Cassia plant is fully covered with flowers during blooming period and provides showy and delicate foliage during other times of the year, writes N. Chandramohan Reddy

Abloom, they provide an illusion of flowery shower halted midway. Devoid of blooms, the bright green foliage lends a luxuriant look to the whole garden. One of the oldest category of plants used in gardens, Cassia is a gardener’s delight, as well as of the garden!

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Cassia is a large genus of hardy flowering plants in the legume family (Leguminosae) with about 760 species of herbs, shrubs and trees distributed across continents.

Some of the Cassia species have long been studied and cultivated throughout the world for their medicinal properties and showy inflorescences.

Features

Cassias are short trunked, with spreading branches and smooth bark. The leaves are soft, bright green and pinnate with eight to twelve pairs of oval or oblong leaflets.

Depending on the species, these plants are evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous types with white, yellow, pink, orange or red flowers. Flowers are five-petalled, bowl shaped, borne in clusters along branched or un-branched inflorescences. Fruit is legume, tubular or flattened; seeds are small and compressed.

Cassia plant is fully covered with flowers during the blooming period and provides showy and delicate foliage during other times of the year and hence it can be the centre of attraction in a garden.

Their long blooming period makes them valuable addition to any landscape. Another added benefit with cassia plants is that they serve as larval host plants for many types of butterflies.

Cassias can be grown in moist but well drained moderately fertile and neutral soils. They need full sun for optimum growth and profuse, colourful blooms.

Watering shall be done as per the climatic requirements. Since Cassias require moist soils for their optimum growth, profuse watering is needed during the growth period. Regular deep watering is required till the plants are established after which it can be reduced. Watering shall be minimised during winter.

Fertilize the plants before the commencement of the flowering season to have good display of blooms. Balanced liquid fertilizer shall be applied in the spring and monsoon.

With their lean stems and branches, Cassias are susceptible to wind damage. Staking (Tying the plant to long straight stick fixed in the ground for holding it erect) is needed to protect them from wind during the initial months till the plant stands on its own.

Cassia plants are generally hardy and resistant to pests and diseases.

Pruning

Cassia plants, with their prolific branching, develop a disorganized tangle of branches in the canopy. Prune the lower branches on young plants and the drooping branches in mature ones to keep the canopy well structured. All the dead and diseased wood shall be removed.

Cutting back the branches by a third after flowering season will promote profuse blooms in the following season. But heavy pruning before flowering can disrupt the natural timing or production of flowers.

Propagation

Cassia plants can be propagated through seeds. But it is not easy because the seeds are very hard and water tight. Seeds being generally dormant, the process of germination takes quite a long. So the seeds have to be pre-treated with acid (scarification) and soaked in water for about a day for speed sprouting.

(The author is a forest officer and can be contacted at ‘nchandramohanreddy@gmail.com’)