Monday, February 14, 2011

Gardening: Ahoy, Hoya!

Be like the flower, turn your faces to the sun. – Kahlil Gibran

The variety that is hoya. Photo: edgeplot, Flickr ccl


Photo: Paphio, Flickr ccl
Often when we are out walking Henry we walk past a house that has a hanging plant in the window of their Victorian enclosed porch.

It looks like plump, green ruffles pressed tight together along the entire stem. Kind of like a "scrunch" some women use to hold back their hair.

It is quite healthy, and quite long, trailing along two windows from its hanging pot. This is unusual enough, but when it flowers…. The flowers are packed tight, deep red, semi-spherical and resemble a pincushion with little pin heads just at the surface. We had never seen anything like it, before or since.

So, of course, I went looking online, but couldn't find a thing visually. It's not surprising, since it was a complete shot in the dark. It wasn't until the owner was outside one time when we happened by we were able to ask. "It's a hoya," she said. 

Photo: Epiforums, Flickr ccl
I'd never heard of it, but an exotic looking thing it is. Its only rival of "indoor" flowers I have seen in Nova Scotia is the orchid. The window in which it hangs is North facing, but does get morning light for about four hours, if my reckoning is correct.

The following is a brief description:

Hoyas (sometimes called Wax flowers or Wax vines) are tropical climbing plants native to Southeast Asia. The genus has between 200-300 species. They are evergreen and can grow between 1-10 metres with support. Hoya have thick, shiny, and fleshy leaves which store water and clusters of waxy, star-shaped flowers. Each flower is about 1 cm across, and form in "umbrels". Colours range through red, pink, yellow and white. There are no blues.

The plant was named by Robert Brown (1773-1858), a famous Scottish botanist. He named the genus for his friend and fellow botanist Thomas Hoy, head gardener for the Duke of Northumberland at Scion House, England.

It is best to let these plants get dry between watering. The foliage will wrinkle if not enough water and if too much, light brown spots and or whole thick yellow leaves will occur.

Once they become root bound they will bloom and grow constantly. In some cases this can take two years. They continue to bloom from the same areas (spur) so when the flowers die off don't remove the part they came out of if you want lots of flowers. (This is the same for orchids. Don't cut any dead stems.)

Photo: Epiforums, Flickr ccl
They will continue to bloom if they get good sunlight for most of spring and summer. New growth first appears as a leafless vine. The leaves slowly emerge. Feed once a month.

Hoyas can grow very fast and will wrap around themselves other plants or whatever they can find. Turn periodically for even growth. You can keep them under control by cutting back. Make your cuts flush with a leaf. If you chose to keep them small and compact they will not bloom much.

Hoyas are available in Canada by mail order from a small supplier in Saskatchewan. They have no online presence or capacity to accept online transactions. So a cheque or money order is the way to go. 

All the reviews for them that I have been able to find are 5 star. Here's a link to a page with reviews: http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/c/2747/


This is the Hoya we saw in the window.
Photo: Epiforums, Flickr ccl
If you call they'll fax you a list of what they have. I called last year but they weren't ready to ship, and I forgot to call back. I will this year.

Pike Lake Greenhouses
Box 72 R.R. 7, Pike Lake, Saskatchewan S7K 1N2 (Canada)
Phone: (306) 668-4706; Fax: (306) 668-4706

If you wish to purchase online, good luck. To import any plant from another country into Canada you will need a Phytosanitary Certificate from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The certificate ensures that the plant is free from quarantine or other injurious pests. Phytos are not cheap. Last year I was quoted $50 from one US supplier – per plant species. 

Most sellers don't offer international shipping at all because phyto certificates are such a painful procedure. They're not needed once a plant has already been imported into the country. Canada Post mailing from Saskatchewan won't be anywhere near that much.

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