Hot Tropicals

by Claudie Speed, Master Gardener

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Do you dream of a tropical paradise somewhere far away filled with beautiful blooms? Why dream when you can have our own tropical paradise right here in Nassau County?

We do have some light freezes, but we still have an almost limitless supply of plants which can transform our gardens into a mass of scented, bright colors.

Many of our plants come from exotic sounding origins - such as the Vinca (periwinkle) from the Old World Tropics of Madagascar, hibiscus from East Asia and bougainvillea from Brazil.

Bougainvillea is very easy to grow, will tolerate some salt air and is what I call a "don't" plant. Don't over water, don't over fertilize and don't plant it in the shade. Vinca will reward you with tropical purple or red bracts in a blooming hanging basket or climbing on a trellis in your garden.

The tropics are rampant with vines, and your landscape can also be lush with vines such as mandevilla, white or pink blossoms or the passion vine, purple flowers which attract butterflies.

Passion Vine

Announce your tropical garden with a yellow trumpet shrub with unique hanging blooms. The flowers resemble a trumpet and fill the evening air with a sweet scent.

Cannas bloom nearly all summer with vibrant colors of yellow, red, orange and fuchsia. There are new varieties of canna with beautiful foliage too.

Try mixing some heart-shaped elephant ears in the background for fabulous display of tropical foliage. For tropical flowering year-round, African iris flowers best in full sun. It is very low maintenance, tolerates nearly all soil conditions and can be used as a specimen plant or incorporated into flower beds.

When planting your tropical garden, always remember "right plant for the right place" following soil, water, light and fertilizer requirements.

Once you have completed your garden and it's awash with colorful blooms and foliage and native palms rustling in the breeze, it might be time to put on the grass skirts and invite your neighbors for a tropical luau.

If you are a seaside gardener, a number of plants are salt tolerant as well as drought resistant. These plants can also be planted countywide.

Gaillardia produces bold tropical colors all summer and is often found near lakes and oceans. Yarrow in an array of yellows, oranges, white and pink is drought resistant and loves to grow in any sunny garden. It's great for cut flowers and lovely as a dried flower.

Hydrangeas look delicate but can tolerate some wind and salt, but do require water and a shady section. Verbenas and lavender produce beautiful colors from shades of delicate lavender to hot pink.

Not to be forgotten, an all-time favorite of gardeners everywhere - the daylily, which are available in many colors and like to just be a part of your sunny garden.

Claudie Speed lives in Fernandina Beach and is an active master gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida Institute of Food Agricultural Sciences.


 

 

Claudie Speed

Claudie Speed lives on Amelia Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer.