Tropicals for Every Garden

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Classes of Tropical Plants The Truly Tender group are usually native to the warmest, most sheltered parts of the Tropics nearest the equator. They are damaged at 40 degrees or even higher and must spend the winter indoors. Truly Tenders include corn plant and other Draceanas, dumb cane (Dieffenbachia), weeping fig and fiddle leaf fig (Ficus benjamina and F. lyrata), bleeding heart (Clerodendrum, not the perennial Dicentralis), firecracker flower (Crossandra) and Hoya. The Likely Perennial group includes those tropicals that will return for at least 3 years in lower parts of Zone 8 such as Hattiesburg and sometimes further north in protected areas like courtyards. The limiting factor for these plants is often wet, cold soil even when the air temperature is tolerable for them. Give them well-drained soil such as slightly raised beds: Mexican heather, ‘Lady in Red’ and ‘Coral Nymph’ salvias, spiny aloe, and mother of thousands (Kalanchoe). The Maybe Root Hardy group deserves to be propagated for insurance against a very hard winter and because younger plants do well in the indoor garden while the big boys do not. You can protect their large pots in a garage, unheated greenhouse, or behind a baffle of hay bales against the back fence. These plants can be propagated from cuttings, usually taken from the tips. If the plant is very tender, such as mandevilla or allamanda vines, take cuttings a few inches back from the tip for best results as you would for coral shrimp plant. Others in this group include: cigar plant (Cuphea), amaranths, flowering maple (Abutilon), cats’ whiskers (Orthosiphon), and charm begonia. Reliable Reseeders include Mexican hat (Ratibida), impatiens, wax begonia, coleus, and angelonia. Some may also return from their roots. You can tell the difference because the seedlings will not usually look like the parent.

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