Bacopa (buh-KOH-puh) answers the dilemma of gardeners in search of long-blooming plants for balcony containers and hanging baskets. It also does a magnificent job spilling out of planter boxes and trailing over block walls. Use bacopa (Sutera cordata) as a ground cover in small entry planters or as a border around the perimeter of any planter, regardless of size or location.
Bacopa varieties carry names such as ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Snowstorm,’ an indication of their white flowers, which cascade in dense numbers, then sparkle en masse like drifts of freshly fallen snow. It flowers without interruption for months on end. Mauve and pink cultivars are also available.
The Los Angeles winter may curtail its bloom, but only slightly. Just the other day, I saw it blooming gloriously in Sherman Oaks where it overhung the east-facing wall of a raised entry planter. It hung down like bright white kitchen curtains, in broad swaths that were at least two feet in length.
Although it is not meant for full-sun exposure in Valley gardens, bacopa will not thrive in the shade. Locally, it does best in partial or half-day sun even if, closer to the coast, it will grow fine in all-day sun.
The truth about Bacopa can be found in the tropics of South America, where it inhabits the fringes of marshes and wet woodland environments. One of Bacopa’s common names is “water hyssop,” pointing to the fact that it is a semi-aquatic species, growing on the edges of tropical bogs and ponds.
The American Horticultural Society’s “A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants” recommends planting Bacopa “in shallow mud or damp gravel.” Clearly, this is a plant that requires constant soil moisture and would not be a candidate for a garden of water-thrifty plants.
Although Bacopa is most commonly seen in white, new varieties in lavender, blue, violet, rose, pink and red are gradually making their way into the nursery trade. Bacopa’s equivalent for full-sun locations would be the white variety of trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis). For years we had come to know purple trailing lantana as a virtually nonstop flowering ground cover for the sun in frost-free locations. Then suddenly we began to see a white version of the same plant. This white variety mixed well with the purple to form a tapestry that distinguished any wall or balcony over which it draped.
But white trailing lantana also makes a nice partner to bacopa. In a planter that moves from partial to full sun, plant Bacopa in the shadier area and then shift to white lantana when you reach the sunnier spot. From a distance, the two plants will appear the same, growing seamlessly into one another.
Next to plants that trail over a wall, it seems that no plants are in greater demand than those which grow up a wall. It is amazing and amusing how people will spend good money to stucco their walls only to plant creeping fig (Ficus repens) at the base of these same walls. Within a few years, the creeping fig will have devoured the stucco, grown to the top of the walls, and pushed up and broken the Spanish tiles on the roof for good measure.
Gardener: Dorothy Kladerman
Residence: Van Nuys
What: Twenty years ago, Dorothy and her husband planted a handful of avocado seeds in the same plot. Over time, the competing plants grew out of the soil into a tree high enough to touch the Kladermans’ telephone wires.
The tree put out eight varieties of avocado last year: Some fruit was long, some was squat and skinny, with different shades and subtle variations in taste. But now, the tree is starting to die. The trunk is constricted tightly by the different avocado plants twining around each other. This year, the tree only put out three varieties of avocado.
“We had no idea the tree would grow that big,” Kladerman says. “It’s beautiful. We love the fruit. We give it to our relatives and neighbors.”
What Joshua Siskin says: “Every seed you plant is going to be a new variety – if you planted a seed from a fuerte avocado, for example, you wouldn’t necessarily get a fuerte avocado in return. The only way to get fuerte avocados is by grafting a fuerte bud onto a seedling. Just like all children are different, all seeds are different. She’s getting so many different varieties because she planted them as seeds.”
– Mike Chmielecki