Friday, June 22, 2012

Sowing Seeds of Friendship: Passalong Plants

Among my most cherished plants are those came from friends. Gardeners call these gifts "Passalong Plants."

These are generally plants that are very easy to propagate, but not easy to find in nurseries or garden centers. Here are some of my favorite passalongs. What are yours?

Blackberry lily is also called "leopard lily" 
If I had to pick the most popular passalong plant, I'd bet on blackberry lilies (Bellamcanda chinenis). Raise your hands, Florida gardeners, I can see you smiling now. Many of my friends have this plant, and every single one of them got it from someone else! I don't think I've ever seen it for sale in a Big Box store. Have you?  

In my yard Blackberry Lily goes to sleep in the winter, but bursts back with a vengeance in the spring and blooms prolifically until fall. And a few seeds will go a long way, since this beauty rapidly spreads. It is very drought-tolerant and easy to divide when it gets too crowded. 

When the seeds ripen and turn black or deep purple (thus the name of the plant), pluck them off, put them in an envelope and "pass them along." They can be planted virtually any time of year.
Dancing Lady Ginger (Globba winitii) is a
 beautiful summer bloomer that dies back completely in the winter.

Dancing Lady Ginger is another lovely passalong. I've never seen this one in a garden center either, but it's a great shade plant.  A friend gave me two of these and they bloom reliably every year. It's fun to anticipate the arrival of the first little green fronds.

Peacock ginger (Kaempferia laotica) is another terrific passalong for shady locations. It's a perfect groundocver with violet flowers that are short-lived but frequent. I have seen these used in rain gardens where they are often in standing water, but in my yard they are underneath trees and thrive with only rainfall. Peacock ginger spreads readily: Just dig up babies and pass them on to friends with shade.

Peacock ginger is an excellent groundcover for shade.

My oldest passalong pal is walking iris (Neomarica gracilis). Those in my garden today are descendants of two given to me by a dear friend when I bought my home in 1994. I salvaged a few during our Extreme Yard Makeover in 2010, and they are once again "walking" under my shade trees. They're great for areas with lots of tree roots where planting is difficult because you don't need to plant them deep. When a blade flops over and forms roots, cut the "babies" off from mama, and give them to someone who will appreciate their happy purple-and-white faces.

Walking iris should be planted at a shallow depth,
with about 18 inches between plants so it can "walk."