Tweet & Grow at Kew Gardens
Find out more about the amazing plants featured in Kew's new game Tweet & Grow. Get hints and tips on how to grow them and discover where you can find them in the Gardens at Kew this summer.
Mountain – houseleek
Houseleek (Sempervivum marmoreum) grows across mountains in Eastern Europe, from Italy through the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, all the way to southwest Russia.
Houseleeks are hardy little alpines; their succulent leaves and low-lying form are perfect adaptations for a cold, dry life at altitude. They don’t need much soil to thrive – a rock crevice does just nicely. Houseleeks often clump together, but each spiralling rosette is an individual. Each rosette flowers just once and then dies, but new baby rosettes form around the old ones.
Growers' notes: In the garden, houseleeks like a layer of grit around their base – it helps with drainage. Although they can be grown from seed, houseleeks produce genetically identical offshoots, or ‘pups’. It’s easy to nip off a ‘pup’ and plant it in a new place.
Likes: Sunny conditions and well-drained soil
Dislikes: Getting too wet
You can see houseleeks in the Rock Garden and the Davies Alpine House at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also explore our secluded mountain retreat and discover the soothing waterfalls and delicate flowers found in the mountain ranges of the world.
Mountain – mystery plant! Play Tweet & Grow and discover this mystery plant
Our mystery plant from the mountains grows in meadows and open woodland across the Himalayan Mountains, from west India to Nepal and Bhutan.
This particular species has pale purple, orchid-like flowers and grows between 2000 m and 4000 m above sea level in the wild. Tuberous roots help it to store energy during the cold, dry winter months when the plant lies dormant underground. In summer, many scattered individuals can carpet the ground.
Growers' notes: This plant feels perfectly at home in a rock garden. But it likes its conditions to be just so – some shade, some sun, and a little drink of water, often. A drenched plant will rot, while a thirsty one will shrivel. An annual dose of slow-release fertilizer can also help it grow.
Likes: Free-draining but deep soil; plenty of moisture during the summer; dappled sunlight and shade from full sun; dry winters
Dislikes: Waterlogged soil
You can see an example of this plant in the Rock Garden and Davies Alpine House at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also explore our secluded mountain retreat and discover the soothing waterfalls and delicate flowers found in the mountain ranges of the world.
Desert – tilt-head aloe
Tilt-head aloe (Aloe speciosa) grows across the arid lands in South Africa, especially Eastern Cape Province.
Tilt-head aloe is easy to spot because its prickly leaf rosette tips to one side from atop a tall woody stem. Spectacular spikes each bear hundreds of flowers that turn from red to greenish-white. In the wild, tilt-head aloe is common and often covers the landscape.
Growers' notes: All aloes are well adapted to a seasonally dry habitat, with a thick waxy leaf coating to reduce evaporation and fleshy leaves that store water.
It is this leaf juice that’s used in medicine and cosmetics. To flower well, aloes need plenty of room for their roots.
Likes: Regular water during the growing season; plenty of sunshine; soil that stays wet
Dislikes: Too much water at the wrong time; frost
You can see tilt-head aloe in the Tropical Desert Zone of the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also see many more plants found in the dramatic landscape of the desert, such cacti from South America and aloes from Africa.
Desert – mystery plant! Play Tweet & Grow and discover this mystery plant
Our mystery desert plant grows in hot, dry areas in southern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and northern Argentina.
Blob-like, green and covered in spines, this plant has huge flowers which are a delicate pink and have a light, sweet smell. It can live for many years, eventually losing its round shape and forming tall tubes.
Growers' notes: In the wild, this plant species has adapted to months of drought followed by heavy seasonal rains. In cultivation, it pays to copy this natural watering pattern. A healthy example of this plant species has strong, vibrant spines.
Likes: Plenty of sunshine; cool, outdoor conditions in summer; soil that stays wet; low-nitrogen fertiliser; regular water during the growing season
Dislikes: Temperatures below 10°C; too much water at the wrong time
You can see an example of this mystery plant species in the Tropical Desert Zone in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also see many more plants found in the dramatic landscape of the desert, such cacti from South America and aloes from Africa.
Orient – black bamboo
Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) grows in forests in eastern and central China.
Black bamboo has dark stems that turn glossy black in sunny weather – an eye-catching look that helped start a garden fashion when it was the first bamboo introduced to Europe back in 1826.
Like many bamboos, it grows fast but flowers rarely. It’s now rare in the wild.
Growers' notes: Kew’s gardeners grow new bamboo plants by chopping off a chunk of roots from an existing specimen, then replanting this ‘root ball’ elsewhere. Once this root ball has established, the bamboo will grow to full size in just 90 days.
Likes: Full sun to give a jet-black cane; still and mild weather; damp fertile soil
Dislikes: Wind; waterlogged soil
You can see black bamboo in the Bamboo Garden at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also view the remarkable and iconic Chinese-style Pagoda, framed by its stunning tree-lined vista, and discover Kew's traditional Japanese wooden house tucked away in a bamboo glade.
Orient – mystery plant! Play Tweet & Grow and discover this mystery plant
Our mystery plant from the orient grows in forests and woodlands in Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China, eastern Mongolia and southeast Russia. Japanese gardeners have cultivated this small deciduous tree for centuries, and today it is a favourite around the world. Hundreds of varieties display a huge diversity of colour and shape. Named for its hand-like leaves, the species is also popular with bonsai enthusiasts. Kew’s tree is over 100 years old.
Growers' notes: The seeds of this plant species need a blast of cold and moist conditions before they will germinate. Once a seedling’s first true leaves appear, the first step is to cut off the main ‘tap’ root. Later on, branches can be trained into gnarled shapes with wire.
Likes: Regular water and mist; well-drained soil; slow-release fertiliser
Dislikes: Waterlogged roots; frost
You can see an example of this mystery plant in the Bonsai House at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also view the remarkable and iconic Chinese-style Pagoda, framed by its stunning tree-lined vista, and discover Kew's traditional Japanese wooden house tucked away in a bamboo glade.
Tropical rainforest – flaming sword bromeliad
Flaming sword bromeliad (Vriesea splendens) grows in tropical rainforests in Venezuela and French Guiana.
Flaming sword bromeliad is well-named, with a bright red flower spike bearing many small yellow flowers. It’s an epiphyte, which means it’s specially adapted to grow on other plants rather than in soil. In the wild, it often lives on tree branches, absorbing moisture from the air and nutrients from sediments trickling down in rainwater. Its stripy leaves grow in a rosette shape, making a funnel that pools water – a home for tree frogs.
Growers' notes: In cultivation, flaming sword bromeliad likes to germinate on coconut fibre. Then, as a seedling, it prefers organic compost based on coir with a bit of fine bark before being transplanted onto bark as a fully-grown plant.
Likes: Dappled sunlight, as if shaded by the rainforest canopy; tropical warmth; daily mist to keep humidity high; occasional feed
Dislikes: Direct sunlight – leaves can become sunburnt; waterlogged roots
You can see flaming sword bromeliad in the Tropical Rainforest Zone in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also immerse yourself in the steamy heat of the tropics and explore the biodiversity of the rainforest canopy, from Brazilian tropical palms to ancient cycads in the Palm House.
Tropical rainforest – mystery plant! Play Tweet & Grow and discover this mystery plant
Our tropical mystery plant grows in the hot wet tropics of Java and maybe Sri Lanka, and has been cultivated across Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent for centuries.
This plant species is small but showy. It is slow-growing, and reaches a mature height of only ten metres. But from a year old, this plant species regularly sprouts abundant pink flowers directly from their branches – soon followed by edible yellow fruits. Its leaves are sensitive to light and touch and fold up in the dark or if the tree is shaken hard.
Growers' notes: The seedlings of this plant species need tender care, but once established flower and fruit year-round. Some varieties need flowers to be cross-pollinated before they will produce fruit.
Likes: Partial shade; tropical warmth; gritty, moist and fertile soil; regular water
Dislikes: Waterlogged soil; prolonged frost; hot, dry wind
You can see this mystery plant species in the Palm House at Kew Gardens this summer. You can also immerse yourself in the steamy heat of the tropics and explore the biodiversity of the rainforest canopy, from Brazilian tropical palms to ancient cycads.
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