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Tropicals Heat Up Oregon

Tropicals Heat Up Oregon

Anne Jaeger

Think about it for a second…. The weather is already getting hot, so why not follow the sun and go tropical this year in your own backyard? No need to dig up the yard and put in new tropicals (well you can if you want to, but really why bother?) because a few well placed pots filled with south of the border plants is all you need. Just like salsa, all you need is the flavor, not the whole pepper!

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m suggesting tropical plants. You probably believe tropical plants only last one season and won’t withstand the cold, right? Ohhhh contraire, that’s where we get lucky. Your New Garden Store has searched the world for tropical plants that WILL survive our Oregon winters. Let me share a few favorites with you. A couple years, oh let’s say five years back, I spent a wad of money (I think it was 50 dollars) on a hardy banana plant at a specialty nursery. And now these plants are selling them for $12.99. Can you believe what a dope I was? It’s not the kind of banana plant that grows the fruit we eat, but it looks exactly the same and will become the size of a small landscape tree almost overnight. Anyway, I could not believe that a banana would survive the winters here, heck, they are hot weather plants. But I did some research and found out these Hardy Banana’s are living in Wisconsin! Why they’d want to go there, I have no idea, seems like cruel and unusual punishment, but that’s beside the point. The point is banana trees will come back year after year here. And such a wonder to behold! Most years the banana plant will die back to the ground and I cover it entirely with mulch. Then between April and August it will grow TEN FEET HIGH! That’s about a foot a week. Take that, Jack in the Beanstalk. So as you can tell, I’m big on Hardy Banana’s. If you’re going to grow them, you have to be. At their height there’s no such thing as a shy banana! Banana’s and Windmill Palms are on sale now at Your New Garden Stores.

Another hands down favorite tropical plant that has adapted to our climate is the Hibiscus. The ‘Luna’ Hibiscus I purchased last summer had flowers as large as dinner plates. Yes, the flowers look just like the hibiscus you see in Hawaii but the petals are a little too large to fit next to a paper umbrella in your cocktail glass. Oh, and here’s a plant that I got scads of calls about when it was profiled: the Pancake Plant. To get an idea about the unique look of the Pancake Plant, just imagine a pile of hotcakes all stacked on their sides. The fleshy leaves are gray green, blended with bright green and rimmed with maroon. Divine. Bring this plant indoors to enjoy in the winter.

While you’re at the store take a look at the size of the black Elephant Ears, bamboo, ginger plants and the sword-like leaves of the New Zealand Flax. And if you’re worried about what to plant beside these tropicals just look over your shoulder and you’ll find Sweet Potato vine, Caladium (heart shaped leaves look like stained glass) or what about the new Kong Coleus. No need for a flower with coleus, the leaves are so bright and huge!

So, this season put some of the “Wow!” factor back into your garden with tropicals to heat up your landscape.



Hardy Banana Care:

Grows 10 feet in one summer. Takes any soil, including clay, if mixed with lots of mulch or organic matter. Good drainage is really important! Water, water, water. These plants are almost all water, so water deeply and heavily every other day. Fertilize banana trees monthly with a fertilizer that reads 20-15-15 on the label. Then I’ve heard a 27-2-2 feeding in July really pumps up the growth. Cut it down to about 12 inches tall and mulch it completely after the first frost in fall. It will spring back to life next April.


Windmill Palm Care:

Came from the mountains (6650 feet level) of Nepal and southern China. Withstands cold below freezing for long periods of time. Grows in Bulgaria (with winter protection) where winters are -20. Tolerates any kind of soil, likes full sun or a little light shade, but don’t plant in an area where there’s a lot of wind. Water is important, don’t let the soil dry out completely. Fertilize with a 27-15-15 monthly or a slow release will do. Add some Epsom salts in spring (palms like the magnesium.) When the plant is small, cover it with leaves for the winter to keep the crown (middle) of the plant dry and disease free. May loose its palm leaves in winter.