What's In Bloom

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Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.


Theobroma cacao, known as cacao (and as chocolate in the refined form) is a small tree that produces hard seeds encased in large yellow pods. The small, insignificant white flowers are produced all along the trunk and larger stems. A plant with historic roots, its seeds were used as currency by the Aztecs and other nations from Mexico extending south to the ends of the Mayan empire until the arrival of the Spanish. The Aztecs and the other ancient nations were very fond of a drink featuring whipped cacao (sometimes augmented with hot chili peppers, vanilla, or achiote). The Spanish found the drink too astringent, but exported some of the seeds to Europe, where the chili was replaced with milk and sugar.

Dwala Aloe

The flowers of the dwala aloe are produced in multibranched panicles and can come in yellow, orange, coral pink, or red colors. The attractive turquoise-colored leaves take on a pinkish tinge when grown in full sun. Plants can produce large clumps over time in climates where they are hardy outdoors, in USDA Zone 9 and higher. Container-grown plants should be potted in well-drained soils containing decomposed granite.

This aloe was discovered in the early 1950s in southern Zimbabwe at the base of a dwala (granitic outcrop) with populations comprised of large masses of plants. The discoverer was a hunter who collected a specimen for his friend, John A. Chabaud, a well-known gardener in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Chabaud passed the specimen on to a taxonomist who named the species in his honor. Treasured as a local medicinal plant, unfortunately wild populations have disappeared since their discovery.

Mountain Aloe
The Mountain aloe is one of the single trunked species with gray green leaves featuring darker spines along the edges and the upper and lower leaf surfaces.  The main attraction of course are the reddish orange tubular flowers in graceful spirals on each of the candelabra like flowering stalks that gently curve as they age. Full sun with plenty to room to grow as it reaches mature size. Outdoors it is hardy to about 20 degree F in dry climates.
Red Pearl Amaryllis

Hippeastrum 'Red Pearl' is an intense, deep velvety red cultivar of Amaryllis with a darker throat. A "new" variety, individual 'Red Pearl' bulbs are selling for a little more than $10 each from the Dutch originator.

Hippeastrum used to be included in the genus Amaryllis until the 1930s. It seems Linneaus gave the name to a bulbous plant, but later, taxonomists could not figure out if the specimen he named originated in South Africa or South America. Because the argument could not be resolved scientifically, the taxonomists adopted a resolution assigning the name Amaryllis to plants from South Africa and used the name Hippeastrum for the species originating in South America.

Whether called Hippeastrum or Amaryllis (now used only as a common name), these plants provide an easy-to-grow option for Chicago area gardeners who are craving a bit of color during the winter doldrums. Offered in the fall as bare root bulbs or already potted up, they typically come into flower approximately 6 to 10 weeks after they are watered and begin growth. If the bulbs are purchased bare root, plant them with the neck exposed just above soil level in a container at least 1" wider than that of the bulb in any commercially available prepared soil containing primarily peat moss. Water once well to settle the soil and moisturize the roots (important - do not remove the dried roots from the base of the bulb before planting) and hold in a dark coolish location until 10 to 12 weeks before flowers are desired. Ten to twelve weeks out, bring the plant into a warm, well lite environment and water well. The bloom spike will shoot up from the bulb quickly and arch towards the direction of the greatest light so be sure the rotate the pot daily to ensure the flower stalk is more or less upright (staking is often needed). Once flowering is complete, continue to grow the bulb in a warm, bright location until the danger of the last frost is past. Place pot outdoors and fertilize with a dilute solution of a well balanced fertilizer throughout the summer. As the days begin to shorten and temperatures drop in the fall gradually reduce water to send the plant into dormancy.

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Subtropical Lady Slipper Orchid
Maybrook is one of the smaller flowering lady slipper orchid hybrids with a brilliant white flag veined in green above yellow petals and cup, also veined in green. The handsome green foliage featured darker green splotches, ensuring the plant is attractive even when not in flower. Well drained yet moisture retentive media needs to be allowed to dry slightly during the dormant period following flowering. Bright light, cool temperatures and high humidity are key factors to successful growth.