Thursday, January 24, 2013

Plant of the Day

Today's plant is a favorite for all Texans - our state flower, the bluebonnet!

The bluebonnet is a hardy annual flower native to Texas. It is very drought-tolerant and forms a rosette of low-lying leaves. When it blooms, the bluebonnet sends up a 20-40 cm stalk of familiar blue and white flowers. To care for your own bluebonnet, use well-draining soil with little fertilizer - bluebonnets form a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria that produce nitrogen for the plant to use. The one pictured above is in a hydroponic setup.

Growing bluebonnets by seed is rather tricky, since the flower is designed to grow in arid climates. The seeds are covered by a very hard coat that delays germination; thus, many of the seeds you plant will not germinate until the next growing season. Their natural habitat is quite unforgiving, so if one generation of plants dies out, there will be another one waiting to sprout. Unfortunately, gardeners do not want to wait that long to see the bluebonnets flower, so you can scarify the seeds with a knife or sandpaper or use acid to break down the seed coat.

It is a common myth that picking bluebonnets is illegal in Texas. However, it is not against the law to do so, despite what you've been told. There are other laws that are often broken when people try to pick bluebonnet flowers, though, such as trespassing on private property.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Plant(s) of the Day

We already had a post covering a similar topic last year, but there are many different kinds of plants in the greenhouse, each with its own attributes that make them unique. There will likely be more of these posts to show off the large variety that we have in the greenhouse.


One of them that's actually been mentioned before is Sedum nussbaumerianum. It is a succulent that has been in the greenhouse for almost two years now, and it's grown significantly ever since. It was formally known as Mexican sedum until recently; the scientific name is Sedum nussbaumerianum, and another common name is "Coppertone Sedum". I posted a picture of it on GardenWeb Forums to see if anyone could properly ID it and got a response within an hour.

Notice that some parts of the 'stem' look unusually barren; I plucked leaves off of those places in an attempt to propagate the succulent. This sedum can be propagated via cuttings, but it's a very slow process, and so far I've only gotten two out of ten or so cuttings to root. Naturally, sedum grow slowly, and many of the cuttings I took rotted before they could root. Sedum nussbaumerianum would be great for plant sales or for the green roof, if we had more plantlets, but for now, the few clones I have will remain in the greenhouse.

Snow Pea

The other interesting plant is the snow pea. It is a fast-growing plant that utilizes tendrils to wrap around anything nearby to provide support. Without a trellis or some support system, snow peas don't do very well since their stems (vines) are rather thin and weak. One of our members used chicken wire to provide an initial trellis (there are at least 3-4 plants in the pot), and once they had outgrown the wire, he trained the tendrils towards the PVC pipes used in the greenhouse watering system.

However, even after that, the snow pea continued to grow, eventually reaching the top of the greenhouse (the glass panes). Normally, snow peas can grow up to six feet (two meters) tall, so this one still has a long way to go before it reaches its full potential height. Also, we have yet to see it flower, but snow peas are known for their beautiful displays of color when they flower, so we're all looking forward to it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Weeding Day

Today was our first official weeding meeting on the green roof during this school year; we've weeded the green roof in the past but solely for maintenance. This time it was done to prepare the roof for seeding. Many members were present, ready to weed, and the weather could not have been better - overcast skies with a gentle breeze.

We initially began weeding using scissors, gloves and trash bags, cutting the vegetation down to about one inch (pulling deep-rooted weeds would mean disturbing the soil and possibly causing soil erosion). An hour into our work, another member came, along with a friend, and they brought a trusty weed whacker. With the new device, we were able to quickly mow down almost every single plot in a fraction of the time.

In less than half an hour, 4.5 plots were cleared out

Note the extension cords

Thanks to the trusty weed whacker, we were able to get a lot more accomplished than we would have solely weeding by hand. Thus, we were able to begin seeding plots 1 and 7 with the Native Trail Mix, a mixture of over 30 species of plants and flowers native to our state. Hopefully we'll start seeing some new sprouts in the weeks to come. There are still four more plots that we need to seed and one plot that our founder, Yosef, has to seed. 

If you have any suggestions for the green roof or Horticulture Society in general, please feel free to comment here or send us a message on our Facebook page

Sunday, January 6, 2013

More Green Roof Updates

We had another green roof meeting on Thursday, January 4, to finalize the orders and to plan out tentative dates for weeding and planting. We're growing about 50 different types of plants up there from seed, and we will also purchase plugs of redhead coleus to spell out "UH" in the center plot.

Next Friday, January 11, we'll have our first weeding meeting at 1PM. This will be the first step in planting the green roof. Since there are existing weeds on the green roof, we must remove them by hand or using tools such as spades or a weed whacker. We plan on removing the weeds, then possibly seeding the plots afterwards.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter Growing

Not too long ago, winter finally hit Houston, with the temperature dropping to 35°F. Despite the cold weather, the plants inside the greenhouse have been doing just fine, thanks to our trusty heater!

While most university students are relaxing and enjoying what's left of the winter break, the Horticulture Society at UH has been hard at work, making plans for the green roof, growing plants for the spring plant sales, and looking into other ways to renovate the greenhouse, such as reorganizing all of our supplies and plants and building a raised garden in the front. Here are some of the plants that we're preparing for the plant sales. Since it's winter, growth is slow but steady.

Aloe vera

Haworthia Fasciata



Mother of Thousands


How are your plants doing this pseudo-winter?