Pruning, Fertilization, Problems, July Plants

PRUNING

Pruning should be done to maintain plant health (remove dead, damaged or diseased portions, cross branching, etc.), to highlight the “natural” shape of the plant, to train a young plant, and to eliminate hazards. Excessive or heavy pruning causes significant stress to trees and shrubs.

The best practices are to prune the least amount necessary and prune for legitimate reasons. How much to prune depends on the size, species, age, as well as your intentions.

Two good principles to remember–a tree or shrub can recover from several small pruning wounds faster than from a single large wound and never remove more than 25% of the canopy in a year. For more information register for a Garden class on pruning that will teach you the proper pruning techniques for trees and shrubs or visit http://www.treesaregood.org for information on proper pruning of young and mature trees.

Lightly prune native and desert-adapted trees to avoid breakage during the summer thunderstorms in July and August if needed. Do not prune excessively as this will expose the tree trunk to the blazing sun causing it to sunburn.

Pruning newly planted trees is not recommended and in fact, can be detrimental. However, at planting time prune broken or torn and diseased branches. Save other pruning actions for the second or third year. For more information on developing a healthy tree visit www.treesaregood.org.

Prune your cacti if necessary to maintain size, for propagation or to remove a damaged or diseased stem; prune at joint or segment. Use a sharp, clean pruning tool and spray tool periodically with a 70% alcohol solution to prevent infection.

If the pruned stem is to be used for propagation, allow the cutting to dry out for a week before planting.

Continue to prune old flowering stalks from Hesperaloes (Hesperaloe spp.), Agaves (Agave spp.), Yuccas (Yucca spp), and Aloes (Aloe spp.).

To encourage continued flowering, deadhead herbaceous perennials such as Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata), Texas Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), Red Sage (Salvia coccinea), Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea), and Tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.).

FERTILIZATION

Most native and desert-adapted plants in the landscape do not generally require fertilizer as they are adapted to our soil conditions.  In most cases, fertilizers are generally applied to prevent deficiencies.  If fertilizers are needed, one application for the year is usually sufficient. The best time to fertilize landscape plants are in March, April or the early part of May.

We do not recommend fertilizing your desert-adapted landscape plants during the summer months.  Fertilizing will cause excessive, luxuriant growth that requires more water and new growth is too tender to take the excessive heat and sun exposure.  Wait until next spring to fertilize, if needed.

Periodic fertilizing may be needed for plants in containers as nutrients in the soil will have diminished over time.  Always follow directions on the label.

Continue to fertilize your warm-season annuals and herbaceous and woody perennials in containers if necessary.

Cacti and warm-season succulents in containers should be fertilized at least once during the month depending on the type of fertilizer used.  If using a slow-release granular fertilizer for your cacti and succulents in containers, fertilize in late March and again in July or early August.

Do not fertilize any winter-growing succulents such as Succulent Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.), Iceplants (Malephora spp., Drosanthemum spp.,Cephalophyllum spp.), Living Stones (Lithops spp.) and crassulaceous plants (Kalanchoe, Cotyledon, Echeveria, Dudleya) as they are summer dormant.

Continue to water and fertilize your Karoo Roses (Adenium spp.) to promote bloom through the warm season.

Continue to fertilize your vegetable and herb garden as needed.

PROBLEMS

Mosquitoes are now commonplace throughout the Valley particularly after rain events. Be sure to empty any containers, buckets, bowls, etc. that might catch rainwater as the larvae require water in which to mature.

Ants and termites are swarming and if you see the mud tunnels of termites crawling up your plant stems, just wash them off. They are not harming the plants.

Defoliation of many landscape plants can occur with the appearance of a high infestation of grasshoppers. Population size varies year to year and they are a difficult insect to control in the garden. When population numbers are low, hand-pick and remove. If infestation is high, use a protective cloth or floating row cover to protect your plants. Allow natural predators such as birds, lizards and spiders to help keep the population under control.

Whiteflies are small, sucking insects that are often found on many ornamental and vegetable plants. Plants infested with whiteflies show symptoms of sticky, yellowing leaves and when the plant is disturbed the small insects will fly generating a white “blur”.  There are many species of whiteflies and they are abundant at different times of the year.  Whiteflies are difficult to manage and insecticides are not recommended as it can disrupt and destroy their natural enemies. If you choose to use an insecticide, use an insecticidal soap or oil to help control populations.

Large, green caterpillars may be appearing on tomatoes, eggplant and even the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii). They can either be the tobacco or tomato hornworm feeding on the leaves, flowers and stems. After three to four weeks of feeding, the larva will burrow into the soil to pupate.  In about two months, the large adult moth will appear and are often mistakenly identified as hummingbirds.

These moths are important pollinators for many nighttime flowering plants including the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii), Fragrant Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa), and the Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii). No method to control is necessary. If infestation is high, hand-pick caterpillars off your plants or allow naturally occurring parasites to help control the population.

A white, cottony mass may appear on ornamental and edible plants and is sometimes confused with cochineal scale because they too produce a waxy, white cottony substance but it is most likely mealy bugs. Both insects feed on plant juices, however, cochineal scale feed exclusively on cacti such as Prickly-pears (Opuntia spp.), Nopalea spp. and Chollas (Cylindropuntia spp.).

Mealy bugs are often difficult to control and systemic insecticides may be used, but are not always effective. However, usually dipping a cotton swab with a 50-50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water solution and then wiping on these insects can help manage the population. Mealy bugs are also a common problem for many cacti and succulents grown indoors or in greenhouses and are often found either on the stems or roots.

Take the infested plant(s) outdoors during the summertime as this seems to help get rid of these pests. It takes constant vigilance to keep them under control.

The male cicadas’ mating calls are a cacophony of sound that permeates the desert air and often heralds to the gardener that summer has arrived. The Apache cicada is common to low-desert regions and the adult has a mostly black body with a pale band behind its head. The nymphs spend almost their entire life underground feeding on the roots of many desert trees, shrubs and other ornamentals.

As the nymph becomes an adult, it will then surface from the soil and undergoes one last shedding of its exoskeleton. The adult cicada will feed on the plant sap of many trees or shrubs. After mating, females will make small “hatch” marks on the slender tips of trees or shrubs to lay their eggs. This physical damage can cause the tips to “die” back, but is not detrimental to the plant and is often thought of as “natural pruning”.

There is no need to control cicadas as they are part of the desert ecology. Allow natural predators to control the population as many birds and lizards find the cicada nymph and adult to be a tasty treat.

If it has been a dry season, rabbits may be nibbling on plants that they may not have eaten before. Most mature plants can handle rabbit sampling, but newly planted plants should be protected until they have attained a larger size.  Protect plants with a wire cage or spray Liquid Fence TM to help deter these animals. Allow mesquite pods to fall and remain on the ground for rabbits to eat as they are a vital food resource for many desert animals. It might even help distract them from eating your most prized plants.

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.

Adult ocotillo borers are now active in search of stressed or recently planted ocotillos in which to lay their eggs. The eggs are laid in the bark and the larvae or grubs excavate into the stems causing a hasty decline of the plant. Look for signs of borers by watering the ocotillo during the warm season. If the stems do not leaf out, examine for grubs and remove any infected stems by pruning back to base of the plant.

The large, black-brown beetle bumbling onto your porch during the sweltering summer nights is the Palo Verde Beetle. It has just emerged from its subterranean home looking for a mate.  For the past two to four years it has lived underground as a grub or larva feeding on the roots of many native and non-native plants, not just Palo Verde trees as the common name suggests.

When the grubs become adults they will ascend and can be seen in late June, July, August and September particularly after rainfall.  Once the female adults mate, they lay their eggs and die soon after making their life span about one month. Using pesticides is not recommended as the beetle is already gone by the time you notice any damage.

To prevent root borers keep your plants healthy as possible as they will be less vulnerable to an attack.  There are many natural predators of the adult beetle including roadrunners, coyotes, owls and even bobcats. Grubs are eaten by skunks.

 

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What to Plant in July

We recommend most plants be planted in the fall or spring.  However, if you must plant during the summer months watering may need to be more frequent and you must be diligent about observing your newly planted plants for signs of water stress.

Many cacti and warm-season succulents can still be planted in the summer. When transplanting cacti and succulents, mark either the south or west side and plant facing the orientation you marked to avoid the burning of tender tissues. Most nurseries will mark the side of the container to help you determine proper planting orientation.

However, if the original orientation is not known, newly planted cacti and succulents need to be covered with shade cloth if the plant surface appears to yellow or pale suddenly. Use a shade cloth rated between 30-60% as anything higher will block most of the sunlight and will not be suitable for your cacti and succulents. You may need to keep the shade cloth on the plant for the duration of the summer to prevent sunburn.

 

PLANT CACTI AND WARM-SEASON SUCCULENTS INCLUDING:
• Prickly-pears (Opuntia spp.)
• Barrel cacti (Ferocactus spp.)
• Hedgehogs (Echinocereus spp.)
• Easter Lilies (Echinopsis spp.)
• Pincushions (Mammillaria spp.)
• Chollas (Cylindropuntia spp.)
• Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii)
• Senita (Pachycereus schottii)
• Organ Pipe (Stenocereus thurberi)
• Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)
• Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii)
• Old Man of the Andes (Oreocereus celsianus)
• Agaves (Agave spp.)
• Aloes (Aloe spp.)
• Red-yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
• Giant Hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera)
• Burseras, Elephant Trees (Bursera spp.)
• Pencil Tree (Euphorbia tirucalli)
• Candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica)
• Carrion Flowers (Stapelia spp.)
• Slipper Plant (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)
• Madagascar-palm (Pachypodium lamerei)
• Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra)
• Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Desert-adapted trees can be planted during the summer months if you follow the guidelines in the Watering Section above. When planting native and desert-adapted plants, it is usually unnecessary to back-fill with soil amendments and vitamins or to add rooting hormones. Remember to remove nursery stakes from trees after planting.
TREES TO BE PLANTED INCLUDE:
• Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
• Mesquites (Prosopis spp.)
• Palo Verdes (Parkinsonia spp.)
• Texas-olive (Cordia boissieri)
• Anacacho Orchid-tree (Bauhinia lunarioides)
• Texas Ebony (Ebenopsis ebano)
• Palo Blanco (Mariosousa willardiana syn. Acacia willardiana)
• Golden Leadball Tree (Leucaena retusa)
• Ironwood Tree (Olneya tesota)
• Catclaw Acacia (Senegalia greggii syn. Acacia greggii)
• Palo Brasil (Haematoxylon brasiletto)
• Mexican Ebony (Havardia mexicana)
• Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia orthocarpa)
• Desert Fern (Lysiloma watsonii)
Shrubs should be planted in fall or spring.

Herbaceous perennials and groundcovers should be planted in fall or spring. However, many warm-season vines can be planted during the summer months. Water immediately after planting and monitor the moisture for the next few days to keep the root ball from drying out. Water newly planted native and desert-adapted vines twice to three times weekly to a depth of at least a foot. Gradually extend the time between watering and monitor plants regularly for signs of water stress.

VINES TO BE PLANTED INCLUDE:
• Yellow Orchid-vine (Callaeum macropterum)
• Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus)
• Arizona Grape-ivy (Cissus trifoliata)
• Old Man’s Beard (Clematis drummondii)
• Purple Bushbean (Macroptilium atropurpureum)
• Yellow Morning Glory-vine, Yuca (Merremia aurea)
• Passionflowers (Passiflora spp.)
• Slender Janusia (Janusia gracilis)
• Arizona Canyon Grape (Vitis arizonica)
Planting of cacti seed can continue. Seed can be soaked overnight in water to help begin the germination process.  Place seed in a well-draining soil mix (½ quality potting soil and ½ perlite or pumice) and lightly cover. Keep soil moist until germination occurs.
VEGETABLE SEEDS TO SOW INCLUDE:
• Armenian cucumbers
• pinto beans
• black-eyed peas
• tepary beans
• snap beans
• muskmelons
• cantaloupes
• pumpkins
• winter squash
• sweet corn
Pepper and tomato seed may be planted indoors and transplanted in August or September for a fall harvest.

Wait until fall or spring to plant most herbs.

Watering In July

Proper irrigation to your plants during the summer months is crucial. As the temperatures rise, plant watering needs will also increase. However, adjust your watering schedule if your garden receives a deep, substantial rain event.

Observe plants regularly for signs of water stress. Some signs to look for include:  wilting, curling leaves, yellowing or falling of older leaves, and dead stems or branches. Some plants with larger leaves like Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) and Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus) will often wilt during the hottest part of the day, but by next morning they usually recover. However, if they do not recover by the following morning, it is a good indication they need to be watered.

The amount of water and watering frequency depends on many factors. These include:  soil type, weather (temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc.), microclimates, cultural practices, plant size and species, and whether newly planted or established in the landscape (two years or more).

Below are general guidelines to help you determine how much and how often to water your landscape and container plantings to keep them healthy when rainfall is lacking. Native and desert-adapted plants that were newly planted and those that are not established in the landscape need to be watered until they become established in the landscape and can then survive with natural rainfall.

Even established plantings will need an occasional supplemental watering during long periods of drought to keep them healthy and stress-free.

Established native or desert-adapted trees should be watered at least once a month if no rainfall. If the temperature is over 108 degrees, water your native or desert-adapted trees at least twice during the month. Always allow soil to dry out between each irrigation cycle. Water at least 3 feet deep for your trees.

Established native or desert-adapted shrubs should be watered every two to three weeks. Always allow soil to dry out between each irrigation cycle. Water at least 2 feet deep for your shrubs.

Natural rainfall may be adequate for most well-established cacti and succulents. However, if rainfall is insufficient, water may be needed at least once for cactus and twice for succulents during the month of July. Always allow soil to dry out between each irrigation cycle. Water your cacti and succulents to a depth of at least 8-12 inches.

With increased humidity and higher temperatures, careful watering of non-native succulents during this time is a must.

Established native or desert-adapted herbaceous perennials, groundcovers and vines should be watered every 2 weeks and at least to a depth of 1 foot. Always allow soil to dry out between each irrigation cycle.

During the summer native and desert-adapted trees can be planted. See What to Plant section for more details. After planting your trees, they should be watered immediately and the moisture monitored for the next few days to keep the root ball from drying out. Newly planted native and desert-adapted trees may need to be watered more frequently until established. It can take up to 3-5 years for trees to become established in the landscape.

Recently planted native or desert-adapted trees should be watered once a week if temperatures are over 100 degrees. If temperatures are over 108 degrees water every 2-3 days. Unestablished trees that have been in the ground for 2 to 5 years water every 10 days.

Shrubs should be watered once a week if temperatures are over 100 degrees during their first year in the ground; over 108 degrees water every other day. Water your shrubs during the second year every 10 days if temperatures are over 100 degrees; every 3 days if over 108 degrees. Water your shrubs to a depth of at least 2 feet. It can take up to two years for your shrubs to become established in the landscape.

During the summer cacti and other warm-season succulents can continue to be planted. See What to Plant section for more details. When planting cacti and succulents, it is imperative to wait a week before watering to minimize the chance of rot. After the initial irrigation of your succulents, allow the soil to dry out and water every 10-14 days. Cacti need to be watered once more after initial watering, but allow the soil to dry out between watering. Cacti and succulents can take about a year to become established in the landscape.

Unestablished native or desert-adapted herbaceous perennials, groundcovers and vines should be watered once to twice weekly if temperatures are over 100 degrees; if over 108 degrees water every other day and water to a depth of at least 1 foot.  Herbaceous perennials, groundcovers and vines usually take about a year to become established in the landscape.

Herbs may need to be watered twice weekly and vegetables may need to be watered every 2-3 days. For most vegetables it is important to keep the soil moist around the root zone during its growing season. Don’t allow the soil to dry up too much as this can affect the growth of the plant and quality of the fruit. Provide shade and apply mulch to your herbs and vegetables if needed.

Agaves and other succulents (Aloe spp., Madagascar Palm [Pachypodium lamerei], Ponytail Palm [Beaucarnea recurvata], Slipper Plant [Pedilanthus macrocarpus], Euphorbia spp., Haworthia spp.) in large containers should be watered at least once to twice this month. Cacti in containers should be watered at least once this month. However, cacti and succulents in smaller containers may need to be watered more often especially cacti and succulent seedlings.

Many winter-growing succulents including Succulent Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.), Iceplants (Malephora spp., Drosanthemum spp.,Cephalophyllum spp.), Living Stones (Lithops spp.) and crassulaceous plants (Kalanchoe spp., Cotyledon spp., Echeveria spp, Dudleya spp.) have become inactive. These summer-dormant succulents need to be watered less during the summer months. Water carefully and allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Keep an eye on your warm-season annuals and herbaceous perennials in containers. Water them at least two to three times weekly particularly if they are planted in smaller containers.

JULY IN THE LOW DESERT

If we are fortunate the arrival of summer rains will materialize this month, bringing much relief to plants and animals. However, you may notice many non-native succulent plants are succumbing to high nighttime temperatures. When the night temperatures stay at 90º F or above and the humidity is high, most succulent plants can’t breathe. After several nights in a row, chances are many of them will rot. Other than careful watering, there is nothing that can be done.

Native summer annuals can be planted from seed such as Arizona Poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora), Chinchweed (Pectis papposa) and Devil’s Claw (Proboscidea parviflora). These annuals can be difficult to germinate, but soaking the seed overnight in water may help initiate the germination process.

The fruits of many desert plants are continuing to ripen such as Prickly-pears (Opuntia spp.), Organ Pipes (Stenocereus thurberi), Ironwood (Olneya tesota), Palo Verdes (Parkinsonia spp.), Mesquites (Prosopis spp.) and many others. You may notice tiny holes on the outside surface of the Mesquite and Palo Verde fruits. These holes are caused by bruchid beetles that are predators that feed on the fruits and seeds.

With increased winds and storms, check your tree staking and readjust if necessary. Remember staking is a temporary solution to allow the tree to establish its root system. Tree staking should be done only when necessary and stakes should be removed after one or two growing seasons.

With proper plant selection, you can provide your garden with color as there are many native and desert-adapted plants that will continue to flower through the summer and into the fall.

BLOOMING HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS, GROUND-COVERS, BULBS, AND VINES CAN INCLUDE:
• Rain lilies (Zephyranthes spp.)
• Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
• Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
• Desert Rosemallow (Hibiscus coulteri)
• Arizona Rosemallow (Hibiscus biseptus)
• Dyssodia (Thymophylla pentachaeta)
• Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
• Katie Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana ‘Katie’)
• Desert Senna (Senna covesii)
• Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii)
• Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
• Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)
• Paperflower (Psilostrophe cooperi)
• Desert Zinnia (Zinnia acerosa)
• Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
• Blue Mist (Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Dark Knight’)
• Desert Foldwing (Dicliptera resupinata)
• Butterfly Mist (Ageratum corymbosum)
• Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica)
• Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa)
• Red Sage (Salvia coccinea)
• Pink Sage (Salvia coccinea ‘Brenthurst’)
• Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera)
• Desert Four O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora)
• Mist Flower (Conoclinium dissectum)
• Desert Plumbago (Plumbago scandens)
• Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata)
• Baja Bush Snapdragon (Galvezia juncea)
• Yellow Dots (Sphagneticola trilobata)
• White Woolly Twintip (Stemodia durantifolia)
• Rock Penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius)
• Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
• Rough Menodora (Menodora scabra)
• Showy Menodora (Menodora longiflora)
• Texas Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
• Hummingbird Trumpet (Epilobium canum ssp. latifolium)
• Rock Verbena (Glandularia pulchella)
• Arizona Blue-eyes (Evolvulus arizonicus)
BLOOMING VINES CAN INCLUDE:
• Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus)
• Yellow Orchid-vine (Callaeum macropterum)
• Yellow Morning Glory-vine, Yuca (Merremia aurea)
• Lavender Trumpet Vine (Clytostoma callistegioides)
• Wait a Minute Vine (Merremia dissecta)
• Pringle’s Clustervine (Jacquemontia pringlei)
• Passionflowers (Passiflora spp.)
• Arizona Grape Ivy (Cissus trifoliata)
• Slender Janusia (Janusia gracilis)
• Purple Bushbean (Macroptilium atropurpureum)
BLOOMING SHRUBS CAN INCLUDE:
• Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha maderensis)
• Tree Ocotillo (Fouquieria macdougalii)
• Little-leaf Cordia (Cordia parvifolia)
• Woolly Butterfly Bush (Buddleja marrubiifolia)
• Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
• Blue Emu Bush (Eremophila hygrophana)
• Mexican-honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)
• Flame Anisacanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)
• Lantana (Lantana camara)
• Desert Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
• Velvet-pod Mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa)
• Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
• Prairie Acacia (Acaciella angustissima syn. Acacia angustissima)
• Yellow Bells (Tecoma spp.)
• Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)
• Heavenly Cloud Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum x ‘Heavenly Cloud’)
• Guayacán (Guaiacum coulteri)
• Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens)
• Rio Bravo Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’™)
• Cimarron Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum zygophyllum ‘Cimarron’®)
• Silver Nightshade (Solanum hindsianum)
• Bee Brush (Aloysia gratissima)
• Mexican-oregano (Lippia graveolens)
• Velvet-leaf Senna (Senna lindheimeriana)
• Desert Cotton (Gossypium thurberi)
• San Marcos Hibiscus (Gossypium harknessii)
• Chihuahuan Honeysuckle (Anisacanthus puberulus)
• Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis)
• Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)
• Indigo Bush (Dalea bicolor var. argyrea)
• Skeletonleaf Goldeneye (Viguiera stenoloba)
• Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii)
BLOOMING TREES CAN INCLUDE:
• Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
• Texas-olive (Cordia boissieri)
• Golden Leadball Tree (Leucaena retusa)
• Texas Ebony (Ebenopsis ebano)
• Chanar (Geoffroea decorticans)
• Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens)
BLOOMING CACTI AND SUCCULENTS CAN INCLUDE:
• Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii)
• Chain Fruit Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)
• Coville’s Barrel (Ferocactus emoryi)
• Compass Barrel (Ferocactus cylindraceus)
• Fishhook Barrel (Ferocactus wislizeni)
• Organ Pipe (Stenocereus thurberi)
• Diamond Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima)
• Midnight Lady (Harrisia pomanensis)
• Rose Cactus (Pereskia aculeata)
• Guyapa (Pereskia sacharosa)
• Easter Lilies (Echinopsis spp.)
• Red Torch (Echinopsis huascha)
• Slipper Plant (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)
• Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
• Giant Hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera)
• Elephant Tree (Bursera microphylla)
• Woolly Aloe (Aloe tomentosa)

Wild Thyme {Thymus serpyllum}

Also, Known As:

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Mother-of-thyme
  • Wild Thyme

The wild thyme is native to the larger parts of Europe where the land is dry. The wild thyme is rare compared to the common thyme’s and is farmed extensively. Normally, wild thyme is found growing up to a certain altitude on the Alps, on high plateaus, in valleys, alongside trenches, roads, on rocks and also in infertile and dry soil. Wild thyme may also be found growing in moisture-laden clay soil that is improvised of chalk. Wild thyme’s can also be found in old rocky, deserted grounds, dried-up grass turfs and also on open lands. Particularly in England, wild thyme’s grow normally on moorlands and rocky terrains. Wild thyme is frequently cultivated as garden borders, in rock gardens or on the sunlit banks of rivulets and streams.

Wild thyme is a perennial herb. The herb’s sulky wooded stems grow up to a height of one foot and the leaves of the plant are converse, slender and oblong or oval shaped. The leaves of wild thyme are rarely longer than 12 inches and give off a lemon-like scent. Similar to its other thyme family members, wild thyme is full of thymol which is used by most druggists as a powerful antiseptic. It is an active element in all disinfectants, mouthwashes, and even gargles. As pharmacists are well aware of wild thyme’s lemony odor, it is also used in toiletry items. In fact, it was the ancient men of Athens who first discovered the lemon scent of wild thyme’s and massaged a lotion prepared from the herb on their chests after bathing to make them appear graceful. Wherever, the wild thyme grows, it indicates a serene ambiance and in ancient days, it was believed that the herb helped to cheer up the mental spirits by disseminating a wonderful lemon-like scent in the air. In fact, the Romans used the wild thyme as an independent medication to heal depressions.

Although wild thyme’s have less distinct in taste than the cultivated variety, it can always be used as a replacement of its aromatic features in stews, soups, stuffing as well as poultry and mutton preparations. It is said that the meat of sheep that grazes on wild thyme’s are of exceptional taste.

Wild thyme grows perennially as is thicker than the garden variety of the herb. The herb has a number of varieties depending on the neighborhood where it grows. When it grows in natural conditions like dry and exposed downhill, wild thyme is normally small and found to be lying on the ground. In such conditions, wild thyme is frequently found to be forming cushions. But when it grows along with furze, a prickly plant with yellow flowers that grows in the forests, or other plants that provide it with some kind of refuge, the herb grows up to a foot length giving it a completely unusual look. Wild thyme derives its specific name ‘serpyllum’ from the Greek term that means a creeper. The herb has obtained this name owing to its nature of lying prostate on the ground and as a trailer.

The wild thyme has woody and fibrous roots while the plant bears many stems that are firm, divided and lying prostate on the ground. The stems of the wild thyme’s are normally colored reddish-brown. The herb has bright green leaves that get thinner at the bottom into very short foot-stalks that are soft and include many small glands. The leaves of the plant are bordered with hairs at the base and contain major veins on the lower surface. Unlike in the garden thyme’s, the edges of the leaves of wild thyme’s are not recurved, but like all other plants in the Labiatae classification (all thyme’s belong to this category), wild thyme’s bear leaves in pairs on the stems. Normally, the plant bears flowers from the end of May to early June and continues till the onset of autumn. Like in the case of garden thyme’s, the flowers of wild thyme are purple in color and blossom in a circular arrangement of three or more flowers at one node of the stems.

Interestingly wild thyme’s have numerous attractions and features. While the bees especially love the thyme flowers for the nectar they can extract from them, in some parts of the world it was traditional for young girls to wear garlands made of thyme leaves, lavender, and mint with the aim of attracting their beloved ones. Particularly in Wales, the wild thyme is also related to death. While the thyme flowers were placed on the graves in Wales, till date the Order of Old fellows still carry garlands made of wild thyme to the funerals of their beloved ones and throw them on the graves. Most significantly, there is an ancient adage that says that wild thyme comprised one of the herbs that formed the perfumed bed of the Virgin Mary.

Plant Part Used:

Flowering tops.

Medicinal Use:

Like most of the other medicinal herbs, wild thyme too has numerous benefits and is useful in healing a number of problems. Wild thyme extracts may be taken in both as syrups and infusion. Normally wild thyme syrup or infusions are used to heal sore throats, flu and colds, whooping cough,coughs, bronchitis, and chest infections. As wild thyme contains decongestant properties, it is very useful in shrinking swollen nasal tissues,sinusitis, and clogging of the ear as well as all other associated problems. Many herbal practitioners use wild thyme to throw out roundworms and threadworms from the children’s body and in infants, it is also used to heal gas and colic. Wild thyme is antispasmodic and helps in relieving pains occurring from cramps and spasms. A paste prepared from wild thyme may be applied externally as a poultice or soft, moist mass of the skin to provide heat and moisture. This is largely beneficial in healing mastitis, a swelling of the breast while an infusion prepared from the wild thyme is applied as a wash to treat wounds, cuts, and ulcers. It may be noted here that wild thyme also finds extensive use in pillows and herbal baths.

Folk healers or herbal medicinal practitioners who pass on their knowledge to their assistants often recommended wild thyme as tranquilizers, antiseptics against bacteria, diuretics to increase urine flow, expectorants to increase bronchial secretions and also carminatives to prevent the formation of intestinal gas as well as relieve the body of it. Pharmacologists have already authenticated the use of wild thyme as antiseptics, expectorants, antispasmodic and carminative. In medical science, wild thyme also known as serpolet has the same qualities as the common thyme but is of a lower grade than the common variety of the herb. In brief, wild thyme is useful as an aromatic, antiseptic, and refreshment tonic, antispasmodic, diuretic as well as emmenagogue that promotes and regulates menstruation.

Wild thyme is also useful to cure chest ailments and for those suffering from weak digestion. In both cases, herbal practitioners recommend the use of an infusion prepared from the wild thyme. In addition, the wild thyme infusion is also a useful medicine to cure flatulence or excessive gas formation in stomach or intestine. When administered to people suffering from convulsive coughs, wild thyme extracts are known to have shown excellent results. Normally, an infusion made by adding one ounce of dried out wild thyme in one pint of boiling water is beneficial to heal the above-mentioned disorders. The infusion is normally sweetened by mixing sugar or honey and smoothed or made demulcent by adding acacia or linseed to it. The dosage is simple. For effective action, it is taken one or more tablespoonfuls several times in a day.

The concoction prepared with wild thyme is also extremely beneficial for treating cases of drunkenness or alcoholism and, according to herbalist Culpepper, the herb is also an effective medicine in healing complaints of nightmares. He has said that when a preparation of wild thyme vinegar made on the lines of rose vinegar and applied on the head, it immediately relieves people of all pains. The infusion of the herb is also recommended for healing both states of violent mental agitation as well as lethargy or stupor. Similarly, tea prepared with wild thyme is also a useful medication for a headache and any kind of nervous problems. The wild thyme tea may be taken directly or mixed with other herb extracts like rosemary and others.

Habitat of Wild Thyme:

Reasonably acidic to the neutral soil is best for the wild thyme to grow. In addition, less fertile soil and bright sunlight help the herb to flourish better. It can also grow on organic soils provided there is a superb drainage system. Though it grows best under full sun, wild thyme can also be cultivated in partial shade and the herb is capable of thriving even in drought conditions. While wild thyme plants grow well in temperate and arid places, development of the herb is sluggish to reasonable in superior conditions. Although snails and slugs (gastropod mollusks without shells) often cause harm to wild thyme plants, they are normally free from other kinds of pest problems. As far as diseases to the plant are concerned, the leaves of wild thyme face disfigurement or stains (leaf blight) appear on them during cold and rainy seasons, particularly during the winters.

Components of Wild Thyme:

Large quantities of wild thyme are required to derive substantial amounts of the herb’s extracts. When 100 kilograms (about 225 pounds) of dehydrated wild thyme is distilled it only produces about 150 (five or six ounces) grams of the herb concentrate. The concentrate is a yellow liquid, also known as serpolet oil that has a less intensive aroma than the oil of thyme derived from T.vulgaris. The distilled concentrate from dried wild thyme has 30 to 70 percent of phenols, including thymol, carvacrol and others. Blended with the oil extracted from common thyme, wild thyme concentrate is transformed into artificial oil. In the perfumery industry, the oil of serpolet is mainly used in the manufacture of aromatic as well as antiseptic soaps.

Life Root

Senecio aureus

Also, Known As:

  • Cocashweed
  • Coughweed
  • False Valerian
  • Golden Ragwort
  • Golden Senecio
  • Liferoot

The herb known as the life root is a perennial wild flower species of the daisy family of plants – Asteraceae; it reaches about half to two m in height. A small rosette of basal leaves approximately six to eight inches across is found at the base of each plant. The basal leaves have blades that are normally two inches in length and two inch wide. The leaves are cordate orbicular in shape, possessing crenate, dentate edges without any hair on the surface. The length of the blades is matched by the length of the slender petioles of the basal leaves. Each rosette develops a flowering stalk from its center which grows up. Usually two to three alternate leaves are borne along this flowering stalk. The size of the alternate leaves is smaller compared to the size of the basal leaves. During the blooming period and the time following the bloom, the alternate leaves as well as the stalk are devoid of hairs. The flowering stalk bears a flat headed panicle or corymb of flower heads at its tip. The panicle bears slender and hair free branches. The floral heads resemble a daisy; each is about half an inch to one inch wide. Numerous golden yellow disk florets can be seen in the center of each floral head, each of these disks are surrounded by six to sixteen yellow colored ray florets. The florets on the disk and the ray florets are fertile and take part in the sexual cycle of the plant. Many linear green colored bracts in a single series surround the base of the floral head. Life root flowers bloom from middle to late spring, floral blooms typically lasts for three weeks in a season. A bullet shaped achene with white tuffs of hair or fruit will replace each floret. Wind action results in the distribution of the achene and the plants are normally propagated through the agency of wind in the wild. Life root is also characterized by possessing a short root-stock with spreading fibrous roots that produces rhizomes or stolons at ground level. At favorable sites, the plant may produce vegetative colonies of plants.

The daisy family forms one of the largest genera of flowering plants in the plant kingdom. The botanist Senecio includes two thousand and more species in this genus – many of these plant are commonly met with in herbal dispensaries or in garden as an ornamental. The life root is a native North American species of the daisy family, with a long historical and herbal use as a treatment for an assortment of gynecological disorders. The remedy made from the life root was found to be of great use by Indian women facing the pains of childbirth, it was traditionally used to speed up a protracted labor and to ease the pain. The early colonists made similar use of the plant, and many herbalists in 19th-century America placed great faith in the life root as a remedial “female regulator.” These herbalists employed the plant to treat many types of common as well as rare disorders including leucorrhea – excessive vaginal discharge – as well as all kinds of menstrual problems; it was also used to treat different types of irregularities associated with menopause. Life root was used as a remedy for TB, much before the introduction of chemical compounds used in modern treatment for TB. In the old days, a person down with tuberculosis was almost certainly going to die as medications simply did not exists, at this time, the early stages of the disease was relieved symptomatically using the life root as a herbal remedy. Tuberculosis patients in colonial times would be given a teaspoonful of the fluid extract of life root mixed in a little water; this was believed to induce a tonic effect on the body of the patients. The treatment of urinary tract infections and disorders was also treated using the life root remedy by traditional herbalists; these herbalists also treated kidney stones using the remedy.

The life root herb is also called by other names including, “golden senecio,” the “ragwort,” the “false valerian,” and the “squaw weed.” The herb is characterized by the bearing bright yellow floral heads in full bloom. It is a member of the family Asteraceae or the daisy family of plants. The habitat types in which the life root can be found growing includes swampy grounds and places covered by moist thickets that are seen along the eastern and central United States of America. Herbalist, traditionally prepared the medication using the entire dried plant and not just the root as is commonly assumed. The life root had great popularity even up to the year 1979, when it was still among the principal herbal ingredients in the famous old proprietary folk remedy known as Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound – which was sold at so many places. On chemical analysis of the life root, small but detectable quantities of the toxic alkaloid senecionine have been found at concentrations of about 0.006 per cent of dry weight. The principal chemical compound found in the plant, senecionine is a member of the group of hepatotoxic -liver poisons – pyrrolizidine alkaloids, this chemical when given in a few doses can induce chronic disease of the liver in laboratory rats. Human liver diseases and their originators have been analyzed and a strong possibility exists that it is such alkaloids that are involved in some way; this includes the onset of primary liver cancer in many people. The presence of this chemical alkaloid makes all discussion of life root as a potential remedy irrelevant. There are no distinct therapeutic benefits and self medication is not desirable for any condition. The safety of the medication is seriously compromised due to the presence of the alkaloid compound senecionine. The use of this medication has been discontinued in conventional medications many years ago and its present limited employment in herbal medicine must also be discontinued as it is a risky medication.

Plant Part Used:

Dried aerial parts.

Herbal Medicine Use:

There are still some instances in which the life root is used in herbal medicine, it is still used as a uterine tonic quite safely – the remedy strengthens and aids the uterine lining. Remedies made from the life root are particularly useful in dealing with different types of disorders affecting menopause in women. The remedy made from the life root may also be useful in dealing with case of delayed or suppressed menstruation. The topical remedy made from the life root can be used as a douche in treating leucorrhoea. The remedy made from life root is also used to have a great reputation and functioned as a general tonic to treat tuberculosis and other debilitated states affecting the human body.

The whole herb is medicinal and is sold along with the roots in the commercial herbal market. Herbalists in England traditionally made use of the European sub-species Vulgaris, locally called the “groundsel,” this herb was very popular in England for several centuries and was a fixture in herbal medicine. The early English colonialists in the new world made use of the American sub-species; the New England colonists in the earliest settlements used the herb in many remedial preparations. The remedy made from life root tends to act moderately on the body with a persistent action; it is a blend of relaxing and stimulating effects. The life root remedy has a sharp and bitter taste, often inducing a full tonic impression on the stomach, the nervous system, as well as the uterine lining. Life root is principally used as a nervine tonic to treat female weaknesses and problems with the uterus; it has a mild but prompt soothing effect on the menstrual cycle. The remedy made from life root was also used extensively to treat problems including neuralgia and rheumatism affecting the womb in women, it was used in alleviating the aches and cramps incident in the gestation period in women under a term of pregnancy. The remedy made from life root is especially helpful in the treatment of mild cases of leucorrhea and prolapsus; it is also used in treating uterine hysteria. Life root remedy is used in boosting feeble appetite and to alleviate aches of the back – that affects so many women. The life root remedy may also possibly be beneficial for disorders affecting the kidneys and in treating urinary problems. The tonic actions of the life root remedy is the principal reason for its effectiveness at promoting proper menstruation and in enlivening a languid and partially a tonic amenorrhea in women. The life root remedy cannot be considered to be a forcing emmenagogue; it is more of an aid in cases of passive menorrhagia as it induces a toning effect on the uterine lining. When life root is taken in the form of a warm herbal infusion, it helps expedite the process of parturition in cases of uterine and nervous fatigue affecting a woman. Women experiencing disorders in the kidney due to the problems affecting the uterus feel the influence of this remedy moderately well – the remedy being effective in treating female specific renal disorders. The use of the life root remedy is especially beneficial for the lungs, while claims about its potential to cure tubercular consumption are clearly false; the remedy is unquestionably effective in treating debilitating coughs in patients. The lifer root remedy’s ability to effectively treat sub-acute and chronic dysentery has been given great value by some physicians; they prefer using the life root remedy in place of hydrastis as a tonic to treat just such disorders. The true character and nature of the life root remedy in these disorders can only be understood well by remembering its effective tonic and nervine effect.

Growing Life Root:

The life root is found all over eastern North America. Habitats in which the plant may be seen include damp grounds and marshes, and riparian habitats. The remedy is prepared from aerial parts of the plant that are harvested during the summer season.

Components:

Life root contains a volatile oil, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (including senecine, senecionine, and otosenine), tannins, and resin. In isolation, the pyrrolizidine alkaloids are highly toxic to the liver.

Infusion, Tincture:

Infusion: the infusion of the life root can be prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water over one to three teaspoonfuls of the dried herb kept in a pan. The herb must be left to infuse and steep in the hot water for ten to fifteen minutes before it is cooled, strained and drank. This remedy may be taken three times daily to treat various disorders or as indicated by an herbalist.
Tincture: the life root tincture can be taken at doses of one to four ml three times daily to treat various disorders.

 Harvesting Life Root:

The best time to collect the herb is just before the flowers open up in the summer months.

Combinations:

The remedy made from the life root can also be combined with other helpful and beneficial herbs such as the St. John’s wort, the oats or the pasque flower and used in treating menopausal problems and disorders.

Prickly Pear Cactus {Opuntia ficus-indica}

Also, Known As

  • Barbary Fig
  • Prickly Pear Cactus
  • Tuna Cactus

Prickly pear cactus (botanical name, Opuntia ficus-indicia) is a cacti plant that has the characteristic of being a fruit and flower compact and has been used by the native Mexican tribes for treating a range of ailments and health conditions for several centuries now. While growing naturally, it is found in places having desert-like conditions. However, currently, people in several European countries cultivate cacti plant commercially for a number of purposes. In fact, this plant has been domesticated long ago and is an important crop in agricultural economies in the parched and semi-parched regions across the globe.

 

prickly pear cactusThe prickly pear cactus is a perennial cacti plant that usually grows up to 5 meters or 16 feet in height. This plant bears copious minuscule thorny glochids (hairs/ bristles), which are removed easily when one touches the plant. Subsequently, these glochids get stuck to the skin and they become difficult to see and hard to remove from the body. In fact, these thorny hairs have the potential to set off great uneasiness.

Plant Parts Used:

Fruits, flowers.

Nutritional Use:

The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indicia) possesses a variety of nourishing chemical elements that have incredible remedial as well as preventive attributes. The plant itself is extremely healthful and encloses an exceptional vitamin and mineral profile, which contributes to the several helpful effects of prickly pear cactus. This cacti plant offers numerous nutrients essential for our body. It has exceptionally rich fiber content and is also a natural resource for vitamin C (ascorbic acid), flavonoids and as many as 17 amino acids. Precisely speaking the prickly pear cactus is loaded with nutrients that are known to aid the liver, pancreas and prostate. This plant is especially beneficial for people suffering from diabetes since the health of the liver and pancreas is very important to maintain the balance of blood sugar.

The prickly pear cactus possesses anti-inflammatory properties that are very familiar to most. The plant was used by the ancient tribes in Mexico to alleviate inflamed insect bites. Meanwhile, scientists in the West have found that prickly pear cactus is helpful in treating arthritis as well as inflammation of the joints, muscles, and even the eyes.

It is very natural that athletes have fallen back on prickly pear cactus to obtain additional energy in the gym, to lower muscle soreness following exercises, to lessen the modifications of developing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and to facilitate and accelerate recuperation. An extract from the prickly pear cactus has proved to be amazingly beneficial in the form of an ergogenic (mounting ability of physical and mental labor by doing away with exhaustion) recovery aide.

It has been found that the influence of prickly pear cactus on consumption of alcoholic beverages is also very impressive. Several studies have found that this plant is able to aid in lowering the consequences of too much alcohol consumption, provided it is used for drinking.

Prickly pear cactus is effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels and, at the same time, it facilitates digestion of nutrients, thereby aiding in controlling the glucose levels in the bloodstream. This plant also assists in lessening the development of plaques in the arteries and veins, thereby enhancing blood circulation. Prickly pear cactus encloses calcium which facilitates in avoiding osteoporosis while the rich fiber content of the plant enhances the digestive system. All these actions together help to make the blood purer and better, thereby aiding diuresis (increased urine discharge), which helps to cleanse the kidneys. Any individual having too much glucose in his/ her blood would observe that when they consume the potent juice of the prickly pear cactus plant, the glucose level lowers considerably within just an hour of ingesting it.

Prickly pear cactus possesses rich fiber content and this functions as an appetite suppressant – in other words, it does not allow one to eat excessively and become obese. In addition, the fiber also helps to reduce accumulation of fat and makes excretions more frequent and regular. Latest researches have revealed that ingestion of foods that have high fiber content facilitates in protecting against a variety of ailments, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, and colon disorders. Prickly pear cactus is really a wonderful plant that encloses a vegetable protein that aids in decreasing cellulite (lumps of fat deposits in the thighs and buttock) as well as diminishes excessive fluid retention by the body. Amino acids enclosed by this plant are useful in providing the body with energy as well as lessening fatigue. At the same time, they also help to diminish the sugar levels in the bloodstream and lower appetite.

eastern-prickly-pear-(2)The prickly pear cactus is an amazing plant that offers numerous health as well as nutritional gains. This plant has proved to be a wonderful supplement that can be added to any type of diet, particularly those taken by the diabetic patients. Prickly pear cactus encloses a number of natural vitamins and essential minerals which offer health benefits that are important for our health and well-being in general.

Even the flowers and stems of the prickly pear cactus possess therapeutic properties, such as diuretic, antispasmodic and emollient. Often the split stems are used as a first aid treatment and bound around the wounded limbs. The flowers of this plant possess astringent properties and are frequently employed to lessen bleeding as well as for treating problems related to the gastro-intestinal tract, for instance, colitis, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, prickly pear cactus flowers are made use of in treating a distended prostate gland.

As an herbal medication, prickly pear cactus has long been used to cure superficial wounds (shallow, surface injuries), such as scrapes and cuts. Similar to the aloe vera, this plant is also applied externally to the affected areas.

As discussed earlier, prickly pear cactus is effective in suppressing appetite and, thereby, very useful in weight loss. Initially, the fibers enclosed by the plant attach themselves to the fat suspended (free fat) in the stomach and make that fat unsuitable for digestion. Apart from this, the fibers enclosed by prickly pear cactus are in a state that is somewhere between a solid and liquid and this makes them sticky. Thus, they are able to remain in the stomach for a longer period compared to any other common food.

This is the primary reason why people who consume prickly pear cactus do not feel hungry for a prolonged period and consequently, eat less food, taking in fewer calories. In fact, their craving for food vanishes and this, in turn, helps them to lose weight.

Since the early days, the prickly pear cactus was conventionally used by the Mexican Indian tribes as a foodstuff as well as a therapeutic herb. It may be noted that the climatic conditions in Mexico are scorching, parched, and desert-like, which makes it difficult to undertake agriculture as there is a dearth of irrigation technologies. As a result, only a few species are able to thrive under such harsh conditions. The Mexican Indian tribes have, therefore, used the prickly pear cactus as a food out of compulsion and also owing to the absence of other types of plants in the region. They have also used prickly pear cactus to prepare flavored food items, such as soups, jellies, pickles and also cheese products!

Alternatively, this plant is also blended with oil to manufacture candles. The gum exuded by prickly pear cactus also has an industrial use, as it is added to plaster, whitewash and such things to make them stick to the walls better.

Growing Prickly Pear:

Prickly pear cactus is indigenous to Mexico, the United States, and South Africa, but over the years, it has been naturalized in the Mediterranean region where this plant is found growing naturally in dry, arid and rock-strewn locales. In addition, this plant presently also grows in Africa and Australia, where it has turned into an infamous weed.

Prickly_Pear_Cactus_3_Prickly pear cactus requires an extremely well-drained or sandy soil and has a preference for a pH ranging between 6 and 7.5. It is essential to maintain the plants somewhat water-less during the winter months. Nevertheless, this plant also has a preference for rational watering during its growing period. It is ideal for the prickly pear cactus if the plant is grown in a place at the base of a wall facing south or any place where it is possible to protect the plant from the rains during winter. In order to flourish well, prickly pear cactus needs enough of sunlight and warmth. Prickly pear cactus has the aptitude to endure a lot of neglect. This plant is cultivated in several sub-tropical areas as well as warm temperate climatic regions for its flowers, which are edible, and also as a fence that helps to prevent animals from entering an area. Prickly pear cactus is found in a number of named varieties and one among them does not possess the characteristic spines and annoying bristles.

The prickly pear cactus is propagated by its seeds, which should ideally be sown in early spring. The seeds need to be sown in manure having an excellent drainage system inside a greenhouse. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently tall to be handled, pick them out individually and plant them in separate containers. The young plants should be essentially grown in the greenhouse at least for the first two winters. The plants may be put in their permanent positions outdoors during the latter part of spring or early summer when the last expected frost has passed. It is also important to provide the plants with some kind of protection from the winter dampness. While cultivating prickly pear cactus, it is important to ensure that you have some young plants in reserve in the greenhouse because it is likely that some of the plants planted outdoors may not survive the onslaughts of their first winter.

Alternately, the plant can also be propagated with its leaf pads. The leaf pads of the prickly pear cactus may be cut any time during the growing period of the plant. After having cut the leaf pad, you should leave it in an arid, sunlit place for a few days to make sure that its base is somewhat dehydrated and has started to become hard-skinned (callous). Plant these semi-arid leaf pads into containers containing sandy compost. Propagating the plant through this procedure is extremely simple and the leaf pads start to give out roots soon.

Research:

Contemporary science has found out that the prickly pear cactus encloses several health benefits. Findings of different researches indicate that apart from facilitating the healing of minor wounds and cuts, this plant also acts as a scavenger of the harmful free radicals produced by the body, thereby helping to protect the immune system as well as avert oxidative strain. Prickly pear cactus also possesses antioxidant activities and this helps in protecting the cells and organs. In addition, the antioxidant attributes of the plant also supposedly inhibit the aging process as well as prevent diseases and even injuries.

Besides the above-mentioned health benefits of prickly pear cactus, this plant also has the aptitude to decrease the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also called the ‘bad’ cholesterol, levels, thereby bringing down the blood pressure as well as the workload of the heart.

Components:

Chemical analysis of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) shows that it is loaded with natural flavonoids, such as kaempferol 3-methyl ether, kaempferol, quercetin 3-methyl ether, quercetin, dihydro quercetin, dihydrokaempferol (aromadendrin 6), narcissin and eriodictyol. In fact, the health promoting benefits of prickly pear cactus are attributed to these flavonoids.

In addition to the above-mentioned flavonoids, the prickly pear cactus plant also encloses a number of minerals, such as iron, potassium, and calcium, as well as a variety of vitamins, counting vitamins B1, B2, and C.

Aromatherapy Herb Garden.

One of the aspects we enjoy about growing herbs is the scent.
Aroma is very evocative, and aromatherapy is growing in importance today.
This garden has been designed not to create one’s own oils, which is a complex process, but to have those aromas around that help our everyday lives, and to make an attractive garden, as the plants all have useful qualities apart from their aroma.
The sweet marjoram, basil, thyme, fennel and rosemary are excellent culinary herbs. The chamomile and lemon balm make good herbal teas help one relax.
We have placed paving stones in the garden to make access to the plants easier.
However, when this garden becomes established, the stones will barely show.
We included a list of the herbs in this garden with the properties of the essential oil.

Herb

 
1. Sweet Basil {Ocimum basilicum}  Concentration
2. Bergamot {Monarda fistulosa}  Uplifting
3. Roman Chamomile {Chamaemelum nobile}  Relaxing
4. Fennel {Foeniculum vulgare}  Antitoxic
5. Rose Geranium {Pelargonium graveolens}  Relaxing
6. Hyssop {Hyssopus officinalis}  Sedative
7. Juniper {Juniperus communis}  Stimulant
8. Lemon Balm {Melissa officinalis}  Antidepressant
9. Lavender {Lavandula angustifolia}  Soothing
10. Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}  Invigorating
11. Sweet Marjoram {Origanum marjorana}  Calming
 12. Thyme {Thymus vulgaris}  Stimulant

A Few Handy Tips!

Flowerpot Sterilizer.

Just because a flowerpot is used and dirty, you do not need to toss it.
Whether clay, plastic, or ceramic, the pot can be superficially cleaned with a strong blast from a garden hose.
If the pot has white, crusty mineral deposits, scrape them off with an old knife {scraping clay pots will sharpen the knife}. When the pot is free of dirt and minerals, sterilize it to kill insect eggs and plant diseases.
1 part household bleach
10 parts water
1. Mix the bleach and water, making enough to fill a tub that is deeper than the largest pot you want to sterilize.
2. Place the cleaned pots in the tub and allow them to soak for 20 minutes.
3. Remove sterilized pots, rinse again with clear water, and set them in the sun to dry. They are now ready for new plants.

General Purpose Potting Mix.

The compost in this mix contributes disease-fighting microorganisms and nutrients to help mature indoor and patio potted plants thrive.
1 part perlite
1 part finished compost
1 part topsoil
1. Mix all ingredients together and store in a waterproof, sealed container.
2. To modify this mix to suit succulents, cacti, and other plants that need sharply drained soil, increase the perlite to 2 parts, or add 1 part builder’s sand to the original recipe.
3. Before filling a large pot, invert several small pots on the bottom of the larger pot, then fill with soil. The air space beneath the small pots will aid drainage and lighten the overall weight of the pot.

Garden Pest Removers: Insect Repellent.

Insects won’t bug your next patio cookout if you try this fragrant, non-toxic herbal fix.
Sprigs fresh rosemary
Sprigs fresh basil
Sprigs fresh thyme
1. When you remove food from the grill, spread out a handful of pungent culinary herbs on the top rack of the grill where they will smoke, but not harm.
2. Allow the herbs to cook and release their insect-repelling fragrances.

Baking Soda Fungal Fix.

When a baking soda solution is applied to fungus-prone plants, such as roses and bee balm, before signs of mildew appear, it can prevent diseases including powdery and sooty mildew and black spot. And because this spray is cheap and easy to make, you can keep it on hand and apply as needed. To further discourage fungal diseases, keep plant leaves as dry as possible by watering the soil without splashing the leaves, and mulch plants with disease-fighting compost.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap {do not use laundry or dishwasher detergent}
1-quart warm water
Pour ingredients into a large spray bottle and shake to mix.
Spray both sides of leaves and stems.

Bug Blaster Soap Spray.

Dish-washing soap is harmless to the environment and is safe to use in the house. Outdoors it also makes an effective control for soft-bodied insects, such as caterpillars, thrips, aphids, and mealybugs, because soap breaks down their protective coverings, causing the pests to dehydrate.
1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap {do not use laundry or dishwasher detergent}
1-gallon water
1. Pour soap into water and stir to dissolve. Fill a spray bottle and test-spray one of two leaves of an infected plant. Wait a day, and if the leaves are not damaged, spray the entire plant. Be sure to coat the stems as well as well as both sides of the leaves.
2. Repeat the treatment twice a week until the pests are no longer visible. Then repeat as often as needed.

Ammonia Plant Conditioning Spray.

Ammonia is a concentrated form of nitrogen, which is the nutrient most needed by green plants. You can make an inexpensive all-purpose fertilizer and insecticidal spray using ammonia and soap. The soap helps the ammonia stick to the leaves and also kills soft-bodied insects. Mix as much as you need for garden plants and lawns. Store all garden treatments, such as this, in a capped and labeled bottle in a childproof cabinet.
 
1 part household clear ammonia
1 part liquid dishwashing soap {do not use laundry or dishwasher detergent}
7 parts water
1. In a large container combine the ingredients.
2. Fill a spray bottle and apply the mixture to stems and both sides of leaves for garden plants.
Use a hose-end applicator to spray the lawn.

Oil Spray Insecticide Concentrate.

Some plant pests and fungal infections are hard to eradicate because they have shells or waxy coatings that protect them from traditional treatments. You can, however, smother tough-shelled scale, the eggs of many insects, and even mildew infections by coating them with oil. Store all garden treatments, such as this, in a capped and labeled bottle in a childproof cabinet.
1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap {do not use laundry or dishwasher detergent}
1 cup vegetable oil
1. In a pint container, combine soap and oil to form a concentrate. Store it in a sealed, labeled container.
2. To apply, mix 1 or 2 teaspoons concentrate with 1 cup water in a spray bottle and apply to stems and both sides of plant leaves.
Reapply after it rains.

Rhubarb Insect Solution.

Rhubarb is an attractive perennial plant that not only makes good pies but also makes an insecticide that is toxic to sucking insects. This recipe is for ornamental plants only.
Do not spray on herbs, fruits, or vegetables, because rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans.
 
3 stalks rhubarb with leaves
1-gallon water
1. Chop rhubarb leaves and stems. In a stockpot, combine rhubarb and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
2. Cool to room temperature, and strain liquid into a spray bottle through a funnel. Spray on infested plants at 3-day intervals for 10 days.
Repeat as necessary