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Try Tropicals This Year

Tropicals  give your porches and patios a little island mystique.  And, since tropicals typically come in basic plastic pots that can be slipped into boldly colored ceramic pots, they can instantly turn any outdoor space into a party place.

If you remove a tropical from its plastic pot and plant it in a decorative container, make sure the pot has ample drainage holes. Use only good potting soil, not garden soil, which is too heavy. Fill the new pot with one-third potting soil. Remove the tropical from its container and tease or loosen any matted, circling roots. Place it in the new pot and fill in with more potting soil. Water thoroughly. If the potting soil settles, add more soil and water again.

Tropicals are heavy feeders, so regular fertilization with a water-soluble food meant for flowering plants, or a time-released granule mixed into the potting soil keeps the plants blooming. Some potting soils have fertilizer already mixed into them, but they are often only good for a few weeks.

During hot summer days, potted plants need daily, sometimes twice daily, watering because the soil heats up and dries out quickly.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the new sun-loving tropicals you’ll find from companies such as Monrovia (www.monrovia.com) and Hines (www.hineshort.com). Monrovia is found at independent garden centers; Hines is available at garden centers and stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walmart.

Mandevilla Bride’s Cascade. These summer-long flowering vines come in all colors, including a new white one called Bride’s Cascade. The vigorous plant, which grows 15 feet long, needs a strong support system, including a fence, trellis or arbor.

Adenium Kissable Pink, aka desert rose. This carefree plant flowers all summer. Its bonsai-like appearance features twisted stems, oval-shaped leaves and large, bright flowers. When dry and dormant, the plant tolerates temperatures into the mid 40s; it can be brought indoors, kept dry and moved outdoors in spring.

Bougainvillea Bambino. These bougainvilleas reach 4-5 feet tall, and include Lauren with variegated foliage that contrasts nicely with large clusters of flowers spring-fall. Use them in containers and as hedges for real drama.

Babybino Bougainvillea. This new dwarf bougainvillea acts more like a shrub and is easy to grow. Dark Rose has deep rose-colored flowers that contrast against the olive green foliage; blooms appear spring-fall. Use it in patio pots, garden beds and window boxes. Get really crazy and plant it as a mass of ground cover around a patio or pool.

Crinum Purple Dream. It’s nicknamed Black Hawaiian Spider Lily because of its deep purple foliage that is almost black when it grows in full sun. Spidery, deep-pink flowers appear on dark red stalks above the foliage early summer to fall.

Bougainvillea patio trees and pots. These showy plants are show-stoppers when you use them for parties or outdoor celebrations like weddings and anniversaries. The blooms come in shades of red, pink, orange, purple and white. They need full sun and are fairly drought tolerant, which means you may not have to water their containers daily, if you are lucky.

Bahama Bay Hibiscus. These tropical treats produce endless numbers trumped-shaped blooms, some with ruffles, in orange, red and pink tones. The bright flowers always pop out against dark green foliage that has a nice sheen to it. Remove the old flowers to encourage new ones, and feed frequently. They dislike temperatures below 55 degrees, but can be protected at night and uncovered to bloom again during warm fall days.

 
 
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