Q: My fiancée told me her favorite flower is anthurium. It's imported from possibly Hawaii or the Philippines, and it's considered an exotic flower.
I've never heard of it nor seen one in my life. Can you tell me more about it? Can it grow in our California climate?
Frank Mercer, Vacaville A: According to UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce, anthuriums are native to the wet tropical mountain forests of Panama, Columbia, Brazil and Ecuador.
Also called the "flamingo flower," anthuriums are grown extensively in Hawaii for the cut flower trade. Many nurseries in California sell them in their houseplant sections. Because they're not frost-tolerant and prefer warmer temperatures, they're best grown indoors in California.
The trick to growing them in the home is to provide humidity by filling a tray with small rocks or pebbles, adding water and then setting the plant on the rocks. They also grow well in sunny bathrooms or kitchens where there's also some humidity.
Good drainage is essential, but don't overwater. Let the plant dry out between waterings. Anthuriums prefer bright but indirect light.
Seeds could probably be found from sources dealing with tropical plants; there are extensive listings on the Internet.
Red is the most popular color of the showy, heart-shaped flowers, but they also come in pink, lavender and white. The flowers last for up to eight weeks. The shiny, dark green foliage is attractive, too.
To keep them blooming, anthuriums need monthly feeding with a water-soluble houseplant food.
Q: I am in my 90s and I've grown many gardenia plants, but always from store-bought 1-gallon containers. I've never been able to find seeds to grow them. It seems I heard someone say that they grow from the flowers. If this is true, can you explain how?
Roberto Vicente, Sacramento
A: Gardenia flowers can produce seeds, but they may need help.
UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce offers this method:
Take a gardenia flower and begin by gently removing all the petals, beginning around the edges. As you near the center of the flower, go slowly so as not to destroy the sexual parts of the flower.
The female part will look like a little bud vase; it will have a round base with a long neck and the opening at the top of the neck will be flared. The male part will be a filament with a round head and the head will have pollen on it.
In order to create a seed, pollen from the male part needs to enter the tube of the female part. Seeds only form on flowers still on the plant.
To help with fertilization, use a small artist-type brush to transfer pollen from the male to the female part of a flower still on the bush.
You should take two to three flowers apart before you try to pollinate a flower on the plant, Pierce advises. To assure success, you should pollinate at least four flowers in order to get at least one seed.
When the seeds are ripe, they'll have an orange appearance. Plant the ripe seed in a mixture of half peat moss, half sand or perlite. Keep the mixture moist until the seeds germinate and then handle them like any other seedling.
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