Growing A Cacti From Seed

Growing plants from seed are not as hard as you might think – even though many of us have tried and failed! One of the most common mistakes people make is planting the seeds too deeply. You should only plant a seed as deep in the soil as the seed is wide. When seeds are planted too deeply the tiny plants emerge and begin to grow but do not reach the surface before they run out of stored food. Follow these instructions for growing cacti from seed and you will surely be successful.

SEED: It is best to use fresh seed when growing most cacti. Seed can be obtained from a commercial source or collected from a plant in your collection. Take care when collecting seed from a cactus collection. Some cactus species hybridize freely and true seed cannot be assured unless pollination has been monitored carefully.

SOIL: A good potting mix, amended with ½ its volume of granite, perlite or pumice for drainage, makes a good mix for growing cacti from seed. It is important that the soil is as pest-free as possible. To pasteurize soil, put it in a shallow heatproof pan, place it in the oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes. Most commercial soils are at least pasteurized, if not sterilized. Check the label.

PLANTING: Be sure that all containers to be used are clean. The type of container is not important, but shallow ones are preferred. Water the soil thoroughly and let it drain completely before planting. Spread the seed evenly over the top of the soil. Cover the seed lightly with the mix or very fine sand. When planted, cover the container with any transparent lid. This will retain moisture and allow light to reach the seedlings.

GERMINATION: Cactus seeds need both light and warmth to germinate. A sunny window is a good location, but be careful the light is not too strong and therefore too hot. The moisture retained by the cover should be sufficient to germinate the seed. Most cactus seeds germinate within 3 weeks, but some take much longer – be patient. Once the spines are showing, raise the cover for ventilation during the day. Do not allow the soil to dry out. The amount of water will depend on how much light and heat the seedlings receive. Watch the seedlings carefully. Do not swamp them in puddled water but do not let them dry out completely.

REPOTTING: Seedlings are ready to transplant into larger containers when they are the size of marbles between 6 months to a year after germination. Be sure the soil mix is very well drained, and the container is no larger than twice the diameter of the plant. At this size, plants can be grown in clumps or groups of 6-8 per pot until they are about 1 inch across, then separated and individually re-potted. Lift the small plants carefully from the growing mix, place in the new container, firm the soil around the roots, and water in.
 It is usually best to let the young plants recover from transplanting in a shaded area. Even in cacti that naturally grow with full sun, seedlings will be tender to the full sun until they are older. Acclimate a young plant to the sun gradually beginning when it is about 1 inch across. It is often easier to acclimate young plants to the sun in the winter, and provide some shade in the summer until they are about 3 inches across.

FERTILIZATION: Fertilize young seedlings monthly in the growing season, usually the warm season. Use a formulation specifically for cactus, or an all purpose soluble houseplant formula at ½ the recommended strength.


Care Of Cacti In Containers

Cacti are a group of succulent plants that do well in containers under the right conditions. They are native to the New World. These plants are diverse both in form and color, clumping or solitary. They can range in size from very small to more than 40 feet tall. Most cacti are best grown outdoors in filtered sun or on a bright patio. Some can tolerate full sun. Smaller species may be kept in a container. The larger varieties can start out containerized but will outgrow their pots and can be moved to the landscape, depending on the species, where they can enjoy more growing space.

SOIL: Most cacti should be grown in mineral-based soils consisting of a mixture of sands, silts, and gravel (good drainage) and which does not harden when dry. Cacti from tropical dry forests and high altitude regions benefit from a mix containing 25-50% decomposed organic matter. Epiphytic cacti such as Christmas cacti like a 1/3 – 1/3 – 1/3 mix of bark, pumice and decomposed organic matter. No peat should be used in any of these mixes. Organic matter consisting of well-decomposed plant material or worm castings is acceptable. If you wish to use peat-based soil mixes, you can, provided that you re-pot every 2-3 years. No commercial mixes come up to these standards as of this time, so you will need to formulate your own.

WATER: It is completely false that cacti need no water; after all, they are composed principally of water. What is true is that they require less water than violets, but more than a rock. Water cacti when they are actively growing or are wilting. Wilting appears as shrinkage of the plant or wrinkling of the surface. Most cacti grow actively in the spring and summer, but some grow in the other seasons as well so you will need to watch them carefully. Water only when the soil is nearly dry. You can test for dry sub-surface soil with your finger, a wooden pencil or popsicle stick (damp soil will cling to the wood), or (best) with a moisture meter. Water all of the soil thoroughly until the water runs out of the drain holes. Use only pots with drain holes, and if you use pots with saucers, be sure to empty the saucer after watering. The rule is ―no swamps.‖ The warmer the weather, the more frequently water is needed, unless the plant is dormant. In winter, little or no water is needed, even for cacti in active growth, because it is cool. Natural rain is very beneficial, and water may be applied from overhead (which helps clean the plant), at the soil line, or from below. Remember not to let the plant stand in a saucer of water.

LIGHT: Cacti, excepting epiphytes, are best grown outdoors. Interiors are usually too dark for good growth unless assisted by high-intensity lights. Cacti grown indoors very frequently develop pointy heads or other forms of stem stretching. Cacti should be grown outdoors in conditions ranging from full sun to 50% shade, depending on the species and on the size of the plant. If the cactus gets too much sun it will sunburn, which results in a yellowing of the skin, progressing to a browning (killing) of the skin on the sunniest side. If this occurs, provide shade immediately. Eastern exposures are gentlest, western sunlight is fiercest.

FERTILIZATION: Container grown plants need fertilizer because the soil will be exhausted of nutrients over time. The frequency of fertilization depends on how fast you want the plant to grow and the strength, or  concentration, of the fertilizer that you use. Remember that fast growth may produce weak cells, leading to over-tenderness. Fertilize at least once every four weeks during the plant’s growing season. Use the concentration recommended for ornamental plants on the fertilizer package. If you fertilize with each watering cut the strength of the solution accordingly. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as 10-30-20. As a slow-acting organic fertilizer, fish emulsion is effective.

TRANSPLANTING/REPOTTING: Transplanting should be done when the plant has filled the pot, or, in the case of tall species, when the pot becomes top-heavy. If the soil in the new destination is the same or similar to that in which the plant is growing, simply shake the plant free of its container, keeping the soil ball intact if possible. Rough up the edges of the soil ball and then replant, keeping the soil level the same as the former location. If the soil/root ball collapses, wait a week to let the roots callus, then plant, using dry soil. If you are changing soil types from organic to mineral, first remove all old soil from the roots using an old toothbrush to get at the most stubborn bits. Cut off any broken roots and let dry until all wounds have callused over, then re-pot or plant using dry soil to fill in so that the soil will flow and fill in all air pockets. Wait a few days, then water in to settle the soil. It is best to transplant when the plant is actively growing, but if you must, you can do it anytime.

PESTS AND DISEASES: Cacti have few diseases and pests. Most problems are environmental. Pointy heads in globular cacti or stringy narrow stems in others–Etiolation caused by too little light–give more light. Yellowing or browning of the skin: especially on the sunny side—Sunburn—give more shade immediately. Wilting, wrinkling, shrinkage: dry soil, needs water. If the soil is wet, then roots have died due to swamping—remove from damp soil, re-root, and transplant. White cottony masses or white rice-like objects on plants: Cochineal scale or mealy bug—wash off with a hard jet of water, or apply alcohol or a pesticide for scale insects. Inspect plant often to check for recurrence. Very fine spider webbing in the spines: sometimes with red bead-size mites, and graying of the skin—Red spider mite. Wash off the water and use overhead watering to prevent reoccurrence. In severe cases use miticide treatment. Large larvae (grubs) tunneling inside stems, large black adults feeding on tips of plant: Longhorn beetle—remove adults at dawn and kill, or place them in a large prickly pear cactus clump some distance away.

Plant being eaten: Rabbit, rodent or javelina damage—Protect plant with a wire cage or move out of reach. Wet rot anywhere on the stem: Bacterial rot (Erwinia carnegieana)—Cut away all rotted tissue down to fresh, discolored tissue. Air dry. Do not fill in holes. Dry rot on tips or in the whole plant: Fungal dry rot (Helminthosporum cactivorum)—Cut away all dried and discolored tissue. Air dry.

Problem Guide For Southwest Gardens

A noticeable, fine web may be present on your Palo Verde trees (Parkinsonia spp.) and even from time to time on the Whitethorn Acacia (Vachellia constricta syn. Acacia constricta).  This “webbing” is produced by the Palo Verde webworms often called Palo Verde webbers. The webworm is a small caterpillar that feeds on the leaves and occasionally the bark of the small stems.  The Palo Verde tree and Whitethorn Acacia are resilient to webworm infestations so control methods are unnecessary. The caterpillars and adult moths are an important food source for many lizards and birds.
If you notice a tattered appearance on your landscape plants such as Evening Primroses (Oenothera spp.), Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) and Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) it may be the flea beetle in action. A different species of flea beetle may also harm your vegetables including tomatoes and eggplants. The flea beetle larvae and adults can be destructive and they can be difficult to control. To find out more information on flea beetles go to the following link:
Agave snout weevils become active during the warm months and infestation may not be apparent until it is too late. For detailed information on the life cycle, symptoms,
While sitting underneath your desert trees, you may notice a light “rain” falling. This is the smoke tree sharpshooter insect expelling sap as it draws from a variety of plants including Palo Verdes (Parkinsonia spp.), Beebrush (Aloysia gratissima), Bird of Paradise species (Caesalpinia spp.) and Hackberries (Celtis spp.). These sharpshooter insects have gone virtually unnoticed until they threatened oleanders, shrubs widely used in low-desert landscapes for screening hedges. They gained notoriety because they are able to transmit a deadly bacterial disease called oleander leaf scorch. Our native plants do not appear to be adversely affected by the smoke tree sharpshooter so no control is necessary.  To find out more about oleander leaf scorch check out the University of Arizona Extension Plant Pathology at
As the weather warms, whiteflies may be present on your landscape, vegetable and herb plants. These tiny, white insects have sucking mouthparts that cause leaves to yellow, wilt and drop prematurely. The immature nymph stage does more harm to the plant than the adult. Whiteflies can be difficult to control. Allow natural predators such as spiders, ladybugs, lacewings and even hummingbirds to control the population. Yellow sticky traps can also be used to control the adult population.
Noticeable leaf damage may be seen on the Texas Mountain-laurel (Calia secundiflora syn. Sophora secundiflora) during the warm months. The damage is caused by the sophora pyralid caterpillars feeding on the tender new growth. These ravenous caterpillars are approximately an inch long with orange bodies and interesting black spots with white hairs.
Psyllids can still be active during the month of May, but activity will decrease as the temperatures climb.  Psyllids are sap feeders and many are plant specific or feed on a closely related group of plants. High populations of psyllids can cause distortion and die back of new growth, and in some cases defoliation. To keep populations under control do not overwater or over fertilize your plants as this causes excessive growth. Yellow sticky traps can also be used to control the adult population.
Cochineal scale, the cottony, white substance on your Prickly-pears (Opuntia spp.) and Chollas (Cylindropunita spp.) may be active now. Remove by using a fast stream of water or spray insecticidal soap.
Fine webbing between leaves or stippling on leaves may indicate the presence of spider mites. These plant mites cause damage by sucking contents from the leaves and are difficult to detect due to their small size. Plants that are water stressed may become susceptible to infestation. Dusty conditions can also lead to spider mite outbreaks. Make sure your plants are well-watered and wash off accumulated dust on plants to manage spider mite problems. You can also remove by using a fast spray of water or by spraying insecticidal soap to control populations. There are many biological controls that feed on spider mites including lacewings, predatory mites, lady bugs and big-eyed bugs. Using insecticides is not recommended as insecticides do not help manage the population, but can actually cause the population to intensify because insecticides used will often kill their natural enemies. Some insecticides can even accelerate mite reproduction.
If you notice a rank odor and black ooze dripping down the saguaro stem(s), the plant may have developed an infection as a result of an injury or frost damage. The infection is caused by the Erwinia bacteria, a common bacterium found in the environment.
For more information on diseases or problems of landscape plants go to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension publication/sites/dbg.dd/files/pldiseases_urban-1124.pdf or the University of California UC IPM Online at


COMMON NAME: chrysanthemum
GENUS: Chrysanthemum
The garden chrysanthemum,
C. morifolium, is a hybrid developed from four species native to Asia. Many cultivars have been developed from this one, differing in size, shape, type of flowering head, growth habit, color, and time of bloom.
FAMILY: Compositae
TYPE: perennial
DESCRIPTION: The many classes of chrysanthemum include pompon, quill, spider, brush, thistle, single, in-curve, and spoon. These classes are based on the physical characteristics of the flowering head.
CULTIVATION: Small chrysanthemum plants can be purchased in spring, set in the garden or holding bed throughout the summer, and then put on display beginning in early fall. The plants develop very shallow root systems, so they can be transplanted easily in late summer with few problems.
Conscientious pruning during early summer will result in bushy plants with numerous flowers. Pinch back new plants when they are 6 inches tall, and continue to pinch back the flowering stems until ninety days before they bloom.
Chrysanthemums are heavy feeders. They will benefit from weekly applications of a liquid manure or biweekly applications of a quickly soluble fertilizer. Continue to fertilize them until the buds begin to show color.
Chrysanthemums are very ancient plants, as supported by the fact that Confucius wrote of them in 500 B.C. The ancient Chinese botanist T’ao Ming-yang developed many new strains of chrysanthemums so beautiful that people came from great distances to view them. Soon his village became known as Chuh-sien, or the city of chrysanthemums.
Chrysanthemums were always great favorites of the noble class, and in China, up until a relatively short time ago, common folk were not allowed to grow them in their gardens.
Records show that chrysanthemum seeds came to Japan by way of Korea in the fourth century. In A.D. 910 Japan held its first Imperial Chrysanthemum Show and declared this the national flower.
Claire Haughton in her book Green Immigrants tells the following legend of how the chrysanthemum came to Japan: The Empire of Japan was born when a shipload of twelve maidens and twelve young men from China set out to find the “herb of youth,” which kept people eternally young. They carried baskets of chrysanthemums to trade for this herb. After many weeks at sea, their ship wrecked near an uninhabited island. They swam to shore, planted the chrysanthemums, and settled down to build an empire. Japan’s imperial coat of arms shows a sixteen-petaled golden chrysanthemum.
Chrysanthemums were first introduced to Europe in 1688, and their reception there was not enthusiastic. They were essentially ignored for many years by most European gardeners, despite the fact that records from the 1700’s indicate the Dutch were growing at least six species. In 1843 the Royal Horticultural Society sent Robert Fortune to China to obtain the hardy autumn-flowering chrysanthemums, and this seems to have triggered great interest. By the mid-1800’s their popularity had been established. Particularly popular in France were the small, rounded varieties, which were called pompons because of their similarity to the small, wool pompons found on soldier’s hats.
Chrysanthemums were introduced to the United States in 1798, and by 1850 many nurseries were carrying as many as forty varieties. In 1900 the Chrysanthemum Society of America was established, and they staged their first exhibit in 1902 in Chicago.
The genus name is from two descriptive Latin words, meaning “yellow” and “flower.” These flowers make a very good dye.
In the Victorian language of flowers, this plant means cheerfulness and optimism. The Chinese consider it a sign of rest and ease, and the Japanese take it as a sign of long life and happiness. According to the Japanese floral calendar, it is the flower of September. The English calendar claims it for November.
Chrysanthemum petals are quite tasty and are particularly good added to cream soups or various salads {including green, fruit, or chicken}. Blanch the petals for several seconds before using them, but don’t cook them too long as this makes them bitter.


COMMON NAME:  petunia
GENUS:  Petunia
P. grandiflora-large flowers.
P. multiflora-prolific bloomer.
FAMILY:  Solanaceae
BLOOMS:  summer
TYPE:  annual
DESCRIPTION:  Petunia flowers come in quite an array of candy-store colors including red, pink, dark blue, light blue, purple, and yellow. The flowers are single or double and can be as wide as 7 inches across. The leaves are light green and somewhat sticky. Many varieties are trailing and creeping and good to use in hanging baskets.
CULTIVATION:  Heat and drought tolerant, petunias are a favorite summer bedding plant all over the country. Start seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before you set out the plants, after danger of frost has passed. Place them in full sun in average soil. The blooming period can be extended by removing the spent blossoms.

Spanish explorers first found petunias growing near the coast of Argentina in the early sixteenth century. That first species was a low-growing, trailing plant with a fragrant white flower and was not of particular beauty. The Indians called it petun, or “worthless tobacco,” and the plant was not thought to be of sufficient value to be sent back to Spain.
Three hundred years later, after the Napoleonic Wars had put Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne, French explorers were sent to Argentina. They sent plant specimens back to Europe to be identified, and botanists there confirmed the Indian name for petunia and placed it in the tobacco family. The plant was then made available to European gardeners but was essentially ignored.
In 1831 another species of petunia was found in Argentina and sent to Europe, but again it gained no popularity there. It was not until plant breeders in the United States began extensive hybridization work on petunias and produced a miraculous variety of plant forms and colors that petunias began to receive favorable attention. Now petunias are enormously popular. They are quite adaptable and will grow in each one of the fifty states. This plant’s ability to withstand drought conditions has earned the love and admiration of gardeners everywhere.


Types of roses: Old-fashioned-includes the older hybrids. Hybrid tea-large blooms. Floribundas-smaller blossoms borne in clusters. Modern shrub-large flowered. Climbers and ramblers-vigorous climbing habit. Miniature-tiny, with semi-double or double flowers.
FAMILY:  Rosaceae
BLOOMS: summer
TYPE: perennial
DESCRIPTION:  It is difficult to find any flower more beautiful than roses. The grace and elegance of the flower forms and richness of their color make them true beauties of the garden. New varieties constantly come on the market to compete with the popular old-fashioned roses that have been known and loved for centuries.
CULTIVATION:  Rose gardens should be created in an open, airy spot in full sun with rich, deep soil. Dig the area 1 foot deep and allow it to settle before planting. Roses require a good bit of care. They should be watered regularly, fed periodically, and checked frequently for pests or disease. Pruning is necessary to cut out dead or weak branches and to clip out lateral buds to produce larger center flowers.

Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, crowned the rose queen of all flowers, a title that the rose deserves today as much as it did in the Golden Age of Greece. Not only is the rose of unparalleled beauty, it has also proved itself to be useful in a hundred different ways. It has been prized for its medicinal value, cherished for its sweet scent, and appreciated for its delicate flavor.
The legend of the origin of the rose is from the days of the Roman Empire. The story is told of Rhodanthe, a woman of such exquisite beauty that she had many, many suitors. She showed little interest in any of them and sought refuge in the Temple of Diana. Her suitors were persistent, however, and followed her there, breaking down the gates to get close to her. Diana became incensed at this and turned Rhodanthe into a beautiful rose and the suitors into thorns. From this legend, the rose has become a symbol for love and beauty.
Romans used roses extravagantly, and soon they became synonymous with woman, wine, and the indulgent mood of that day. Because of this, early Christians would not allow roses in the church.
Medieval gardens always included many roses. These were not grown so much for their beauty as for food, for medicine, and to supply materials to make rosaries {made from compressed rose petals}.
Roses were thought to cure a wide variety of ailments, including toothaches and earaches; diseases of the stomach, lungs, and intestines; overindulgence in wine; headaches; hemorrhages, sleeplessness; excessive perspiration; and hydrophobia. According to the doctrine of signatures, red roses were to treat nosebleeds.
The rose is dedicated to Harpocrates, god of silence. The term sub rosa, “under the rose,” comes from the Roman practice of hanging a rose or swag of roses over a conference table. The code of honor was that no gossip passed at the table under the roses could be repeated. Today sub rosa means confidential or in secret.
Roses have been cultivated in Greece and the Orient for over 3,000 years. It is thought that all cultivated roses came from the dog rose, R. canina. Fossils of this rose species from 35 million years ago have been found in Montana.
One of the first lavish displays of roses was seen in England in the seventeenth century when Catherine of Braganza  {from Portugal} married Charles II of England, and roses were brought from the Orient for the ceremony. This helped to open up the Orient to the British, and the British India Company soon opened botanical gardens in Singapore and Calcutta.
The rose adapted exceedingly well to the English climate and quickly gained great popularity there.
The English Wars of the Roses were fought between the House of York {symbolized by a white rose} and the House of Lancaster {whose symbol was a red rose}.
During World War II the nutritional value of rose hips {from the dog rose} was discovered. Rose hips contains more vitamin C than almost any fruit or vegetable. Gathering rose hips became a national passion for a time, and the dog rose was a patriotic symbol.
To the Arabs, roses signified masculine beauty, and the white rose was often associated with Mohammed. The Arabs brought the art of distilling to Europe and rose essence soon became an important ingredient in perfumes, cooking, and medicines. Roses were used extensively as flavoring and were important in making candy.
Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon’s empress, was an ardent rose lover and had a collection of over 250 varieties.
Associations with the rose were not always happy. In Switzerland roses were often associated with death, and cemeteries were sometimes called rose gardens. Ancient Saxons believed that when a child died, one could see the image of death plucking a rose. The rose also symbolized rebirth and resurrection.
Cultivated roses arrived in North America in the early seventeenth century when Samuel de Champlain brought roses from France to plant in his garden in Quebec. The greatest rose collection in the New World in 1630 was held by Peter Stuyvesant in New Netherland. Although twenty-six species of roses are native to North America, over 90 percent of those grown in cultivation are non-native. Americans have always loved the rose. It is the state flower of New York, and the American Beauty Rose is the floral emblem of Washington, D.C. In 1986 the rose was chosen as the national flower of the United States.
The Shakers grew roses extensively and used the petals to make rose water, which they sold. The Shaker Rose Rule was that no rose could be cut to use for decoration or personal enjoyment. All roses were cut without stems and were used only to make rose water.
Perhaps the most famous quotation about roses is from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Roses have never been known by any other name, and their scent today remains as hauntingly sweet as it was 3,000 years ago when roses were grown in the Orient.


COMMON NAME: statice
GENUS: Limonium
L. bonduellit and L. sinuatum are annuals with clusters of yellow, blue, purple, or rose flowers. L. latifolium-perennial; 28 to 30 inches tall; lavender flowers. L. perezii-perennial; 36 inches tall; purple and white flowers.
FAMILY: Plumbaginaceae
BLOOMS: summer
TYPE: annual and perennial
DESCRIPTION: Annual statice is a multi-branched plant producing delicate sprays of flowers that rise to a height of 24 inches. Many flower colors are available. The leaves are large and leathery. The evergreen leaves of perennial statice are even larger, sometimes getting 12 inches long. The flowering stems grow 30 to 36 inches tall and produce blue or purple flowers. Plants often spread as much as 36 inches across.
CULTIVATION: Statice likes good sun, regular watering, and rich soil. The richer the soil, the bigger the flower heads. Annual varieties are started easily from seed, because the seeds are exceptionally clean and free of chaff.

The flowers make wonderful cut or dried flowers. For dried flowers, the blossoms should be picked in prime condition and should be hung upside down. The stems are somewhat weak and if they are dried upright, they often cannot support the weight of the flowers as they dry.
The genus name is from the plant’s similarity to another plant, leimonion, which grows in salt marshes. Limonium is native to dry grasslands from southeastern Europe to southeastern Russia.


COMMON NAME: strawflower
GENUS: Helichrysum
SPECIES: H. bracteatum
FAMILY: Compositae
BLOOMS: summer
TYPE: annual
DESCRIPTION:  The blossoms are pomponlike, measure 2 1/2 inches across, and come in white and bright shades of yellow, red, pink, and orange. Plants grow about 2 to 3 feet tall, though dwarf varieties are available that are a mere 12 to 18 inches in height.
CULTIVATION:  Choose a sunny, dry spot in the garden and sow seeds of strawflower in spring after the last frost.

Over 500 aromatic perennial species make up this genus native to Crete and Asia Minor.
The most outstanding thing about this plant is the way its flowers retain their color and shape for a very long time. Everlasting, another common name, refers to this characteristic. The species H. bracteatum, is called immortelle. Although grown most often as a dried flower, strawflowers also make good fresh cut flowers.
The plant contains chemicals that were at one time used in treating respiratory diseases, liver and gallbladder problems, rheumatism, and allergies.
The genus name is from two Greek words, helios, meaning “sun,” and chrysos, meaning “golden.”
Several species were used to make funeral wreaths and were grown extensively in Southern France for this reason.


COMMON NAME:  bellflower
GENUS:  Campanula
C. glomerata ‘Joan Elliott’-clustered bellflower; deep violet-blue; May-June. C. medium ‘Caerulea’; blue. C. rotundifolia ‘Olympica’-bluebell of Scotland; blue; June-September; 12 inches. C. carpatica ‘China Doll’-lavender blue; 8 inches. C.c. ‘Wedgewood Blue’-5 to 6 inches. C.c. ‘Wedgewood White’-white; 8 inches.
FAMILY:  Campanulaceae
BLOOMS:  late spring, summer
TYPE:  biennial and perennial
DESCRIPTION:  There are many kinds of bellflowers. Most have cup-shaped flowers and small leaves, and colors come in blue, lavender, and white. Cultivars of Campanula carpatica are perennials that grow only 8 inches tall and are used in mass plantings in borders or in rock gardens. These do not have the “saucer” part that is present in the other species.
CULTIVATION:  Different species have distinctly different cultural requirements, so positively identifiy species you want to grow in your garden. Bellflowers can be grown in full sun or partial shade, and they thrive in average garden soil. Seeds can be sown in June for blooms the following year. Sow seeds 1/8 inch deep, and thin plants to 12 inches apart. Perennial plants should be divided in fall or spring. Remove faded blossoms to prolong flowering. The Carpathian bellflower, C. carpatica, should spread nicely after a period of about three to four years. This plant blooms well from June until October. Canterbury bells, C. medium, needs mulch in winter in cold climates. These do best in full sun but will grow in half-day or filtered sunlight as well.

Bellflowers are known by a multitude of common names. Some of the more colorful ones are wild hyacinth, Venus looking glass, Canterbury bells, our Lady’s nightcap, Mercury violet, viola mariana, mariets, coventry bells, bats in the belfry, and our Lady’s thimble. Most of these, of course, refer to the bell-shaped flower. The genus name, Campanula, is from the Latin word for little bell.
The name Venus looking glass comes from a legend in which Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, lost her magic mirror. Anyone who looked in this mirror would see nothing but beauty. A poor shepherd boy found it, became entranced with his own image, and did not want to give it back. Venus sent Cupid down to get it back, and in his haste, Cupid struck the shepherd’s hand. The mirror shattered, and everywhere a piece of it landed, this flower began to grow.
C. rapunculus was made famous by the brothers Grimm. In the story of Rapunzul a man stole a piece of the bellflower from the garden of a witch for his pregnant wife. The witch caught him and made him promise that when the child was born, she would be given to the witch and named after the plant he had stolen. This is how Rapunzul got her name and inherited all her problems.
In addition to providing inspiration for fairy tales, C. rapunculus has other attributes. It is called the native English rampion and has been cultivated since the fifteenth century. It is supposedly an excellent vegetable and can be eaten raw like a radish. The roots are said to be sweet because they store food in the form of sugar, rather than starch. Leaves and blossoms of this plant were made into concoctions used to treat sore throats.
An old superstition about rampion is that if you grow it in your garden, your children will be quarrelsome.
Other names for species of bellflowers suggest even more uses. Chimney bellflower is grown in pots during summer months and placed in empty fireplaces for decoration.
Still another bellflower species is called throatwort and was used as a gargle.
Be sure you know one species from another before you start munching on bellflowers, however, for the fresh bulbs of some species are considered poisonous.
Substances from these bulbs can be used as glue for book binders or as a substitute for starch.

Bellflower is the symbol of constancy and kindness.


GENUS:  Lilium
Many of the 200 species of lilies are native to the United States. Plant breeders have done extensive hybridization work on the lilies to make them hardy and free flowering. Lilies are now available in every color except blue.
FAMILY:  Liliaceae
BLOOMS:  late spring
TYPE:  perennial
DESCRIPTION:  Lilies are one of the most beautiful of all garden plants. The flowers are large and deliciously colored, and they usually occur many to a stem. The height of lilies ranges between 2 to 6 feet. Flower forms include trumpet shape, pendant, flat faced, or bowl shaped.
CULTIVATION:  The most important requirement for growing lilies is well-drained soil. Water standing on the bulbs will cause them to rot. The bulbs should be kept cool. This can be done by overplanting with annuals or perennials. Depending on the size of the bulbs, they should be planted 4 to 8 inches deep in the fall. Lilies prefer soil that is slightly acidic and rich in organic matter. When planting, add a bit of bone meal mixed into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Any lily that grows more than 3 feet tall should be staked. Be sure to water lilies generously while they are in bloom and use a complete fertilizer in early spring as the stems emerge, again when the buds form, and after they have bloomed.

According to the Victorian language of flowers, the lily is a symbol of majesty. Certainly the regal lily has always been beloved by both princes and paupers from all over the world. Greek and Roman mythologies mention the lily often, as do legends from China and Japan.
The tiger lily grows wild in Korea, where it was revered for both its beauty and its delicate flavor. It was considered a symbol of war. This lily was brought to Europe from the Orient in 1804 by plant collector William Kerr.
Lilies have been cultivated for over 5,000 years, since the Sumerian culture developed in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. One Sumerian city was named Susa, another name for lily. Some scholars insist that the city was named for the flower; others suggest that it was the other way around.
The lily has often been associated with religious figures. It was thought to be sacred to the Minoan goddess Britomartis; was considered the flower of Saint Anthony, the protector of marriages; was thought to be the symbol of the Virgin Mary; and was a sacred symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Roman mythology also associates it with Juno, the queen of the gods and goddess of marriage. According to the myth, when Juno was nursing her son Hercules, excess milk fell from the sky. Part of it stayed in the heavens, creating the Milky Way, and part of it fell to earth, creating the lilies. In Rome, lilies were known as Rosa junonis, or Juno’s rose. White lilies have always been considered a symbol of peace.
Romans used a concoction made from the bulbs to treat corns and sores on their feet, and they probably carried the plants to England with them for this purpose. Lily and yarrow, together boiled in oil,were used for burns, and lily seeds taken in drink were supposed to cure snakebite. White lilies were thought to cure the bite of a mad dog. The bulbs, beaten with honey and placed on the face, were thought to clear the complexion and make facial wrinkles disappear. Washing hair often with lilies, ashes, and lye supposedly would turn the hair a blond color.
Though their medicinal properties were valuable and varied, lilies were soon appreciated for their beauty as well as their curative powers.
The Madonna lily was particularly popular in the sixteenth-century garden, though it did not receive this name until the end of the nineteenth century. It was a symbol of purity and innocence, and during the Middle Ages artists frequently painted female saints holding the blossoms.
Lilies have always been popular as decorations in the church. During Victorian times, however, some of the Christian churches removed the stamens and pistils so as not to offend anyone.
According to Anglo-Saxon folklore, if you offered an expectant mother both a rose and a lily, and she chose a rose, the baby would be a girl; if the lily was chosen, a boy was on the way. The lily is considered the sacred flower of motherhood. European superstition held that lilies were protection against witchcraft and kept ghosts from entering the garden.
Before the French Revolution, the House of Orange in Holland used the orange lily as a political symbol. When the House of Orange fell, in an act of defiance, radicals destroyed all lily bulbs.
Lilies are edible and even tasty. One suggestion for lily cuisine is to add fresh lily buds to clear chicken soup during the last three minutes of cooking for a bit of “lily-drop” soup.

The Sego lily is the state flower of Utah.