How to grow aristolochia

Aristolochia Macrophylla

Aristolochia MacrophyllaAristolochia are a genus of plants containing evergreen and deciduous vines and herbaceous perennials

They're found in most parts of the world from temperate to tropical and as usual, the more flamboyant of them come from the warmer regions.

Here in the U.K. they're probably best known as plants growing in the tropical house of your nearest botanical garden where the unusual shape of the flower gives us all something to ooh and aah about and gives rise to the nicknames of "Dutchman's Pipe" and "Birthwort".

The reason for the first name is pretty obvious when you look at the flower, but the second name is because it's supposed to resemble a birth canal.

Certain Aristolochia species have a long history of use by Man for medicinal purposes.

Unfortunately, it seems that some of the concoctions can have nasty side effects one of which is death.

I grow Aristolochia Macrophylla which is a hardy deciduous vine from eastern N.America where it's a popular plant for growing up walls, fences and old tree stumps etc.

A glance at the photo, shows that the flowers are pretty insignificant looking things, but this is more than compensated for by the leaves.

On a well grown plant, these heart shaped lustrous beauties can be up to 12 inches long and almost as wide.

As they grow they overlap each other forming a dense screen that's almost impossible to see through. (A great place for hiding the family heirlooms, at least for the summer.)

In nature, A.macrophylla is found in damp woodlands and alongside streams and this gives us a clue as to how it should be grown.

A well prepared soil enriched with plenty of well rotted organic matter is ideal and if combined with plenty of water and fertilizer during the growing period, the result will be a superb plant.


How to Grow Tree Ferns

Come the end of May, any winter protection on your tree ferns can be removed.

Although you should still keep an eye on the weather forecasts, the danger of any damaging frosts at this time of year is minimal.

So we can now move on to caring for our tree ferns during the summer.

As with all plants, we should look to their natural environment to give us clues as to how we should look after them.

In the case of D.Antarctica, they come from areas with a high water content such as forests, some of which are at high altitude (cloud forests) alongside stream beds and gullies.

I should point out, that although they like plenty of water, they will not tolerate waterlogged roots so drainage must be first class.

Once established, they’ll also stand some dryness but this should not be for prolonged periods.

For best growth and appearance, frequent watering is a must.

If you have the time try to water twice a day or more, especially in hot weather and thoroughly soak the plant.

If you only have the time to water it once then do it in the evening, evaporation is considerably slower at this time due to the temperature cooling down thus giving the fern more time to take up water.

Use a good quality general fertilizer and apply it at one half or one third full strength at every other watering.

This is called the “little and often” principle and means that your fern gets small amounts of fertilizer at regular intervals rather than in one big dose.

Once a month, drench the fern with plain water, this will leach out any unused fertilizer salts.

If these salts build up, they can cause root damage.


In the Garden

If you follow the instructions in my Blog Palms!Planting out your treasures you won’t go far wrong.

In case you’re wondering, I use the same method for putting in all my plants I just scale it down for small pots.

Clearly, you don’t need to dig out a large area for a plant in a 4 inch pot.

If you buy your plant as a plain log, that is without any roots, don’t plant too much of it in ground, you only need enough to keep it stable.

Use stakes, three if necessary to stop it from rocking about and remove them when the fern has rooted.

Keep the log well watered at all times during the summer.

Where to site your fern can pose a problem or two.

With two points of interest, namely the fronds and the trunk you want to show them both at their best.

The text books tell us that filtered sunlight is ideal but unfortunately, not many of us have this kind of situation in our garden.

I’ve found that a position in open shade avoiding at least part of the hot afternoon sun is fine.

Late afternoon or early evening sun when the heat has gone out of it is also o.k. Don’t try to shoehorn your fern into a tight space, give it some room to develop.


I’ve included D.Squarrosa because it’s one of those plants which seem to be on sale everywhere.

D.Squarrosa is a New Zealand tree fern which unfortunately isn’t reliably hardy in the U.K.

That isn’t to say it can’t be grown outdoors here, in fact they have some planted out at Birmingham Botanical Gardens but they need full winter protection to succeed.

What usually happens is that people buy one of the small plants that are available nowadays and leave it outside for the winter, where the top growth promptly dies off.

This effectively kills off the growing point of the fern preventing any further growth from the top.

If this happens to you, don’t throw the fern away because you’ll probably find some new growth coming up at the base of your fern.

Strange as it may seem, this new growth seems to be far hardier than the parent plant and you should be able to leave the fern out all year round. (I do!)

D.Squarrosa should always be kept moist and on no account should it be allowed to dry out


How to Grow Canna

Cannas are another plant that has made something of a comeback in recent years bringing height and with some varieties gaudy leaf colour into the garden.

Like most people, I’ve always thought of Cannas as garden plants but this is far from the case.

In fact, Cannas have a history of cultivation as a food source stretching back hundreds possibly thousands of years.

The rhizomes of C.Edulis and other species are a rich source of starch, the leaves and stems can be used as animal fodder while the young shoots are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

In fact nothing is wasted even the seeds are used in rattles and in tortillas.

Canna StriataThe first garden hybrids were created in the middle of the 19th century and this led to an explosion of new varieties ready for an eager gardening public to buy.

In the U.K; Cannas fell out of favour in the early 20th century and many of the new introductions were lost to cultivation.

There’s a fair bit more I could write about these magnificent plants but with space at a premium, I’ll finish this section here.

I’ve grown many varieties of Cannas over the years but nowadays I tend to stick with four of my favourites and they are: C.Indica, C.Musifolia, C."Striata" and C."Tropicana".

Cultivating Cannas is easy, in fact it really isn't any different from growing Hedychiums.

The rhizomes should be planted in a warm sunny spot, in moist soil that's had plenty of well rotted manure dug in.

Cannas love moisture and they're greedy feeders so for best growth and appearance, really give them a good regular soaking and feed heavily with tomato fertilizer.

At the end of the season, the rhizomes can be lifted and stored for the winter or they can be left in the ground and mulched for protection.


How To Grow Yucca Plants

Native to the Americas and the Caribbean, it’s the hardier species from North America which are of interest to most enthusiasts including me.

Depending on which book you read or website you access there are between 40 and 50 Yucca species and sub species native to the U.S.A. and Mexico.

Y.Glauca is one of the hardiest and it can be found growing as far north as Canada and from there south through the Great Plains into Texas.

It provides us with a useful demarcation line between the hardy and winter wet tolerant species to the east and south east and the hardy but less tolerant of winter wet species to the west and south west. (This conclusion is based on my experience.)

Yucca Gloriosa

At the present moment I have a small collection of 12 species, the majority of which I’ve grown from seed.

Here’s a breakdown of the plants I’m growing now starting with the hardier types from the east/south east.

All of these are growing outdoors without any protection.

Y.Glauca, Y.Filamentosa “Gold Sword”, Y.Gloriosa, (and Y.Flaccida) are fully hardy and should come through the winter unscathed in most parts of the U.K.

Y.Aloifolia, Y.Gloriosa “Variagata”, these are also hardy but in my garden they’ve suffered some minor leaf damage.

Y.Gloriosa itself is something of an enigma.

I've seen it described as a zone 7 plant on some websites and a zone 9 on others.

Whatever its zone is, my Y.Gloriosa pictured right, which I’ve grown from an offset has turned out to be one of the hardiest plants I’ve grown suffering no winter damage at all.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Y.Gloriosa I’ve grown from seed.

Now small plants, they have suffered some damage to the leaves.

Compared to some of the other's I’m growing though, this has been minor.

Yucca BrevifoliaThe plants in this section are those I’ve grown from seed.

All are native to the west and south west of the U.S.A. and Mexico.

Many find their home in one or more of the 4 great deserts that are found in this part of N.America, The Mohave, The Chihuahuan, The Sonora and The Great Basin Desert.

From these dry semi-arid areas of N.America, come most if not all of the more spectacular members of the Yucca clan.

Y.Brevifolia "The Joshua Tree" largest of all the Yuccas and a magnificent plant which really does grow to tree like proportions.

Native to the Mohave Desert, it has a National Park named in its honour.

Y.Whipplei from California (Baja) and Mexico is best known for its giant stem packed with flowers hence the popular name "Our Lords Candle".

Finally, from the Great Basin Desert comes the smallest of the Yuccas, Y.Nana.

Found in only one area of Southern Utah, Y.Nana was only discovered in 1985.

Described and named in 1998 it has been given species status but this in itself, has caused some disagreement among experts over its validity.

In between these examples, there are a host of other equally magnificent plants deserving of a place in anyones garden.

The names of the plants I'm growing now are listed below together with their U.S.D.A. zone rating.

Y.Baccata (5), Y.Brevifolia (7), Y.Carnerosana (8), Y.Elata (7), Y.Rigida (8), Y.Rostrata (8), Y.Torreyi (8).

If like me you're overwintering small plants outdoors, then I'd advise you to provide them with some form of cover to keep the worst of the elements at bay.

Failure to do so will almost certainly result in leaf damage and in severe cases, the loss of plants usually through the roots rotting.

This is due to the fact that these Yuccas come from areas where they have cold dry winters where as here in the U.K we have cold wet winters.

(How winter wet affects the large or specimen sized plants that are popular nowadays I don't know for the simple reason that I've never bought one.)

If you bring you're plants indoors to overwinter them, then beware of Red Spider Mite as this little beast can do considerable damage to young plants.


There's no great secret to growing Yuccas just two essentials, Sun and excellent drainage.

With some of the hardier species from the East/S.East you might get away with light shade and a slightly moister position.

However, I've found that species from the West/S.West aren't so accomodating and at least with me, they've proved to be very intolerant of excess moisture, even in the Summer.

With these latter species, if they're planted in positions where there's constant dampness, root problems, particularly rotting are an ever present danger and these are difficult, almost impossible things to cure.

Planting Out

A south to west facing position in well drained soil is o.k. for the eastern species, while the western species need as much sun as you can give them, a south facing spot being ideal.

If you live in a cold area, planting them against a south facing wall will help give them some protection from the worst of the elements as these areas tend to be a bit drier than the open garden.

As noted above, I've found that the ability of the soil to dry out quickly is critical for the western species and for those whose gardens have less than perfect drainage, I'd definitely recommend building raised beds.

There are those who advocate digging in piles of gravel to improve the drainage, but if like my garden clay makes up a large part of the soil, then to my mind you're simply wasting time, effort and money.

In Pots

Some of the eastern species make attractive pot/tub plants for the sunny patio with Y.Gloriosa variagata and various forms of Y.Filamentosa being popular.

I prefer plain clay pots for larger plants, only using plastic when I’m growing plants from seed or offsets.

A straight mix of half and half J.Innes no2 or 3 is fine and if you want to add more gravel, then it won’t do any harm.

If you use plastic or glazed pots, then increase the amount of drainage material.

Remember, unlike plain clays, plastic or glazed pots do not “breathe” so water takes far longer to evaporate, the compost must dry out quickly otherwise you could get problems


Buy Tropical Seeds Online

Buy tropical seeds online, these are species we normally have at our ebay shop however selection varies and is seasonal

Abutilon auritum

Abutilon indicum

Acacia heterophyla

Acacia, various species & forms

Adansonia digitata

Agapanthus africanus

Agapanthus africanus 'alba'

Albizzia lebbeck

Annona muricata

Annona reticulata

Annona squamosa

Antigonon leptopus 'alba'

Antigonon leptopus rose

Aphloia theiformis

Arachis hypogea

Ardisia crenata

Argemone mexicana

Argyreia nervosa

Aristolochia littoralis

Aristolochia ringens

Artocarpus heterophylus

Asarina erubescens

Asarina scandens

Asclepias currassavica

Barleria cristata

Bauhinia (4 different species)

Boehmeria penduliflora

Bolusanthus speciosus

Caesalpinia decapetala

Caesalpinia pulcherrima Pink

Caesalpinia pulcherrima Red

Caesalpinia pulcherrima Yellow

Cajanus cajan

Calystegia, rare species

Canna indica

Cardiospermum halicacabum

Carica papaya

Cassia fistula

Cassia, various species

Catophractes alexandri

Ceiba pentandra

Cerbera manghas

Cestrum nocturnum

Chrysalidocarpus lutescens

Cinnamomum camphora

Coccinia grandis

Coccoloba uvifera

Coix lacryma-jobi

Combretum microphyllum

Convolvulus, various species

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora

Crotalaria retusa

Crotalaria species, various

Cyathea cooperii

Cymbopogon citratus

Cyphomandra betacea

Dais cotinifolia

Datura innoxia

Datura metel

Delonix Regia

Delonix regia

Dichrostachys cinerea

Dichrostachys cinerea

Dictyosperma album

Dioscorea bulbifera

Dovyalis hebecarpa

Duranta erecta

Enterolobium cyclocarpum

Erythrina, various species

Eucalyptus, various species

Eucomis bicolor

Eugenia brasiliensis

Eugenia buxifolia

Eugenia uniflora

Flacourtia indica

Furcraea foetida

Gardenia, various species,

Geissorhiza radians

Gloriosa superba

Gomphocarpus, various species

Gossypium speciosum

Grevillea banksii

Hedychium coccineum

Hedychium coccineum

Hedychium flavescens

Hedychium gardnerianum

Hibiscus acetosella

Hibiscus diversifolius

Holmskoldia sanguinea

Holmskoldia sanguinea 'aurea'

Hypocalyptus sophoroides

Indigofera cytisoides, various species

Ipomea alba

Ipomea coccinea

Ipomea pes-caprae

Ipomoea species, various

Jacaranda mimosiifolia

Lagenaria sphaerica

Lantana camara

Lantana, various forms / cultivators

Latania lontaroides

Leonotis nepetifolia

Lessertia / Sutherlandia – various species

Leucadendron species

Leucaena leucocephala

Leucospermum cordifolium

Litchi chinensis

Litsea glutinosa

Malvastrum coromandelianum

Melia azedarach

Melianthus species

Merremia tuberosa

Merremia umbellata

Merremia, various species

Michelia champaca

Mimetes cucullatus

Mimosa species

Momordica charantia

Morinda citrifolia

Moringa oleifera

Murraya paniculata

Musa velutina

Nephelium longanum

Nicandra physaloides

Nylandtia species

Pandanus utilis

Parkinsonia acculeata

Passiflora coccinea

Passiflora edulis

Passiflora edulis flavicarpa

Passiflora foetida

Passiflora ligularis

Passiflora maliformis

Passiflora mollissima

Passiflora quadrangularis

Passiflora suberosa

Peltophorum africanum

Peltophorum pterocarpum

Physalis angulata

Pithecelobium dulce

Podalyria species

Polygala species

Pongamia glabra

Prosopis juliflora

Protea, various species

Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides

Psidium cattleyanum

Psidium guayava

Psidium lucidum

Psoralea pinnata

Pycnostachys species

Rothmannia globosa

Ruellia brittoniana

Schinus terbenthifolius

Schotia afra

Senna occidentalis

Senna siamea

Sida carpinifolia

Solanum mauritianum

Solanum torvum

Sophora denudata

Spathodea campanulata

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

Stachytarpheta speciosa

Strelitzia species

Strongylodon siderospermum

Strophanthus petersianus

Syzygium cumini

Syzygium jambos

Tabebuia rosea

Tamarindus indica

Tecoma species / hybrid

Tecoma stans

Terminalia catappa

Thevetia peruviana, peach / apricot and yellow

Tithonia diversifolia

Tribulus cistoides

Virgilia species


Buy Tropical Seeds Online

Buy Tropical Seed Online

You can buy tropical seeds for the garden, greenhouse and conservatory in confidence from us as we have been established for over 8 years on Ebay.

All seed is gathered fresh in Africa and sent via the UK within 2 to 3 days of payment


Rare, unusual exotic hardy seeds for the garden, greenhouse & conservatory: Cassia fistula

This is an amazing looking tree, not native to Africa however introduced here. It's hardy to below freezing if you place a layer of leaves over it and keep it dry with some fleece, it can be kept smaller with pruning.

The flowers on this one hang down like wisteria and vary in colour from light yellow to a bright citrus colour we have made sure to collect from a variety of populations. The flowers are followed by long pods about 2 foot long that are filled with fairly large seeds, simply run the seeds over some sand paper soak them until swollen then plant, it's that easy.

Whilst I have not tried it myself this tree has an excellent potential as bonsai material or at least kept dwarf in a tub, in it's natural state it's covered in blooms.

For a selection of rare and unusual seed please see our Ebay shop. Stock varies according to season. http://stores.ebay.co.uk/tropicalrareseeds

Cassia fistula now available from Tropical Rare Seeds

We are currently developing our webpage http://www.tropicalrareseeds.com to include cultural guides and our full inventory which will be sold exclusively at our Ebay Shop.


Buy Tropical Seed Online Cardiospermum Balloon Vine

Cardiospermum also known as balloon vine or love in a puff is an interesting quick growing vine and very easy from seed. Each seed which is easy to handle is also unusual in that it has the pattern of a heart on it.

This hardy exotic vine is great for covering areas in the garden that you desire and makes a great privacy fence and is delightful to attract wildlife in the garden.

What makes this climber unique is that it has a long blooming season and is covered in delicate white flowers. These are followed by green inflated pods which when the sunlight streams through them glow green then ripen in colours of the African sunset, bright yellow, orange and red. In time these ripen to brown and at all stages cardiospermum is great for floral arrangements, you could even spray paint the pods gold or silver for Christmas.

If you are imaginative these pods either resemble alien eggs, UFO's but I think they look like lanterns so I call this plant the "Goblin Lantern Vine"

This is one plant that will attract attention and is something different and fun for the garden, you will have a great time popping the pods or simply enjoying it.

It's also fairly easy to germinate, simply soak the seeds overnight after sanding the outer coat and plant in free draining compost.

We have this vine available at our Ebay shop which can be accessed through our website http://www.tropicalrareseeds.com

We have a fantastic selection of rare and unusual seeds for the garden, greenhouse and conservatory and our range is expanding. We also have a selection of videos on plant species we offer from seed and also various "how to" videos and we are also developing a gardening blog.

I hope you enjoy this video!


How To Scarify Hard Coated Seeds

I have made a video on how to scarify hard coated seeds so they are easier to germinate, it involves sanding the seed coat and soaking the seed and placing it in moist paper towel. I hope you enjoy these behind the scenes videos. we collect fresh seeds in Africa and they are sent to the UK and you are able to buy them on our Ebay Shop which is located here: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Tropical-Rare-Seeds If people wish to see a certain video please let us know, we are also able to source seeds for you and if you are after a certain variety of seeds I will go and look for them for you.

We are currently developing our webpage http://www.tropicalrareseeds.com to include cultural guides and our full inventory which will be sold exclusively at our Ebay Shop.


How To Germinate Tropical Seeds Video

I have made a video here on how to germinate tropical seeds