Botanical incense


When we hear the word incense, our mind goes straight to the temples and churches, to that thick smoke with such a particular aroma; also to the Three Kings, who arrive loaded with gifts before the baby Jesus and offer him gold, myrrh and frankincense. Maybe you think of those wands that are sold in herbalists and that you burn to set the mood for a place; But when we talk about botanical incense we are referring to a humble but beautiful green and white plant.


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Botanical incense is one of those plants that has a simple bearing but is missing in any garden or plant collection, not only because it has a beautiful variegated color but also because it gives off a soft aroma that is what has earned it that nickname. It is easy to care for and will become one of your favorites for its stylistic versatility, as it looks beautiful as you put it on because of its hanging or creeping bearing.

Curiosities and facts about botanical

frankincense

The scientific name of this plant is Plectranthus madagascariensis, it is also known as false incense, frankincense plant or plectranto. The name comes from the Greek plecton, meaning spur and anthos, meaning flower. This refers to its flowers, as it has a long spur-shaped section at the back of its corolla.


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Botanical frankincense is a herbaceous perennial and has a creeping bearing. It comes from India, specifically from the mountain range, but thanks to its adaptability and strength, it has been introduced to a lot of regions, from Asia, through America and the African continent. As a houseplant it is very popular, because due to the delicate size of its leaves, color and shape it is very versatile.

Its branches can reach a variable length between 50 and 60 centimeters. It has oval leaves, small of just 5 to 10 cm, variegated between bright green and white border. Its wavy edges and creeping bearing stand out. For this reason, they are beautifully planted in hanging pots. They are distinguished by the fact that when you rub their leaves they will give off a delicious aroma, very similar to incense (which is actually a resin from a tree called Boswellia Sacra). They are excellent evergreen plants that can be used to keep the garden alive during the winter or as a background for plants with showy, seasonal flowers.


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It produces flowers in the summer months, they are erect spikes that have white or very light violet flowers. As their flowering has no ornamental value, almost everyone trims these spikes to stimulate leaf growth. The Frankincense plant grows very fast, so you can plant a few twigs in spring and watch it grow, until it drains out of a pot like an impressive waterfall in a couple of years.


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Because of its rapid growth, botanical incense is used as a blanket to cover sections of land. You don't have to worry too much if it spreads too quickly, as its root system is non-invasive and doesn't pose a problem for other adjacent plants. In fact, you can put it under the shelter of other plants, to cover the substrate in an aesthetic way and at the same time take advantage of its aromatic and repellent properties.


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The incense plant arrived in Spain thanks to Arab merchants, who began to propagate it and it became a symbol of good fortune and positive energies. It is said that when it gives off its delicious aroma, it is because good things are going to happen for the family that lives in that home. In addition, precisely because of its fragrance, this plant acts as a good repellent against mosquitoes, so you can sow it in pots in flowerbeds, terraces and gardens, near social areas to ward off these annoying pests during the summer.

How to take care of botanical

incense

Botanical incense is a very cute and simple plant, which looks beautiful in hanging pots. As its roots are non-invasive, you can make ornamental arrangements in pots with other plants and create interesting compositions, taking advantage of its hanging bearing or pruning it so that it is short. As a tropical plant, it requires indirect light, warm temperatures, and moderate watering, as well as well-drained substrates. As we don't want to leave anything to chance regarding their care, so we explain them in more detail:


  • Watering

The frankincense plant requires abundant and frequent watering during the summer, but a little more discreet the rest of the year. There are those who water every 2 days in summer and reduce to 1 time a week in cooler times. The most important thing here is to avoid waterlogging the plant. To avoid this situation, it is preferable to check the substrate before watering. The wooden wand method is ideal and simple: you insert the wand into the substrate, if it comes out clean and dry it is time to water but if it has some soil, it is better to wait another day. Another trick is to lift the pot and feel the weight after watering and draining. If in the following days you feel much lighter, it means that it lacks water.


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This plant has a creeping bearing bearing and is usually distributed over the entire surface of the pot, which can make it difficult to water because water can be suspended on the leaves without touching the substrate, so I like to water it by immersion. Just find a large container that can fit the pot and fill it 3/4 of the way with water and submerge the pot. Leave her for a while, and she will absorb all the water she needs from below. Then let it drain very well and place it back in its decorative planter, if it has one. You'll be amazed at how much water it will absorb, plus less water is wasted and you prevent the appearance of fungi like mildew.


  • This

is a plant of tropical origin, so you have to place it in a well-lit, warm place, but where it does not receive direct sunlight. You can place it indoors, near windows or terraces and balconies but protected so that the sun's rays do not burn its leaves. Outdoors they look great under tall plants, because they will cover the ground, improving the moisture retention of the soil and improving the aesthetics of the space, while tall plants will protect them from the sun and strong winds.


  • Humidity

Coming from tropical places, the frankincense plant likes to live in very humid environments. If you have it inside your home, you can put it on a small plate with pebbles and some water (without touching the roots) that when evaporating will create humidity, you can also put cups with water so that they evaporate slowly; although it would be much better if you put it in the company of other plants that help regulate the ambient humidity levels.


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In case you feel that the environment is too dry and is affecting your plant, which would start to look drained and sad, with the leaves curled upwards, it is better to get a room humidifier. They represent a very small investment (seriously, there are some very cheap ones) and it's an investment that even your skin and hair will thank you for.


  • Temperature

Plectranthus prefers a tropical, warm and humid climate to keep it happy and lush, it does not tolerate frost at all. Suitable temperatures for this plant range from a constant 15 to 21° C. If the temperature rises a little, nothing happens, it can live perfectly in the heat as long as it does not receive direct sunlight but if the temperature drops to 10°C or less, the development of the plant will be compromised. If the winters in the region where you live get very cold, then it is best to keep the plant indoors and avoid any unpleasantness.


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  • Substrate

Botanical incense adapts very well to any type of substrate, as long as it has good drainage. It is not at all demanding, but if you want to pamper your plant as much as possible, then we recommend mixing a little universal substrate with 30% perlite and some compost, as it likes soils more or less rich in nutrients. As always, you can put a layer of pebbles, expanded clay, or some material at the bottom of the pot before putting the plant and substrate in, to further optimize drainage and prevent waterlogging.


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As its nutritional requirements are quite simple, it is not necessary to renew the substrate frequently and you should only transplant if you want it to continue growing and expanding, as its roots are very discreet they do not need so much space and will manage for a long time in their pot. In fact, leaving it in a pot once it has reached the size you like is one way to keep it under control.


  • The

frankincense plant requires some compost and nutrition to grow gorgeous and lush like a two-tone waterfall, but don't overdo it with the amounts. It is best to use organic fertilizers such as guano or compost to fertilize them during the months from spring to summer. If you prefer to use mineral fertilizers, you can apply them to your watering water every two weeks. In any case, it is important to read the manufacturer's instructions very well so as not to exaggerate with the doses and frequencies of fertilization.


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  • Pruning

It is necessary to prune the frankincense plant because if you don't, its stems will become too long and it will lose that full look that leaves give it when they grow at a short distance from each other. Constantly remove wilted flowers and leaves, because that helps prevent the appearance of insects and fungi, but major pruning should be done in spring. Don't be afraid and grab your pruning shears, disinfect them well and get to work.


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Don't overdo it, you don't have to leave her bald. You only have to trim a few centimeters from the branches, so that you can shape it. If it's too long, you can cut about half of each branch. Make each cut diagonally, close to the growth nodes so that leaves continue to come out. And don't throw away the clippings, because with that you can reproduce it.


  • One

great thing about the frankincense plant is that it is very easy to reproduce by cuttings. Save the trimmings after pruning. Select pieces that have a slightly more robust stem and measure between 5 to 7 centimeters. They must have buds for the birth of new leaves. It is only necessary to submerge them halfway in a container of water for several days, in a bright but semi-shaded place. After a few weeks you will see the new roots and you can sow the seedlings in a pot with substrate.


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There are those who usually replace the plants every 2 or 3 years, especially if they are planted outdoors, because the stems have the tendency to elongate quite a lot and the leaves come out more at the tips, giving it an unattractive appearance. This is a personal decision and if you prune the plant frequently, you can prevent this from happening.


  • Pests and Diseases

Frankincense plants are quite resistant to pests, but they are not completely immune. It is important to check them from time to time because there are opportunistic bugs that come to do their thing and hide in the dense foliage of our plant. Some of these insects are snails and slugs, which you can avoid and fight by using dried and ground eggshells, as well as ashes. Pesky mealybugs can also nest in your frankincense plant and you can use potassium soap or neem oil against them.


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Another problem that frankincense plants can present is fungi such as powdery mildew, which looks like a white powder on the leaves. This appears due to overwatering or when the water remains on the leaves for a long time, so it is advisable to water by immersion or be very careful to wet only the substrate. In case it appears, you can use broad-spectrum fungicides.

About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.

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