The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Plants in Honor of Valentines Day

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

As I was leafing through a garden book recently, I was amazed at the number of plants with love or heart in their names. In honor of Valentine's Day I have listed a few plant selections to add to any passionate gardener's plant list.

Heartleaf is a common name since many plant leaves are heart shaped. The houseplant, heartleaf philodendron tolerates a lot of abuse such as low light and forgetting to water it while you are on vacation for a month. Another houseplant is Lovejoy, Episcia. A relative of African violets, Lovejoy has very attractive dark green or coppery colored leaves with reddish flowers.

Outdoor plants include heartleaf bergenia, Bergenia cordifolia, that has beautiful shiny evergreen leaves for the partial shaded flower garden. Bergenia looks great in combination with Fringed bleeding heart, Dicentra eximia. Fringed bleeding heart grows to 18 inches and has blue green finely dissected leaves with long lasting pink heart shaped flowers. A larger two to three feet tall version is the Old fashioned bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis. Their rosy red heart shaped flowers are on delicate arching stems. It is also called "the living Valentine." Bleeding heart vine, Clerodendrum thomsonae, is a greenhouse vine with very showy flowers of white and crimson.

There seem to be a lot of bleeding heart plants. I don't think it has anything to do with their political persuasion, although I did see a bleeding heart liberal plant listed in a Bumpee catalog once.

For the truly adventuresome Valentine, there is exotic love, Mina lobata, a vigorous annual vine. Its dark green fleur-de-lis shaped leaves are practically hidden by the scarlet to creamy yellow tubular flowers held on arching stems.

Another attractive annual vine is Love-in-a-puff, Cardiospermum halicacabum. Its white flowers are followed by papery globe shaped seedpods that look like little green balloons. The pods contain black seeds with a heart shaped spot.

One of my favorites is Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena. Love-in-a-mist is an annual flower often grown for its delicate seedpods used in everlasting flower arrangements. The blue or pink flowers seem to float above the fine feathery foliage, hence its name. It reseeds like crazy so maybe it should be love-in-a-foggy-field.

In the "not so great a name" category is Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus. It has long red tassel flowers which droop to the ground and are very long lasting. Supposedly the flowers were worn by Swedish knights as emblems of incorruptibility during medieval times.

A truly great Valentine name is Hearts-a-burstin, Euonymus americanus. It's a native burning bush relative with scarlet seeds enveloped by a papery coat.

Purple love grass, Eragrostis spectabilis, is a native American grass 12 to 18 inches high with airy reddish purple seed heads in late summer.

Herbs are not left out of the love list with the five feet tall lovage, an attractive celery substitute. Another herb, southernwood, is also known as lover's plant or lad's love. At one time it was thought to stimulate not only a young man's passion, but also the growth of beards so young men would rub the aromatic lacy leaves on their faces.

A plant with questionable ornamental appeal is Love Leaves also known to most of us as burdock or "those stickery things that get on our dogs." Supposedly eating the raw stems of Love Leaves will stir up lust and was used as a love potion. It's hard to find a good recipe for a love potion anymore.

Be sure to register for Garden Day 2003 – Color in the Garden on Saturday, March 8 at the Urban Holiday Inn featuring internationally known authors and plenty of shopping among garden vendors.

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