Once in a while, a new plant comes along that's so special, so irresistible, it's worth showing off. Pincushion ( Nertera granadensis), a diminutive New Zealand native, is one of them. In late summer, it covers itself with beadlike, brilliant orange berries the size of pinheads; they hold on for more than three months.
We discovered the plants at a Bay Area nursery, then planted them in a blue strawberry jar. More rich color comes from a deep green dwarf philodendron, whose glossy leaves are a foil to the pincushions' fine texture. A single pincushion in a tiny pot (each plant is just 3 inches across) makes a charming gift.
Pincushion is best treated as an annual (you can discard it when berries fade); although it will continue to live as a mounding green houseplant, it's unlikely to rebloom. In frost-free climates, try growing it outdoors in a rock garden.
Look for pincushion in nurseries, garden centers, and grocery stores. Plants cost about $7.50 each.
WHAT PINCUSHION NEEDS
Light: Bright, indirect light indoors, or part sun to shade outdoors (during mild weather).
Water: Keep it moist but not soggy; do not allow it to dry out.
Fertilizer: Once a month, apply a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength.
Temperature: Hardy to 30°?40°.