India is home to a diversity of ornamental trees, shrubs, climbers, herbs and succulents. Some of them, such as the ashoka tree (Saraca indica) and the lotus flower (Nelumbium speciosum) are featured by name in ancient Indian literature. Many ornamental Indian plants also have religious associations, such as with Lord Krishna, or sculptural and architectural associations in the form of decorative motifs that adorn temples and other buildings.
The orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata) is native to northern India. The flowers have distinctive blooms, each with five irregular petals. They are mostly purple, purple-white and white in color, depending on the cultivar. For example, the white orchid tree cultivar "Candida" features pure white flowers with greenish markings. Orchid tree flowers generally bloom for several months between late winter and summer. The orchid tree is related to the peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) and the royal poinciana or flame tree (Delonix regia). All three are members of the Gulmohar (Caesalpiniaceae) family. The orchid tree reaches heights of between 20 and 40 feet. The leaves are about 4 to 6 inches wide and shaped like a cow’s hoof.
The Jasminum sambac genus includes a host of very fragrant jasmine flowers that belong to the Oleaceae family. One variety is the double white flowered Arabian jasmine "Belle of India" (Jasminum sambac var. "Belle of India"), whose other common names include Madan mogra in Hindi. Another native perennial is Arabian jasmine "Maid of Orleans" (Jasminum sambac var. "Maid of Orleans"). Its common names include Arabian tea jasmine and bela in Hindi. This ever-blooming variety features small, star-shaped white flowers used in the manufacture of perfume and tea flavoring.
Although this ornamental shrub is native to India, two of its common names are striped Philippine violet and crested Philippine violet, indicating that it is also native to the Philippines and southeast Asia. Its botanical name, Barleria cristata "Lavender Lace," describes the mauve-and-white-striped look of the trumpet-shaped flowers. Lavender lace flourishes in a sunny garden location, producing clusters of 2-inch-long flowers that grace the ends of the branches. You can propagate this plant from cuttings planted in the ground during the fall, and they grow easily without any special requirements. Expect a propagated plant to reach a height of about 3 feet. This flowering ornamental shrub is a member of the Ruellia family.
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