Tropical Gardens in Un-Tropical Climates
The lush foliage and splashy colors of tropical plants make them
favorites the world over. Bougainvillea, hibiscus, orchids, and
bromeliads even the names capture the imagination with island
allure. Growing tropical plants in less than tropical climates is a
challenge that many gardeners are meeting. If youd like to be
one of them, here are some tips on creating beautiful tropical gardens.
Not all plants in a tropical garden need to be from tropical sources.
Choose more common plants that have lush foliage as the main garden
tenants and spice things up with bright notes of color like
paper hibiscus or bougainvillea.
Rather than planting tropical plants directly in the ground, use them
in containers that can be moved inside when the days and nights are
too cool for treasured tropicals.
Dont be afraid to crowd tropical plants in your space. Part of
the appeal of the tropics is the sheer overpowering presence of all
the plants. For tropical appeal, fit as many plants as you can into a
small area to mimic the overcrowded conditions of a rainforest or jungle.
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Bougainvilleas are technically jungle vines. The bright flowers
arent true flowers theyre leave bracts. They do
quite well in outdoor gardens in summer, but must be protected or
brought inside before the first frost.
Remember the climate norms for the natural habitat of tropical
plants. Most are equatorial, where days and nights are of equal
length. The secret of getting dramatic blooming from your lilies,
orchids, hibiscus and bougainvillea is to mimic tropical seasonal
variations. Bougainvillea, for instance, bloom best during the moist
rainy seasons after a seasonal drought, or dry season. To
force blooms, trick the plant into believing that tropical seasons
exist. Dont water the plant for 4-6 weeks while providing lots
of sunlight. At the end of the six weeks, go back to a regular
Hanging baskets are a great way to grow bougainvillea and hibiscus
two of the most popular flowering tropical plants. Both plants
are vines, and will naturally spill over the sides. Placing the
baskets in a location that gets at least five full hours of sun daily
will encourage the best blooming.
Choose plants in complementary colors and dont forget
foliage colors as dramatic accents. Tropical plants are among the
most vibrantly colored plants in the world. Green isnt just
green theres the silvery green of palm grass, the vivid
green of jades and palm plants, or the purple-tinged leaves of many
bromeliads. Make use of the shadings of foliage to create stunning
contrasts of texture and color.
Water when dry and ONLY when dry. Most tropicals need LOTS of
water during their growing season but will suffer greatly if
theyre over-watered. Use soil mixtures that drain well, and
check soil moisture frequently. If the soil seems dry, water.
Move indoors BEFORE the first frost. As little as four hours at frost
temperature is enough to kill most tropical plants. If you dont
have the luxury of a greenhouse, bring plants indoors before the
first frost to protect plants from freezing.
Tropical plants that do especially well in non-tropical
settings include bromeliads like the pineapple, hibiscus, plumeria