Things are finally looking like spring outdoors here in western Washington. This spring has been slower than normal, not in small part due to our “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders related to this little pandemic. However, it has all started to change now. The fig tree has leaves (and the cuttings have leaves too!) and the bananas are awake. We’re going to start seeing big leaves again, albeit in pots for the most part this year.

I’m excited for new plants! Over the last year, I’ve gained a few aloes and been fortunate enough to receive more cactus seeds than I know what to do with. Most of the aloes have been moved out from underneath the grow light inside the house, and have been placed outside to begin soaking up precious sunlight.

More plants! I started this one from seed last fall. It got pretty tall by the beginning of the new year, so I had to chop it back to it’s base. It’s a lobelia, and they don’t mind that one bit. They go dormant every winter anyway, so it isn’t a big deal to the plant in the long run.

In the “nearly tropical” category, more plants have moved outside. For lack of a better name, Alocasia odora did extremely well under minimal light this winter. I put one in a cool room with a tile floor, a fairly constant 58 degrees. I put another one in a room that was around 8 to 10 degrees warmer. You can probably guess which one acted like a plastic plant and which one actually grew.

A couple of bromeliads have made it outside recently, and they might have benefited from making the migration a little earlier. Vriesea imperialis (or Alcantarea imperialis as it used to be named) is a true giant of the brom world. It is a terrestrial bromeliad, and so takes roots as seriously as most other plants I grow. From my experience with them in the past, they do more growing during the spring and fall than in the summer. The more overcast and rainy days, the better. Larger leaves, darker color and a fuller rosette all come from those conditions. The last monster that I had the pleasure of taking care of grew to nearly 4 feet across. It never put out any pups, unfortunately. My current stock of V imperialis is a little different. There are plenty of pups! I’ve got a pretty large Billbergia hybrid that has moved outside now too. With hybrids of this genus, I am completely lost. I’m guessing that there is a little bit of B vittata in there, given the horizontal stripes and upright growth.

There are a few plants that I have bought. I try to do as little of this as possible though. It’s not as fun as germinating or propagating my own plants, but it is a quick way to add new botanical buddies. I’ve really been getting into Salvia species, especially the big ones! Anything that offers nectar for hummingbirds or bees is a win in my book. The Salvia guaranitica I tried out last year did so well that I’ve germinated a few more from seed. Salvia coccinea ‘Lady In Red’ has been fun to grow for the last few years, but is pretty unreliable in winter even indoors under growlights. This year I’ve added Salvia gesneriflora, hopefully to replace Lady In Red. S gesneriflora is just as blazing red in the flower department, but much hardier in the root zone and vigorous in leaf. It will hopefully tower over me, eventually!

I have to mention a second new plant for this year. Dicliptera suberecta is another tough plant that allegedly performs well under neglect. Drought tolerant, deer resistant, and last but not least… it flowers profusely and provides plenty of nectar for our pollinators. How could I not try this one out? Being native to Uruguay and Argentina, it holds special allure for me. I have a special place in my garden for plants from South America.

Stay tuned for more planty goodness in the coming weeks. Spring brings lots of activity to the world of Big Leaves. Thanks for checking out this page!

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