How do you describe a tropical garden? Exuberant, lush, full and abundant are some of the words that come to mind. Tropical plants are renowned for their large leaves and showy, brightly coloured flowers.
Tropical gardens are very fashionable but you don’t have to live in a warm climate to get the tropical look. It’s a matter of choosing plants carefully and aiming to create the right atmosphere. Here are some plants that will give a tropical effect even if they’re grown well away from the tropics.
- Cordylines. These upright growers now come in an extended range of varieties so there’s sure to be one to suit every garden. In cooler climates the new red-leafed forms of Cordyline australis add trendy colour shades, and in the subtropics and tropics the choice is even greater.
- Palms. Although palms grow most abundantly in the tropics, there are some that will cope with cold conditions. These include the Australian native cabbage palm, the New Zealand nikau palm and the slow growing (and therefore expensive) rhapis palm.
- Clumping, strappy-leafed foliage plants such as the many forms of lomandra, dianella, liriope and libertia make well-behaved and hardy ground covers that suit all areas.
- Cannas, especially the new varieties like ‘Tropicanna’ with striped foliage, have large leaves that arch out from vertical stems.
- Hibiscus are the defining shrubs for warm climate gardens. There are hundreds of evergreen cultivars, and deciduous species (Hibiscus syriacus) for the cooler areas.
- Petunias, calibrachoas, coleus and impatiens can all be grown for their vivid colour as summer annuals or short-lived perennials (depending on climate).
Caring for tropical plants
Tropical plants have evolved in areas with high rainfall and rich soils so it’s important to replicate these conditions where possible. Start by mixing Yates Waterwise Water Storing crystals into the soil before planting. Keep a layer of organic mulch around the plants and fertilise every month while the growing weather’s still good.
Dynamic Lifter pellets are perfect for feeding tropical plants. Because they’re organic they encourage soil to function at its best. Potted plants and orchids will benefit from regular applications of the liquid form of Dynamic Lifter because it produces such quick results.
Pests and tropical plants go together. Use Confidor to control common insect pests such as hibiscus flower beetle, mealybug and scales. Yates Natrasoap is a non toxic solution for many common garden problems, including the almost invisible sap-sucking mites.
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