Episode 81: botanical Latin, explained

Latin names help gardeners identify plants and avoid the confusion that common names can bring. Photograph: Jane Perrone

Latin names help gardeners identify plants and avoid the confusion that common names can bring. Photograph: Jane Perrone

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ZZ plant or Zamioculcas zamiifolia? Botanical Latin can seem like a confusing alphabet soup that’s hard to say and even harder to figure out. But I love learning about the Latin names of houseplants, because there’s always something to learn about the history of the plant, who brought it into cultivation and what it looks like. With the help of guests John Wright and Daniel Sparler, this episode helps to demystify botanical Latin, explain why it’s important, and set you on the road to becoming a scholar of plant taxonomy - the science of naming plants.

Useful links for this episode…

Question of the week

Photograph:  American Takii

Photograph: American Takii

Gabriella wanted to know how to grow Juncus effusus f spiralis as a houseplant, given that it’s also marketed as an outdoor plant for ponds and watery places.

I suggest this is one of the few things that you can grow inside that actively likes sitting in a soaked pot, so a good pick if you are overgenerous with the watering can.

It should do ok inside but if it starts looking peaky, give it a spell outdoors. If you get some stems that turn brown, just cut them back to the base. It should do fine in a well lit room, so don’t consign it to your darkest corner. And if you’re into flowers, this plant may disappoint as they are brown and very dull: but who needs flowers with stems like these?!

Other plants that like to be soaked and do well as houseplants include Cyperus papyrus and Cyperus diffusus.

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Coming up this year…

I am giving a talk on the magic of houseplants at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution on April 9… if you are in the London area do come along! Full details here. There will be more talks and appearances coming up, so stay tuned for more details!

I am also making plans for the 100th episode of On The Ledge which will happen some time in May or June! If you have any ideas as to how to mark the occasion, please let me know…

I’d also like to hear your ideas for episodes: I will be doing another OTL sowalong soon, so order your seeds now - there’s info for UK and US growers on my blog.

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This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, An Instrument the Boy Called happy Day Gokarna by Samuel Corwin and Oh Mallory by Josh Woodward, all licensed under Creative Commons. Logo design by Jacqueline Colley.

Check out my blog for more houseplant tips and advice…