Ervatamia divaricata; Tabernaemontana divaricata

Pandacaqui (in the Philippines). Pinwheel flower. Crape jasmine. Native to India. 10 at P75. Beautifully shaped shrub which forms mounds that can be 2 m high. The branches tend to grow almost parallel to the ground, giving the shrub an attractive horizontal aspect. Its large shiny leaves are deep green and are 15 cm or more in length and about 5 cm wide. The waxy blossoms are white five-petal pinwheels which are borne profusely throughout the year. They have a gentle perfume which is best enjoyed in the evening – the heat vaporizes the scent during the day. Not particular about soil, the crape jasmine nevertheless responds well to the application of fertilizer. It should be pruned lightly to maintain its form. It grows in sun or partial shade and tends to be more compact in the sun. It should be watered during dry periods and requires good drainage. Propagated from seeds and cuttings. Once started, it grows fairly rapidly.

Ervatamia divaricata ‘Flore Pleno’

Butterfly gardenia. 1 large at P600; 3 small at P80. This cultivar has white, double flowers. It blooms frequently but not as profusely as the crape jasmine. The ‘Flore Pleno’ has the same cultural requirements as the crape jasmine. Both can be grown as potted plants as they respond well to pruning.

Erythrina crista-galli

Cockspur coral tree. My plant cost P1,000. A medium-sized tree (to 4 m) native to Brazil, the Erythrina has long drooping sprays of coral red flowers at branch ends, and trifoliate leaves with backward-pointing prickles along the stem. It bears flowers in waves throughout the year, and it is said to bloom best after a period of drought. All plant parts are poisonous. It likes the full sun and rich, well-drained soil. It should be pruned hard immediately after flowering to produce flowering stems for the following season. In some countries it develops galls, but these do not seem to harm the tree. More troublesome is a boring insect which enters at branch tips; the branch should be cut below the borer as soon as an infestation becomes visible. The Erythrina will eventually develop a gnarled trunk. It self-seeds freely, and is propagated easily from seeds, semi-hard wood cuttings and by marcotting.

Etlingera elatior

Torch ginger. Belonging to family of the Zingeberaceae and a native of tropical Asia, E. elatior is one of the most beautiful of flowering tropical plants. Growing from underground rhizomes, its tall leafstalks can reach a height of 4-5 m. The flower torches, rising to about 1 m, also emerge from the ground on long stalks. The most common form has bright red flowers; there is a form with pink flowers. The flower heads are eaten raw in Malaysia, before the bracts begin to open, as are the young shoots and fruits. The torch ginger likes full sun or light shade and rich, well drained soil, with plenty of water and protection from strong winds. It produces high yields of shoots with low levels of fertilizer. The Etlingera is a perennial and can be harvested continuously with low labour input.

Euphorbia milii

Euphorbia milii and hybrids. Euphorbia milii is a slow-growing evergreen succulent shrub which can attain a height of two feet. It has green leaves and either yellow, red or pink flowers. Various hybrids of the plant have been produced offering larger, different color bracts, whether yellow or pink. Brightly coloured bracts (modified leaves) resemble petals and give the crown of thorns its colourful appeal, while the true flowers of the plant are small and unobtrusive.

The plant has a high drought tolerance. It is also salt-tolerant. It can be propagated by cuttings. Some advise that the cutting should be allowed to dry for three to four days until the cut end has callused over. A dip in rooting compound containing a fungicide is also recommended before placing the cutting in a slightly moist, very well draining potting mix. I have not followed this advice where I live and manage to grow new plants from cuttings nonetheless.

The sap of this plant can be a skin irritant. The plant has thorns.

The Chinese grow E. millii as a plant of fortune. It is said that they believe that when the plant produces 8 flowers in an inflorescence, they will be lucky. The hybridization of E. millii started in Thailand and China around 1990. (Info obtained from internet sources.)

Evolvulus glomeratus ‘Blue Daze’

The ‘Blue Daze’ belongs to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). It is a ground cover with clear blue flowers on the tips of trailing stems, and attractive soft grey-green leaves. Flowering is usually prolific and showy, with the individual flowers lasting only one day and closing in the early evening hours as well as on overcast days. The ‘Blue Daze’ persists for many years in sunny locations, but it will also grow in light shade. Although it needs moist soil for best growth, over-watering can cause fungal problems. It is deep-rooted and, once established, it will tend to be somewhat drought tolerant, but it will die if it is kept too dry. As it is tolerant of salt, it can grow well in coastal gardens. The ‘Blue Daze’ is a moderate to heavy feeder. It is propagated from softwood stem cuttings or from seeds. Its stems take root where they touch the ground, and rooted stems can be separated from the main plant.

Excoecaria cochinchinensis

Chinese croton. Called Picara in the Philippines. I started out with 6 of these. According to Madulid, this is a native of China and Japan. It is a low-growing shrub (to 1 m) with arching stems. My plants have leaves that are variegated pale green and off-white on top and bright lacquer red underneath. Like other members of the Euphorbia family, the sap of the Chinese croton is poisonous. It prefers open, sunny places and rich soil, and requires constant watering. It is propagated from stem cuttings.