Colorful Plant Good for Eco-Friendly Gardens

June 18, 2004

HERE’S anothercolorful, tropical,native ornamentalfor your eco-friendlygarden, whichdoesn’t require dangerouspesticides orchemical fertilizers,nor lots of irrigationin the dry season.It’s called YellowElder (Stenolobiumstans) and is foundin most regions ofCosta Rica.This hardy bush is easy to identify withits clusters of yellow, bell-shaped flowersand serrated, compound, pinnate leaveswith 5-13 leaflets. This plant is a memberof the family Bignoniaceae, and is relatedto Cortéz Amarillo (Tabebuia chrysantha),which has similar flowers.Yellow Elder is a patio ornamental,which can often be seen along sidewalksand avenues. By the way, on these bushesyou can often collect seeds from the narrowcapsules, which are about 6-8 inches long.THE older capsules turn gray and splitopen, releasing the small brown seedsincased in a white paper sheath. Theseseeds can be planted in small pots or recycledplastic cups with holes punched in thebottom and filled with potting soil.In several days to a week the seedsshould germinate, and in a few months theyoung seedling plants can be transplantedto a permanent site around the home.Another form of propagation is to takewoody stem cuttings from a bush and startthem in plastic nursery bags in the greenhouseor plant them directly in the soilwhere you would like them to grow.Of course, the latter should be done inMay or June, when the rains keep the soilcontinually moist. Yellow elder growsand flowers best in full sun conditions andcan tolerate salt breezes back from thebeach.THEY also grow on a wide variety ofsoils and require very little in terms of soilfertilization, but additions of aged compostand foliar fertilizers help to keep thesebushes blooming and growing vigorously.It is common to find them planted as ashrubby, living fence or as a freestandingspecimen in the patio. They can be prunedyearly to keep them compact and low. As Imentioned, yellow elder is a hardy nativeplant that doesn’t require special pamperingand has no serious insect problems orplant diseases. That means less work andmore environmental harmony in your garden.You can often find yellow elder in leadingnurseries around the country.However, for any of our readers whocan’t find them in your area, I’ll be glad tosend you a gift seed packet, provided thatyou send me a self-addressed, stampedenvelope to New Dawn, A.P. 372-8000,San Isidro de El General, Costa Rica.YOU can also find more seeds andbooks on tropical gardening and tropicalmedicinal plants by accessing our Web site:www.thenewdawncenter.org. We’ll try toanswer your gardening questions at: thenewdawncenter@yahoo.comUntil next time, happy gardening inCosta Rica!

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