Coastal and Tropical South

October, 2011
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Bird's Nest Fern
When asked to suggest a plant that could move from a shady porch to the indoor garden of a house with energy-efficient but small windows, lots of plants came to mind. My first thought was not bird's nest fern, Asplenium nidus, but perhaps it should have been. This plant and its close relatives have spring green leaves that stand erect above a brown rosette center at ground level. Each leaf begins as a dramatic crook, a question mark that unfurls with a thick midrib and high shine. They overlap just enough to give the plant its common name, bird's nest fern. Some have leaves that are entire and gently curved while others have fringed edges or deep cuts. If there is enough light in the room to read a newspaper, there is enough to grow this plant.

Clever Gardening Technique

Grow a Pineapple
We take pineapple for granted. Fresh, canned, and dried pineapple, with its incredible concentrated sweetness, are kitchen staples. So, why grow one? First, because it is a spectacular plant, a bold cup of serrated leaves, a bromeliad easily grown from the crown of a fresh pineapple and not too difficult from seed, either. For those without access to organically-grown pineapples, it is a way to grow the tastiest fruit you have ever eaten. Growing a pineapple is simply fun and a real wow project not just for children but for anyone who has never seen one grow. It takes about two years to produce a fruit, so this project is also an exercise in patience. Cut the crown off a ripe pineapple with no more than an inch of flesh below it. Set the cutting into a shallow dish of water until it roots, and then pot it up in a well-drained mix. Grow it in a sunny spot, indoors or out, water when the soil feels just dry, and fertilize regularly. When the plant has 80 leaves, it is capable of flowering and sending up a fruit stalk. If this does not happen, put the pot in a bag with a cut apple to stimulate the natural process.

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