perennial plants last year from a garden bed she was renewing. We had never tried them before.

Right now there’s a little lag between our main spring bloomers and the flowers that thrive in the summer heat. The Mexican hats are filling that gap nicely.


Rain Lilies and Rain

Two weeks ago we had an unusual storm go through and it actually rained in Phoenix. A few days later the rain lilies, Zephyranthes sp., began to bloom.

When a rain lily flower opens, the bees go crazy gathering the pollen.

The flowers are only open a day or so at most.

The leaves are already starting to curl a bit on this one.

Although their name suggests they might grow in a moist climate, we actually have a native species in Arizona and rain lilies grow quite well here.

We do water our rain lilies via irrigation. Most are on drip irrigation, but a few I occasionally shower with the hose.

It’s is probably a silly thing to wonder, but it did cross my mind that somehow the plants could distinguish a real rain from artificial rain provided by irrigation, because they flowered after a rain. I wonder how the plants could tell?

Finding the Right Spot

We have a lovely little crown of thorns, Euphorbia milii, growing in a pot.

Being in a pot, it has been easy to move around. Perhaps a little too easy.

First we had it on one garden table and then another.

The problem is that it is a bit spiky and the sap is also poisonous, so we can’t put it just anywhere. Plus, it doesn’t seem to go with anything else we have growing.

For a few weeks it sat under the lemon tree. The poor thing must think we are playing hide and seek with it.

For now it is on the patio. Hopefully we will leave it in one place for awhile.

Have you ever had a plant that you couldn’t find the right spot for?

The Overachiever

Cacti are known for their beautiful flowers.

This little cactus is an overachiever, however.

The cactus itself is just about the size of a baseball. The flower has a larger diameter than the cactus.

It has at least two more fuzzy buds, so you can be sure I will be watching it closely. It flowered at last night, and was only open for about an hour early this morning. It would be easy to miss the next show.

Quiet Oxalis

We have a small plant in our yard that is very quiet and unobtrusive.

It started at the grocery store around St. Patrick’s Day a few years ago. There was one pathetic, droopy “shamrock” in a pot on display.

Of course, my son wanted it. He has inherited my tendency to be a sucker for underdog plants. We brought it home.

With some water and tender care, it survived. Eventually we determined that it’s scientific name is Oxalis, so it isn’t a true shamrock, which is a clover.

We planted it in the garden and eventually it died back in the summer. We didn’t really pay much attention, because everything dies in the summer here.

In the fall, we were pleasantly surprised when some tiny stems began to emerge again. We discovered that Oxalis plants go dormant.

Soon it was doing fine and even flowered.

Looks like our “shamrock” is actually a pink woodsorrel, Oxalis debilis.

Pink woodsorrel is introduced from Europe, were it can be weedy. Here in Arizona it sits quietly in a shady corner of the garden, not taking much care, only grabbing our attention once in awhile with these bright pink flowers. It has turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Have you ever brought home a plant that surprised you?

Curly Endive Reveals Its Roots (So To Speak)

We planted some lettuce mix last fall. Not much came up, except this curly endive.

It was rather bitter and no one in our family really cared for it.

That’s why we didn’t really mind when it started to bolt, or go to flower.

Actually, we were glad it did flower, because it revealed its “roots” so to speak. Have you ever seen an endive flower?

Does this blue flower look familiar? This is the endive flower, but it looks like the flower of another plant.

It reminded us of the roadside weed called common chicory.

The plant we call curly endive is Cichorium endivia. The common roadside wildflower is Cichorium intybus, a member of the same genus.

Common chicory roots are used as a coffee substitute or additive. Its leaves can be used in salads as well, although they are also known to be bitter.

I will never look at endive in quite the same way now I know its relatives. What about you?


See Purdue for more information about common chicory.