Plants that Require Patience,
 but are Worth the Wait!

Kay Hinkle
Adams County Master Gardener

Do you plan your landscape on an annual basis with a vision while planting in springtime of what will be blooming within the next few months? Does your planning process span just one growing season? For those of you with "long-distance vision", this article suggests a few plants that require patience because they donít bloom every year, but when they do bloom a few years after planting, are well worth the wait!

I encourage you to check each of these late-bloomers on-line to see for yourself what they bring to the garden in the way of size or spectacular blooms. Admittedly, the patience they require is an investment in time and money for you, the gardener. On the other hand, these beauties are not your average petunia, either!

First is the Martagon lily (Lilium martagon). A mature clump of these plants sports at least 50 blooms on dozens of stems. The 2-inch blooms face downward on stems that resemble those of the Oriental Lilly. Colors vary and all sport a strong, sweet scent. The stems do not require staking in spite of the fact that they can reach heights of 6 feet. Be sure to mark the spot where the bulbs are planted as they may not emerge from the soil for a few years. Once planted, do not disturb. These slow movers require sun to part shade and are cold-hardy in zones 3-8.

Next is the Clivia (Clivia miniata). From strappy leaves (much like an amaryllis) come orange, red or yellow blooms in late winter to early spring several years after planting. These plants are cold hardy only in zones 9-11 but can be containerized here in Zone 6. Indoors, Clivia does well in a bright north window. A mature plant can send up as many as 15-20 fabulous blooms on a half dozen stalks. This plant likes to be crowded, so keep the plant in the same pot as long as possible for the best blooms. Water sparingly in winter months to promote bloom. Be sure to plant in a pot that can be moved indoors in for longevity in South Central Pennsylvania!

Variegated horseradish (Armoracia rusticana Variegata) is a foliage plant that makes a stunning display. The patience required for the best display of this plant has to do with the striking variegation of the 18-inch leaves Ė cream on green. (The color doesnít mature until the plant is several years old.) The leaves are the texture of crepe paper. The roots are edible like other horseradish, but donít spread aggressively like some. Because it is cold-hardy in zones 3-10, it makes a great care-free addition to the landscape; the leaves mature to a beautiful color provided plants remain un-disturbed. They mature to 3 feet high and 3 feet tall and like full-sun to part shade.

The Hosta "Sum and Substance" takes patience to reach its full growth potential which is 30 inches tall and 5 feet wide. The enormous gold, puckered leaves of this beauty are worth the wait. It takes time to grow roots capable of supporting the huge leaves. On its journey to reaching this gargantuan size, the small version of the plant still sports the unique gold color of the larger plant. An early spring application of a slow-release fertilizer and then water soluble food in midsummer supports good health required for optimum growth. Cold-hardy in zones 3-8, this plan likes sun to part-shade. If summers are hot, light shade will prevent scorching.

One-bloom wonders like hens and chicks grow for years without blooming. Suddenly, the mother plant sends up a bizarre-looking flower stalk. The flower stalk dies and leaves the chicks to carry on. Honestly, this one isnít worth waiting for in terms of striking beauty, but when you see one, youíll know the hen has decided to show you a flower to outrival her many chicks which, in my opinion, is really an "ugly duckling"!

The century plant, as the name indicates, blooms about once every 100 years. It is native to zones 9 and 10, so making this investment of time and patience is not at all practical in Pennsylvania. However, for those gardeners who are not only patient, but also very optimistic, it is a possibility.......

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)Finally, I would like to share my own personal experience with Bromeliads (Bromelia spp.). They bloom only once in a lifetime and it has been an interesting but enlightening journey for me so far. I purchased just one plant locally at an end-of-summer nursery sale, simply because it was too cheap to pass up.

The bloom was somewhat faded. Until I made this purchase, I had only admired Bromeliads from afar. In southern locales I had enjoyed blooms gathered by the hundreds in one showy plot after another, often at a theme park. They are sometimes seen in more northern climates indoors, often at high-end shopping malls. I didnít know at the time I purchased the plant, it would only bloom once in its lifetime Ė no wonder it was a bargain!

However, as I read about this unusual plant, I learned it would most likely bear babies, called pups. The pups would eventually need to be separated from the mother plant and begin the journey to being a one-flower wonder too. I have owned this interesting specimen for a year now. Its pot resides on the floor beneath a large southeastern window. To date, Mother Plant has produced 6 pups.

A few months ago, I removed the first 4 pups with a serrated knife and placed them in a separate large pot. They donít root for nourishment, but rather stability. Bromeliads do require frequent misting to emulate a tropical environment. I must admit, I am not as diligent about the misting as I could be.

Those 4 pups flourished on their own until a lovable toddler who visits our house on a fairly frequent basis decided to dig in the soil. The roots never recovered and I lost 2 pups. The 2 that remain are happy for the additional pot space; I guess theyíre a product of the "survival of the fittest" theory at the Hinkle house.

Mother Plant Bromeliad has grown another 2 pups for a total of 6 offspring from that one one-dollar plant bargain. She is fading fast but I expect to remove the pups, discard her, and introduce the pups to life on their own in Mother Plantís former pot. I expect they will survive as well and when they bloom Ė just once in their lifetime Ė they too will be spectacular as was their Mother Plant before them. Master Gardener Lesson Learned: "Bloom where youíre planted like the Bromeliad, as you only have one life to live. Luckily, as gardeners, we have lots of blooms to give!"

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