The following is a list of vegetables and herbs that you can plant in February in Sydney, a temperate zone. Just click on the name for the growing guide for each vegetable or herb:
- Beans (dwarf)
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard greens
Plant of the Month – Dracaena trifasciata-(Snake Plant)
Dracaena trifasciata, previously known as Sansevieria, is an evergreen perennial plant, native to tropical West Africa,
Dracaena trifasciata is also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue”, “Saint George’s sword” or “snake plant”, because of the shape resemble snakes. Another common name is the “viper’s bowstring hemp”, because its fibers were used to make bowstrings.
It is a popular houseplant across the world. This is because it is easy to care for, needs little water and can grow in low light conditions.
Growing outdoors it forms dense stands, spreading by way of its creeping rhizome, which is sometimes above ground, sometimes underground.
In some areas Dracaena trifasciata is considered a weed when not properly disposed of as it can regenerate into the large stands that crowd out native species and its rhizomes are difficult to eradicate. This can be an issue for the home gardener too so it is advisable to grow the Snake plant in pots outdoors which will contain its spread.
Dracaena trifasciata has stiff, sword shaped leaves that grow upwards from a basal rosette.
The mature leaves of the Snake plant are dark green with light gray-green cross-banding. They are usually 70–90 centimetres long and 5–6 centimetres wide and can grow to more than 2 m under optimal conditions.
The leaves are adapted to survive in dry conditions and are succulent and have a protective film covering the outermost layer. This gives the leaves a waxy feel.
In fact, the plants has evolved to survive arid conditions by having Crassulacean acid metabolism photosynthesis . This carbon fixation pathway allows the plant to photosynthesise during the day, but only exchange gases at night. The stomata on the leaves are closed during the day to conserve water but open at night to allow carbon dioxide to enter. This process is explained more fully at the link above. This adaptation allows the Snake plant to grow in areas that are too dry. It allows the plant to withstand drought and go for long periods without watering.
One surprising and delightful aspect of this plant is its beautiful flowers. In Sydney most plants growing outdoors flower late December to early February.
Each cluster of leaves produces one raceme when the plant is mature and receives enough light. Indoor plants will rarely flower as the light is not enough to cause flowering. The snake plant will only flower once. The plant will not die but after flowering it will not produce any more leaves but continue to grow forming new rhizomes and so new little plantlets around it.
If grown in pots the plants can be brought indoors to admire its racemes of delicate flowers. Each plant produces one stem with small buds emerging along its length in spring and early summer.
The small flowers which grow in clusters and have thin petals. Depending on the species, the flowers are usually greenish-white but also rose, and lilac-red.
The flowers open from the bottom of the raceme gradually, with the uppermost opening last.
During the day the flowers are closed but still make a striking contrast with the deep green of the leaves.
Each flower opens fully at night. The long thin petals unfurl and curl back to display the long stamens and also release a powerful perfume that can fill the room with its fragrance. This will dissipate to a milder fragrance during the day.
In addition to the strong perfume, the plant also secretes a sticky, sweet nectar at the base of the flowers to feed visitors like ants and keep them off the flowers to be pollinated. Outdoors, the strong perfume released at night attracts moths that are the pollinators.
Under indoor lights at night the drops of nectar glisten like baubles on a Christmas tree. The nectar is sticky so be aware that it could drop on the fabrics or floor below.
The Snake plant is an easy plant to grow in pots and can located both indoors and outside where the light conditions are conducive to flowering. They do thrive in a wide range from full sun, indirect light to low light. But in places where the sun is harsh it is better to locate them in shadier spots to prevent leaf burn. The stand of Snake plants shown above is growing well in the dappled light of a tree with morning sun and afternoon shade.
The choice of pot is important. Plastic pots hold the moisture in so unsealed terracotta that breathes is the preferred pot to choose. Even if growing outdoors it is wise to plant the snake plants in pots. When they flower then the pot can be brought inside, to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the flowers.
As the leaves are succulent and hold water the Snake plant needs free draining and aerated soil mix to prevent root rot.
A mixture of a good Cacti and Succulent Potting Mix that does not contain wetting agent and add to it some perlite to allow both good drainage and aeration.
Water sparingly and only when the potting mix is completely dried out. Then water until the it flows freely out the drainage hole. Do not allow any water to collect in the saucer if you are using one. By examining the leaves you will tell if water is needed: the browning of tips of leaves if too much drought and the collapse of leaves if too much water.
When watering, less is more and weeks can go by before you need to add water to that which the environment provides as rain. During extended rain periods it may be best to relocate the pots under eaves to ensure that they do not become saturated.
Do not water over the winter months.
Propagate by dividing offset plantlets and allow the plants to become pot bound before dividing. The more plants in a pot the less soil to become sodden and rot the roots. The Snake plant seems to thrive on being pot bound. So, choose a pot only slightly bigger to re-pot when needed or better still just leave it alone if you want to stimulate flowers.
The elegant and beautiful Dracaena trifasciata is perfect as a houseplant to grace your living areas. If you locate some pots outdoors you may one day be able to see them in flower and then be able to bring them in to enjoy. You will truly be surprised at the strength of the fragrance the snake plant gives in the evening.
With so many different varieties and cultivars, some variegated there is one for every setting to enjoy for their structural beauty.