Plants grown for the beauty of their leaves are just as important as those grown for their flowers. In point of fact flowering trees and shrubs flower (and fruit) at a definite time of the year, whereas trees and shrubs grown for their foliage are generally a delight throughout the year. Attractive trees and shrubs which spring to mind include the silk oak (Grevillea robusta); crotons of various colours (Codiaeum sp); the cannonball tree (Couroupita sp); Ceylon willow (Ficus benjamina); Draceana sanderiana; variegated hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa sinensis); acalyphas (Acalypha various sp); cordyline, with leaves dark green, bright red and yellow; some bougainvillea with variegated foliage; Asparagus plumosus; and Cissus discolor. There are many more and I would suspect that many of you could add to this short list. Casting my eye down this list almost all of those plants included in it can be propagated quite easily by cuttings, and some very easily by means of seed. Those that come easily from seed include the Grevillea robusta (very easy) and the cannonball tree. Seed from the silk oak will germinate in a week or so and can be used as a temporary attraction or as a permanent specimen tree.
Seed from the Cannonball tree has to be extracted from the fruit which can be a bit off-putting. Whilst strolling around the Promenade Gardens many years ago I came across some fallen fruits of the Cannonball tree. These are the actual cannonballs, and woe betide you if you are unfortunate enough to have one fall and bounce off your skull. Headaches for weeks. I picked up one; it must have fallen quite a few days before as it was soft and mushy. It didn’t smell too good either. In the end I remember putting it into a Survival carrier bag, and my word, I had to have the car windows down for the journey home. I managed o extract some seeds from the pulp which took me some time, and in the end I gave them to a gardening friend of mine who managed to get it growing within a couple of weeks. It is definitely not a tree for small gardens.
The rest of the shrubs on the list can be grown well from cuttings. Crotons especially can be rooted as hardwood cuttings, and in this way can travel long distances in that state without any harm. Put them into pure sand and water them in well, and in a few weeks they will start to root. Their leaves will start to be produced first, so beware of lifting them too early.
Acalyphas are particularly beautiful shrubs for planting as screens and grow very easily from cuttings. I always prefer to have the cuttings without leaves as they do not lose water so much during the rooting process. If you do take cuttings with leaves I suggest that it’s not a bad thing to take off the largest leaves so the loss of water is reduced to the absolute minimum.
You will find that once plants of acalypha are well established they will wilt in dry weather. Try leaving the hose pipe running on the ground when this happens so that they get a really good drink. A bucketful is hardly adequate for a fully grown plant. Until next week may your God go with you wherever you may be