This tropical palm look a like is native to the to South Africa. Closely resembling the Travelers palm or more commonly the Banana tree; the Bird of Paradise get its common name from the spectacular flowers it produces reminiscent of an exotic bird. The Bird of paradise or crane flower plant forms a 4 to 6 foot tall and wide clump that can be used as a focal point in the landscape or in mass plantings. These exotic plants also make for a perfect ornamental used inside and out. The evergreen leaves of bird-of-paradise do not drop from the plant, which makes it an excellent addition around pools or wherever shedding leaves are an aesthetic and/or maintenance problem.
With proper care, the Bird of Paradise will flourish in any setting and make a wonderful addition to your home or office.
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So often during the cold months
people get tired of growing the same old “house plants” and want to try something more tropical, exotic, or unusual.
If you’re one of those people, a great plant to try is a dwarf banana plant because it’s fairly exotic, very tropical, and yet so simple to grow indoors.
Bananas truly bring a tropical feel to your home, because their foliage gets lush and full, they supply fresh fruit, and they really look like something straight out of Hawaii.
In addition to bringing a fresh look to your house, they do well with minimum maintenance, are self-fruitful, so they don’t need a pollinator, and all banana varieties do well indoors. Basically, there is no reason not to try a banana if you really want a fun project this winter.
I think after reading this you’ll be able to forget about the cold temperatures outdoors for a little while, because once you see how easy it is to grow bananas indoors, you’ll be excited to bring something very summer-like into your home right now.
Bananas An Overview
Bananas (Musa spp.), are herbaceous perennials, almost like a giant herb, and must be treated as such. Their “trunks” are not made of wood, but of leaf bases wrapped tightly around each other to form a tube.
The true stem begins as an underground corm which grows upwards, pushing its way out through the center of the stalk which will later bear the fruit. Each stalk produces one huge flower cluster and then dies. New stalks then grow from the rhizome.
Since bananas multiply by underground rhizomes, each new stalk will produce one large flower cluster and fruit. The stalk on the new dwarf and super dwarf varieties that are mentioned below, grow and produce fruit within 1 year.
The larger banana varieties can take 9 months to grow and another four to eight months for the fruit to mature. Fertilizers rich in potassium, however, do help speed up the fruiting process.
The suckers, called “pups” that regularly come up from the base of the mother plant can be removed to start a new banana plant.
But make sure that after a stalk has fruited, allow one replacement sucker to grow in its place, because the main stalk will die after its fruit has matured.
Bananas , like any tropical plant, need a combination of warmth, bright light, and high humidity; conditions that most homes already can provide. They will however, need these basic requirements year-round, not just when it’s warm and sunny outside.
How To Grow Bananas Indoors
Most nurseries don’t carry bananas but most will special order them for you, or you can order them via direct mail catalog or on the internet.
There are several online tropical growers and even Amazon.com carries many vendors that sell bananas.
Mail order bananas usually come in the form of a corm. After receiving the corm, wash it in lukewarm water to remove any fungal or bacterial growth, which may have developed during shipping.
The first priority to consider when growing a banana is to use the proper soil. It is very important to use a light, well draining soil mixture that has lots of peat, perlite and vermiculite in the mix, and then to make sure you have really good drainage, add 20 percent more perlite to the mix.
Don’t use heavy soils when growing bananas such as heavy potting soil, or soil from a yard. Bananas like an acidic growing mix with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Grow bananas in a container that is not too large. It should be a standard 6 inch (15 cm) or 8 inch (20 cm) pot with a drainage hole. Never plant it in a container without a drainage hole. You can always transplant to a larger container when your plant is quite crowded.
The container you choose should be fairly deep and broad to allow a minimum of 3 inches (7.5 cm) on both sides between the corm and the inside of the container.
Plant the banana corm (rhizome) upright and be sure the roots are well covered, but don’t cover the corm entirely. The top 20 percent of the corm should remain exposeduntil the new plant has produced several new leaves.
Remember this when potting, and leave enough room to later cover the corm completely. Burying the corm after a few leaves have been produced, promotes additional roots and better stability.
Bananas will stop growing even if fed, when they become even marginally pot bound, so you may need to transplant to a larger container in time.
Growing & Maintenance Requirements:
Bananas like lots of water because of their enormous leaves, but it is just as important not to overwater as to underwater.
As with any houseplant, water when needed and keep the soil evenly moist. To help with this, you can cover the soil with a layer of decorative bark or other organic material to act as a mulch.
Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings, about when the soil is dry to a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) in depth. Use your fingers to feel the soil. You’ll be able to tell quite easily.
NOTE: Please do not expect this to be a plant that you “water once a week.” If you water once a week without allowing the plant to dry out a bit in between waterings, it is unlikely that you will have success growing this plant!
Fertilize at least once month, especially when the plant approaches maturity and starts to produce fruit. If there are fewer than 10-12 leaves when the plant gets ready to flower, the fruit will take longer to reach full size and ripen. Insufficient leaves are usually a sign that the plant needs more nitrogen and water.
If your plant is producing one flower after another, it’s doing really well, but it will need a consistent supply of nutrients in the form of fertilizer to keep up with its nutritional needs at this time.
TIP: You can water and fertilize bananas at the same time using any type of good balanced fertilizer, like a 5-5-5, or 10-10-10. It is possible to over feed however, which causes the leaves to deform; therefore, if you are going to feed with your water, use the fertilizer at half strength.
Light and Humidity
Bananas, being tropical plants, like lots of bright, indirect light, so a good southern exposure would be ideal. Provide maximum sunlight and warmth, with 12 hours of bright light being ideal for most varieties.
If the area where you want to place your banana is a bit on the dark side, using a high-intensity light of 100 watts or higher or a Gro Light will be very helpful.
Remember to turn your plant periodically to make sure all sides of the tree receive light, and keep it out of drafts.
Growing bananas in constant warmth is very important – the ideal night temperature would be 67° F (19° C). The day temperatures would be in the 80s°F (27° C).
Grow bananas with high humidity by placing bowls of water around the plants to evaporate and create a higher humidity level around them. You want 50 percent higher humidity around the plants than normal household humidity levels which can be on the dry side.
Try to tolerate spent leaves (versus cutting them off) as they turn from green to yellow to brown then shrivel (normal cycle). This allows your plant to re-absorb the leaf nutrients.
When the suckers or “pups” start to form, allow at least 4 leaves to develop before attempting to remove it from the mother plant. Once cut, remove the pup with as much root as possible and pot up in a new container.
You will want to wash your stem and leaves from time to time to keep them dust free, and this also gives you the benefit of keeping any bugs away (like mites). Use mild dish soap with lots of water and a sponge. Be sure to clean the bottom sides of the leaves as well.
Since there are relatively few insect problems with indoor bananas, they can be organically grown, a point that a lot of people like when dealing with edible plants.
When selecting banana cultivars, you need only be limited by the height of your ceiling and available space. The most important thing to take into consideration when growing bananas indoors is taste.
All indoor bananas have a much more unique taste than the bland supermarket varieties so read the descriptive information for each cultivar carefully before you buy one.
Super Dwarf Cavendish and the Dwarf Red are very suitable for indoor growing. The Super Dwarf grow only 3 to 4 feet tall (1 to 1.2 m), if you are really cramped on space.
Super Dwarf Cavendish
These are real fruiting bananas, a scaled down version of the dwarf Cavendish grown commercially in the Canary Islands. Given correct care they can produce edible bananas in 12 months of growth. The really amazing thing is that they flower and fruit when just 4 feet (1.2 m) tall.
Some of the most popular choices are:
- ‘Dwarf Cavendish': gets to 9 feet (2.7 m)
- ‘Super Dwarf Cavendish': gets to 4 feet (1.2 m)
- ‘Dwarf Brazilian': gets to 15 feet (4.6 m)
- ‘Dwarf Jamaican': gets to 8 feet (2.4 m)
- ‘Rajapuri': gets to 10 feet (3 m)
- ‘Williams Hybrid': gets to 8 feet (2.4 m)
- ‘Gran Nain': gets to 8 feet (2.4 m)
- Dwarf ‘Lady Finger’: gets to 9 feet (2.7 m)
Nutritional powerhouse Moringa has gram for gram
- 7 times the vitamin C in oranges
- 4 times the vitamin A in carrots
- 4 times the calcium in milk (with no lactose)
- 3 times the potassium in bananas
- 2 times the protein in yogurt
Moringa YSP (naturally occurring nutrient compound)
- Found only in Moringa
- The only 100% natural metabolic trigger
- Most powerful of all anti-oxidants
- Promotes healthy veins and arteries
- Anti-inflammatory agents
- Anti-aging compounds.
- Collagen (helps maintain healthy skin)
- More found in Moringa than any other plant
- 4 times the amount in wheat grass
- Natural healer
- Rejuvenates the body at the cellular level
- Strengthens the immune system
- Naturally cleanses the body of toxins
- reduces the ph level of the body
Days to germination: Not started by seed
Days to harvest: 100 days, when started by seedling
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Frequent watering
Soil: Well-drained and rich with organic material
Container: Yes, even indoors
Lemongrass has a strong flavor of lemon citrus and it can be brewed in tea as well as used as a herb for seasoning. The most common dishes that use lemongrass are Asian cuisine.
A native of India, you will have to live in at least zone 9 if you want to grow lemongrass outdoors. Each plant can grow to between 3 and 6 feet high if you do grow it outside. It will be somewhat smaller if you have to keep it inside.
There are 2 kinds of lemongrass: East Indian and West Indian but there is little difference between them in terms of culinary use and growing. There really isn’t much variety to choose from.
It’s a very nondescript plant, looking much like a very tall patch of grass that doesn’t often produce flowers. At the base of each group of leaves there is a fat stalk, similar to a spring onion bulb. The overall plant is made up a big cluster of these individual stalks.
The bulb or bottom part of each stalk is used for most cooking purposes, but the rest of the leaves can be used as well. Teas are usually brewed with the leaves.
Not only is the tea very zesty in flavor, it can also help settle upset stomachs and ease a cough. The oils in lemongrass have a number of homeopathic health uses, though most home-growers do not extract the essential oils from their plants. It’s mostly used as a flavoring.
Starting from Seed
Home gardeners don’t typically start lemongrass plants from seed because it is so easy to start by just rooting stalks or cuttings.
Actually, you may even be able to start a new lemongrass plant from fresh stalks you purchase at the regular grocery store. As long as they are still firm and green, you should be able to get them to root. Snip off an inch or two from the end of the leaves, and put the base end in a glass of water. Leave somewhere sunny, and you should start to see roots sprouting from the bottom of the stalk in about a week or two.
Once your stalk has roots at least an inch long, you can either plant it in a container for indoor growing or take it right out into the garden.
Keep your lemongrass plants at least 3 feet apart, and allow for a height of 6 feet (though you can trim it lower than that).
When you dig the holes for the plants, mix in a some compost or well-aged manure to help enrich the soil. The soil shouldn’t be too thick though, the water still has to drain to keep your plants healthy.
You should plant your stalks outside after your last frost date, if you live in an area that gets winter frosts (such as zone 9).
Lemongrass will need a lot of nitrogen, so you should fertilize at least monthly with either a standard or high-nitrogen formula. Water your plant regularly and don’t let it completely dry out, especially when the weather is very hot.
Once your plant gets to 3 feet or so in height, you may want to keep the tops of the leaves cut down even more than what you are taking for an actual harvest. This can help keep the size of the plant down. Lemongrass doesn’t grow branches so no other pruning is necessary.
Lemongrass can be grown in large pots, either indoors or out. Depending on your climate, you should try to let it have a few summer months outdoors to get extra sun. Considering its size, most people keep their lemongrass inside only during the winter.
Your plants can get quite large, so plant it in a 5 gallon pot or larger. If it does start to outgrow the pot, you can always separate off more stalks just to keep the plant under control. It’s not usually a problem with exclusively indoor plants.
While inside, a lemongrass plant needs as much sun as you can offer with a minimum of 6 hours a day. It may thrive as an indoor-only plant but you won’t get as many stalks from it.
Fertilize your container plants once every 2 weeks with a standard mix, though you can skip this during the winter months. Water frequently, 2 or 3 times a week.
Pests and Diseases
The lemon-scented oils in lemongrass are frequently used to make natural insect repellent, so you really won’t have much to worry about when it comes to those kinds of pests.
Leaf blight will sometimes hit lemongrass. The leaves can start to wilt and you will find brown or rust colored spots on the ends of the leaves. Pick away the infected leaves, and spray the whole plant with a natural fungicide that can be used on edible plants.
Cats have also been known to have a fondness for lemongrass and may chew on your plants if given the chance.
Harvest and Storage
You can trim leaves from the plant any time once the plant is at least a foot tall. To harvest entire stalks, use a sharp knife to slice each one off at the soil level. Take the outer stalks first, and they should be at least 1/2 inch thick before you cut them. Try not to just break them off or you could damage the rest of the plant.
You may have to peel off the tougher outer leaves before use. Store the entire stalk with leaves in the fridge to keep it fresh for several days. Keep it in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel for the best results. Chopped pieces of the stalk can be frozen for later use.
If you want to store just the leaves, then they preserve best when dried rather than frozen.
Whether you use it to add flavor to meat or fish, or just to brew tea, remember that it can be quite strong. It doesn’t take much.
Tips For Growing Lemongrass
Lemongrass, Achara, Citronella, Capim, Fever Tea, Oil Grass, Fever Grass
Lemongrass is a tropical grass that grows well in humid, warm environments. With possible origins in India and Sri Lanka, this aromatic herb has an extensive use throughout much of Asia as a flavorful cooking additive for salads and curries. It was also historically used in teas, cleaning materials, perfumes, soaps, creams and deodorants. South American folk medicine used the grass for treating treating hypertension, inflammation, nervousness, sleep disorders, infection, fevers and gastrointestinal disorders.
HERBAL PROPERTIES AND USES:
Lemongrass is considered a mild sedative, stomachic, diuretic, anti-parasitical, anti-bacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial agent. It is also a stimulant tonic with the known ability to break down fats and stimulate perspiration. The leaves and oils have been used to treat a variety of conditions, including colds, nervous system imbalances, dyspeptic conditions, generalized stress and exhaustion.
It has also been used as an insect repellent, a treatment for Athlete’s foot, headaches, muscle pain, circulation problems, respiratory conditions, sore throat and aids in the tonification of tissues. Recent studies support its use in lowering cholesterol levels. It also has a clear anti-bacterial effect on nematodes, as well an other bacterial infestations. What is more, five of the active constituents in lemongrass have been linked to the that inhibition of blood coagulation.
Lemongrass Cultivation and Growing Methods
Fertile, moist loams with a pH level of 6-7.8
Full sun and warmth.
Average of 2-3 feet, although it can grow up to 9 ft. in height in tropical regions.
24-36 in. (60-90 cm).
Grows in Zones 9b-11, and in most tropical areas of the world. Can grow well in-doors.
Early spring after danger of frost has passed. Best to first plant indoors in a warm, sunny environment and re-plant in late spring.
Propagates by dividing the root ball and replanting. Also by seed.
This grass rarely flowers, but is considered mature at 4-8 months.
Harvesting occurs when the plant is 4-8 months old, or when plant is approximately one foot tall. From thereon, lemongrass can be harvested every 3-4 months for approximately 4 years. This is done by cutting the entire stalks and using fresh in teas. Make sure to cut the stalks below the white swollen ends.
DRYING METHODS / YIELD:
Best used fresh. Cut individual stems from white ends, throwing away an discolored parts. Dry in a cool, dry place. Once dried, the stems can be cut into smaller pieces and used in teas.
One plant can provide an average of 30 inches of usable stalk, or 0.2-0.4% of essential oil.
PRESERVATION / PACKAGING METHODS:
Dried stalks may be stored in an airtight glass container for up to one year.
ESSENTIAL OIL USE:
A soothing, relaxing oil, lemongrass essential oil has been used to treat acne, Athlete’s foot, digestive upset, muscle ache, stress and overly oily skin and scabies.
This grass contains high levels of citral and many other monoterpenoids. These monoterpenoids may be related to the plants sedative, carminiative, antimicrobial and spasmolytic effects.
IS THIS AN EDIBLE PLANT:
CAUTIONS / CONTRAINDICATIONS:
It should not be used by pregnant and breast-feeding women. Avoid using the oil if you have glaucoma. Children can drink the tea, but not use the oil. Use with care in conditions of prostatic hyperplasia, hypersensitivity of the skin, or in cases of damaged skin.
No documented information on interaction, but consult your healthcare provider if you are currently taking medications.
Clinical Research About Lemongrass
- Elson, et. al. Impact of lemongrass oil, an essential oil, on serum cholesterol. Lipids. 1989 Aug;24(8):677-9. Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706. [PMID: 2586227]
- Gray, Linda. Grow Your Own Pharmacy. 1992. http://www.botanical.com
- Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus. Miranda Smith. p. 126. http://books.google.com/books?id=Zxxm0awYC3QC&pg=RA1-PA126
- Medicinal plants of the world: an illustrated scientific guide to important. Ben-Erik Van Wyk, Michael Wink. p. 120. http://books.google.com/books?id=bTdoTayyVrEC&pg=PA120
- Julia Lawless, HYPERLINK “http://www.aromaweb.com/books/lawless.asp” The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 56-67.]
- Robert Tisserand, HYPERLINK “http://www.aromaweb.com/books/tissera2.asp” Essential Oil Safety (United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone, 1995), 82, 146.
The lady palm, or Rhapis excelsa, is a small fan palm that can do exceedingly well indoors under the right conditions. It grows from multiple stems, each topped with upright fronds. As the name implies, the fronds are split into fan-like segments. The lady palm, sometimes called the bamboo palm or miniature fan palm, is the best suited of all the fan palms to indoor cultivation. Most of the others, such as the imposing Washingtonia or the European fan palm, quickly grow too large for the average room.
Light: Dappled light is best during the summer. In winter, it can tolerate light shade.
Water: Water liberally during the summer, ensuring perfect drainage. In winter, reduce watering to once a month or every other week, depending on the temperature.
Temperature: In summer, it thrives at 70ºF. In winter, keep above 55ºF and do not expose to drafts.
Soil: Rich, loose potting media. Use pebbles or sand to increase drainage.
Fertilizer: Slow-release pellets in the beginning of the growing season or biweekly liquid fertilizer. Don’t feed in winter.
Propagation by seed is possible, but it’s unlikely the palm will flower and produce viable seeds in most indoor settings. More mature plants can be divided during repotting, or the small suckers around the base can be carefully separated and potted independently. Divided palms often go into shock and their growth rate will slow dramatically.
As with other palms, the R. excelsa and other Rhapis palms do well slightly underpotted. Repot every other year in spring. Do not disturb roots more than necessary while repotting, but transfer intact root ball into the new pot. While repotting, make sure the new pot is well drained.
- R. humilis. A smaller clumping palm that grows to about 3 feet tall. This palm’s stems are covered with red fibers and the leaves are finely textured and deeply divided.
- R. excelsa. The most popular Rhapis palm. Grows to about 6 feet and forms a dense bush-like clump of stems with upright leaves.
Rhapis palms are great plants for the casual palm-lover with moderate space. Even the best R. excelsa will only grow to about 6 feet in height, with a fairly narrow, upright crown, making it perfect for a bright, warm corner. Make sure the plant is well fed during the summer and adequately watered (although no palm should sit in water, so remember to pay attention to drainage). Don’t overtrim brown fronds at the expense of the mother plant.