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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Brandies: Hoyas are the latest trend in plants

From time to time various plants become quite popular, and hoyas seem to be in demand these days. I recently talked with Tom Burress, owner of Brooker Creek Nursery in Odessa, who has been growing hoyas for 40 years. He has more than 100 different species and hybrids, but sells only wholesale.

The USF Botanical Garden Plant Shop carries about 60 kinds of his hoyas, and Tom suspects they have the best selection of any retail place in the state — and possibly in the entire country. It has plants in five-inch pots for $6 and hanging baskets in six-inch pots for $15. Tom said he paid $15 for the first one he bought 40 years ago, so the garden shop’s prices are quite reasonable.

Hoyas are also called wax or porcelain plants because their flowers look almost artificial, as if they are covered with wax.

While most of the hoyas we see have stems hanging down from baskets, some will also climb and cling. Laurie Walker, director of the USF gardens since 2000, has seen a gorgeous one at Selby Gardens that’s planted at the base of a palm tree and is growing up. That’s going to be her next project. In the meantime, she has one at home that hangs below an oak tree. It requires very little care and doesn’t need to be taken in during the winter.

Many hoyas are quite hardy but some are not. They are tropical and grow best when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees. They also like 50 percent humidity, but tolerate more or less.

Here are some of the ways to make sure your hoyas thrive:

♦ Don’t pamper them. Give them good care but avoid constant handling.

♦ Don’t move or touch the plant during its blooming period.

♦ Keep them indoors near a north window or under fluorescent lights or under filtered light, protected from the hottest and long, afternoon sun outside.

Tom plants his hoyas in a mix of half cypress mulch and half Canadian peat with a bit of perlite. African violet soil with some added perlite will also work as a moist, well-drained, light soil. You should keep the soil moist in spring and summer, and dry — but not to the point of shriveled foliage — in winter. Misting the leaves frequently to clean them and increasing humidity is okay, but stop misting when the plants are budding or blooming.

When growth starts in early spring, hoyas react favorably to feeding. Tom uses osmocote. A liquid solution can also be used, and bloom booster can help in most cases. Withhold fertilizer in winter.

Hoyas root easily from cuttings taken from spring into mid summer. Cut stem pieces with at least two to three nodes. Remove the leaves at the base, dip the stems in root hormone and stick them in a rooting medium in a three-inch pot. Put the pot in a plastic zipper bag and seal all but one inch. Leave the bag in the shade for 2 to 3 weeks or until you see new growth. The stems can also be rooted in warm water. A single leaf will not produce roots without a leaf node.

For more details, see my article in the June/July issue of “Florida Gardening Magazine.”

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Today’s pick is the spiderwort, blue jacket or trinity flower that’s now blooming along roadsides and in gardens. Catalogs offer cultivars in shades of white, pink, lavender and blue. J. L. Hudson Seed Company in California offers three different kinds of seeds.

I have spiderwort all over my garden and it’s in glorious bloom every morning when we come home from church. It opens only for a few hours in the morning and can look a bit weedy later. It’s a native, grows almost two feet tall in sun to partial shade, and is a low-care and drought-tolerant member of the Wandering Jew family.

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Now’s the time to celebrate the life and mourn the recent passing of Bob Heath, of Tampa, who was a devoted husband for 59 years, father of six, mechanical engineer and CEO of Heath Engineering Inc.

I knew him as one of the founding members of the Tampa Chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International. He attended almost every meeting of the council since December 1978 and worked at every event.

May he glory in the gardens of heaven where he is again with his Theresa and two of their sons.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 11 gardening books who can be reached at [email protected] Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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