Charlie's Plant to Ponder: Even though Chinese perfume tree’s yellow flowers are tiny, their abundance and fragrance make up for it. Growing 6 to 15 feet tall outdoors in sun or shade, this charming, half-hardy species (Aglaia odorata) from Southeast Asia is also an excellent houseplant. Propagate with seeds and cuttings. Plants are available online.

A pair of plants from Thailand — Globba winitii and G. schomburgkii — are among the best small-scale gingers for our landscapes, as well as for container cultivation. Rarely over 18 inches tall, both species are called dancing girl gingers because their exquisite inflorescences sway charmingly in the breeze. Of the two, Globba winitii, sometimes called mauve dancing girl, is best known. It features long-stalked yellow flowers and maroon bracts during the warm season. A white-bracted variety is sometimes available. Globba schomburgkii, the yellow dancing girl, displays all-yellow inflorescences and — when provided with organically rich sites in filtered light — quickly colonizes the area. Mauve dancing girl, however, must be propagated by divisions or seeds. Both of these Globbas, as well as other cold-hardy species like G. obscura and globulifera, are seasonally dormant plants that die back in winter and reappear in spring. Rhizomes and plants available online.

Mushroom room rot

Whenever I see an established and well-maintained woody shrub or tree that’s wilting and displaying dead or dying branches, I wonder if it’s a victim of mushroom root rot. A disease caused by native Clitocybe and Armillaria fungi, mushroom root rot is incurable because symptoms don’t appear until years after infection has taken hold.

Most — if not all — woody plants are susceptible and the disease has even been noted in some non -woody species, including banana plants and Phoenix palms. Among particularly susceptible plants are podocarpus, azalea, rose and oak, though oaks can become infected and survive. In some cases, yellow-tan mushrooms appear on and around stricken trees, typically some years after infection. Also telltale is a white substance just under the bark of recently killed portions of a plant. Unfortunately, neighboring plants can become infected if their roots come into contact with diseased roots. Certain plants are considered resistant to mushroom root rot. Among them are Southern magnolia, red maple, sycamore, sweetgum, bald cypress, dahoon holly, crape myrtle and boxwood.

Blue mistflower

A lovely plant that deserves to be cultivated much more widely is blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum, formerly categorized as a Eupatorium). Native from Ontario to Florida, this 1 to 3-foot-tall, mounding, herbaceous perennial displays fluffy blue blossoms from summer through autumn, and sometimes year-round. Mistflower revels in moist, mulched sites in full or part-day sun. Also appreciated is plenty of elbow room due to its propensity to spread by rhizomes and seeds. Butterflies and bees are drawn to the airy flowers.

In addition to the species, white-flowered varieties are available, as are others with blossoms in different shades of blue. A compact variety — '‘Wayside Form'’ — grows just 15 inches tall and is suitable for both container and in-ground cultivation. Note: Blue mistflower is sometimes listed as wild or hardy ageratum because the flowers of the plants are so similar. Plants and seeds available online.

 

Charles Reynolds, a Winter Haven resident, has an associate’s degree in horticulture and is a member of Garden Writers Association of America. He can be reached at ballroom16@aol.com.