Jewels of Opar makes excellent border filler

January 4, 2012
Jewels of Opar is a plant that grows into a striking mat of luscious chartreuse foliage.

Most of the plants we grow for food or pleasure have traveled from other continents before reaching America. Deep in the jungles of Africa, a lost colony of Atlantis with undreamed-of riches stockpiled down through the ages, lies Opar.

At least according to Edgar Rice Burroughs, who placed his hero Tarzan in an adventure in the fictitious city of Opar.

You can have your very own Jewels of Opar: a plant that grows into a striking mat of luscious chartreuse foliage. Sprays of pink flowers age into ruby-orange seedpods. The Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) is a tender perennial that is often grown as an annual.  Its thick foliage and 24-inch-tall wispy, delicate flowers make an excellent filler for any border or container.   The plant blooms and reblooms throughout the summer.  Jewels of Opar tolerates dry conditions.  Talinum paniculatum is in the portulaca family. It is native to the West Indies and Central America.

You can cut the long-stemmed blossoms and use them like you would baby's breath. Let most of the flowers stay on the plants, because after the flowers fade, the real show begins.  The flowers will develop into fruit capsules that start the season tawny yellow amber and age into a brilliant red. The seedpods can also be used in flower arrangements.

For earliest bloom, start indoors about six weeks before last frost.  Sow the seeds directly on the soil surface and do not cover.  Jewels are worth waiting for, and Jewels of Opar seeds may take as long as 30 days to germinate, so be patient.  Plant outdoors after all danger of frost ends. Jewels of Opar can tolerate some shade, but does best in full sun. Jewels of Opar prefers sandy, well-drained soil.

Go easy on the water.  Only water when the weather is especially dry. You will find that the foliage becomes even more intense when Jewels of Opar is grown under dry conditions.  As far as fertilizer and soil pH, you will find these plants tolerate a wide range of soils, though a slightly acid soil pH is preferred.  The plants are usually free of any pests and diseases.

Jewels of Opar is perfect in containers as well as in the flower border, and mixes well with blue flowering petunias and verbena.  The Jewels of Opar is a plant of quiet beauty.

You can find seeds at specialty mail-order companies such as Seed Savers Exchange or Nichols Garden Nursery.

To collect your own seed, place small paper bags over the ripening seed pods. Let the pods dry on the plant.  After collecting them, carefully break open the pods and store the seeds in a cool, dry spot away from heat or direct light.

The Jewels of Opar may have been fictional, but the royalties from this and other tales allowed Edgar Rice Burroughs to build a ranch in what is now Los Angeles. In his honor and as a tribute to literary escapism, the area is now called Tarzana.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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