All Posts   Posted:   August 9, 2017 by Sean Rayburn

The dripping of the gutters, the blustering of the wind, and the constant grey skies we succumb to all year long have finally given way to the vibrant beautiful summers we Portlanders crave so badly. What better way to enjoy summer than to plant your very own tropical paradise! Tropical plants are an awesome way to give your garden an exotic look with strange and foreign textures, colors, blooms, and scents along the way. Keep in mind as well that just because these plants thrive in a hot, and often humid environment- keep awareness of the light and moisture requirements of your new plantings as there is still so much diversity held in this group of plants. From drought tolerant to heavily moist soil, bright scorching sun to temperate and modestly shaded- You can make your tropical garden as close to your personal taste as you’d like! You can plant annually and enjoy your landscape through the beginning of fall, or learn some over-wintering techniques to keep your plants thriving year after year! Listed below are some staple “go-to” plants to create your very own exotic tropical Eden.

Alpinia Ginger ‘zingiberaceae’

One of our favorite plants to enjoy during our hot summer months is the always stunning Ornamental Ginger plant. Native to Southeast Asia and known for its brightly colored sea-shell-like flowers and sweet scent, it’s a lovely addition to a warm shaded area of your garden. The scent of these lovely plants can be released when the leaves are slightly agitated- which means during breezy summer evenings, the ambience of your garden is elevated when that scent is released, creating a serene and peaceful setting in your own backyard!

Care of these is quite simple both for in-ground planting and container planting. You want to make sure you have evenly moist soil that has good drainage. I’d recommend a layer of pumice at the bottom of a container to ensure proper drainage, as well as good organic compost in the planting hole for in-ground planting. Make sure you have low light to dappled sun in the location where you want to plant. Direct sunlight will cause sun damage and prevent the plant from performing at its greatest capacity.  Ideal temperature range for the Alpinia Ginger is from 50-75F degrees, and is hardy down to 40F degrees. You can overwinter by bringing your Ginger inside as well- just be sure to treat with an insect control product, as these plants are magnets for mealy bugs and spider mites. Following these easy steps can give you the joy of having your own Alpinia Ginger plant all year round!

Angel Trumpet Vine ‘brugmansia’ and Jimsonweed ‘datura’

Considered one of the most recognizable tropical plants to most gardeners, these specimens are always a showstopper in the landscape. Native to Central and South America, many confuse these plants as each other all the time, as they are part of the same family ‘Solanaceae’. Brugmansia is known as Angel’s trumpet vine, where the flowers point downward, and the plant grows into a tree-form with a woody trunk. Datura, known as Jimsonweed, Thorn Apple, and Devils Trumpet, has upward facing flowers and maintains a shrub-like structure with no woody trunk. Both are extremely toxic, so avoid contact with your face and eyes and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling or you could suffer loss of vision and delirium/confusion.  

Although these are in the same family and have a close resemblance in bloom, they prefer slightly different growing conditions. Brugmansia tends to thrive in a semi shade environment with slightly moist soil and a good fertilizer regimen. Datura however, has many varieties that are from low growing to upright, and can be drought tolerant or semi-aquatic. You may have some luck overwintering these in a greenhouse if you have one, but they won’t survive with temperatures below freezing. In the PNW, you can expect this plant to get 2-3’ tall and wide. With proper care and fertilization, you can produce gangbuster blooms and enjoy their fragrant scent all summer long!

Tropical Hibiscus ‘hibiscus rosa sinensis’

Arguably the most synonymous with the word “tropical garden”, everyone instantly knows a hibiscus flower when they see one. With so much variety in size, color, and bloom structure, there is a hibiscus for everyone to fall in love with. Native to areas around the world in sub-tropic and tropical climates, it’s hard to believe we can enjoy these wonderful plants here in the North West. There are many uses for the plant as well. Besides making lei’s or using them for cut flower arrangements, you can also use the flowers themselves to make tea or infuse into spirits for refreshingly floral cocktails!

Thought to be finicky, these plants are ones that like to have a steady regimen with little variance in change. Hibiscus thrives in full sun when temperatures are 70-80 degrees. Anything warmer than that can cause leaf and bud drop, while anything lower than 50 degrees can cause irreversible damage or death. Like the Alpinia Ginger, they like to have evenly moist soil with good drainage both in a pot and in the ground. To ensure abundance in blooms, use a tropical blooming fertilizer with a high 1st and 3rd number and feed regularly through spring and summer. Use these tips and suggestions for your tropical garden and catch the envy of your friends and family all season!

Overwintering

Overwintering tropical plants can seem very intimidating to the inexperienced gardener, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated mess! There are plenty of ways you can overwinter your tropical plants and make sure you’ll have them to enjoy year after year.

Alpinia Ginger can be treated just like any other tropical bulb (canna, colocasia, caladium, etc;) in over-wintering.  It’s best to wait until the first frost, where mother nature tells the plants to go into dormancy. When you see the leaves start to look damaged, you are free to cut the stems back and carefully dig them out of the ground. Once you’ve done so, wash the soil off the bulbs and allow them to air-dry. Once dry, find a well ventilated container and place bulbs in there with peat moss or bark chips. Next is to find a perfect storage spot. 40-50F degrees is best storing temperature, and be sure to find a dark dry spot so no light or moisture comes into contact with the bulbs. Check on them every so often to keep track of potential molding or shriveling. Once the weather starts to warm in mid to late spring, it is now a safe time to replant your tropical bulbs and watch the performance of your plants occur yet again!

Angel trumpet and Hibiscus, along with other tropical shrubs, require a different approach. Keeping these in containers helps in the over-winterization process quite a bit. Instead of cutting the shrub back or leaving it outside, bring the pot into a dark cool dry spot such as your garage or shed. Refrain from watering it for a while- this will cause the plant to defoliate. Don’t be alarmed- this is a sign of dormancy, which we want in this case. Wait until the soil is dry through the first few inches at the top of your pot. Only then will you water, and water sparingly. We are only trying to prevent the stems of the shrub from becoming shriveled without encouraging foliation. Keep this up until mid to late spring, after the last frost, when it is safe to put your plants back in the outdoors.

A lot of experience may come from trial and error, and seasonal replanting. That being said, it’s very valuable to know that all of the time, energy, and resources don’t have to go to waste simply because winter is coming. By finding a dry, cool place with low moisture for all of your tropical plants is a sure way of ensuring your garden will be most spectacular every summer!

The dripping of the gutters, the blustering of the wind, and the constant grey skies we succumb to all year long have finally given way to the vibrant beautiful summers we Portlanders crave so badly. What better way to enjoy summer than to plant your very own tropical paradise! Tropical plants are an awesome way to give your garden an exotic look with strange and foreign textures, colors, blooms, and scents along the way. Keep in mind as well that just because these plants thrive in a hot, and often humid environment- keep awareness of the light and moisture requirements of your new plantings as there is still so much diversity held in this group of plants. From drought tolerant to heavily moist soil, bright scorching sun to temperate and modestly shaded- You can make your tropical garden as close to your personal taste as you’d like! You can plant annually and enjoy your landscape through the beginning of fall, or learn some over-wintering techniques to keep your plants thriving year after year! Listed below are some staple “go-to” plants to create your very own exotic tropical Eden.

Alpinia Ginger ‘zingiberaceae’

One of our favorite plants to enjoy during our hot summer months is the always stunning Ornamental Ginger plant. Native to Southeast Asia and known for its brightly colored sea-shell-like flowers and sweet scent, it’s a lovely addition to a warm shaded area of your garden. The scent of these lovely plants can be released when the leaves are slightly agitated- which means during breezy summer evenings, the ambience of your garden is elevated when that scent is released, creating a serene and peaceful setting in your own backyard!

Care of these is quite simple both for in-ground planting and container planting. You want to make sure you have evenly moist soil that has good drainage. I’d recommend a layer of pumice at the bottom of a container to ensure proper drainage, as well as good organic compost in the planting hole for in-ground planting. Make sure you have low light to dappled sun in the location where you want to plant. Direct sunlight will cause sun damage and prevent the plant from performing at its greatest capacity.  Ideal temperature range for the Alpinia Ginger is from 50-75F degrees, and is hardy down to 40F degrees. You can overwinter by bringing your Ginger inside as well- just be sure to treat with an insect control product, as these plants are magnets for mealy bugs and spider mites. Following these easy steps can give you the joy of having your own Alpinia Ginger plant all year round!

Angel Trumpet Vine ‘brugmansia’ and Jimsonweed ‘datura’

Considered one of the most recognizable tropical plants to most gardeners, these specimens are always a showstopper in the landscape. Native to Central and South America, many confuse these plants as each other all the time, as they are part of the same family ‘Solanaceae’. Brugmansia is known as Angel’s trumpet vine, where the flowers point downward, and the plant grows into a tree-form with a woody trunk. Datura, known as Jimsonweed, Thorn Apple, and Devils Trumpet, has upward facing flowers and maintains a shrub-like structure with no woody trunk. Both are extremely toxic, so avoid contact with your face and eyes and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling or you could suffer loss of vision and delirium/confusion.  

Although these are in the same family and have a close resemblance in bloom, they prefer slightly different growing conditions. Brugmansia tends to thrive in a semi shade environment with slightly moist soil and a good fertilizer regimen. Datura however, has many varieties that are from low growing to upright, and can be drought tolerant or semi-aquatic. You may have some luck overwintering these in a greenhouse if you have one, but they won’t survive with temperatures below freezing. In the PNW, you can expect this plant to get 2-3’ tall and wide. With proper care and fertilization, you can produce gangbuster blooms and enjoy their fragrant scent all summer long!

Tropical Hibiscus ‘hibiscus rosa sinensis’

Arguably the most synonymous with the word “tropical garden”, everyone instantly knows a hibiscus flower when they see one. With so much variety in size, color, and bloom structure, there is a hibiscus for everyone to fall in love with. Native to areas around the world in sub-tropic and tropical climates, it’s hard to believe we can enjoy these wonderful plants here in the North West. There are many uses for the plant as well. Besides making lei’s or using them for cut flower arrangements, you can also use the flowers themselves to make tea or infuse into spirits for refreshingly floral cocktails!

Thought to be finicky, these plants are ones that like to have a steady regimen with little variance in change. Hibiscus thrives in full sun when temperatures are 70-80 degrees. Anything warmer than that can cause leaf and bud drop, while anything lower than 50 degrees can cause irreversible damage or death. Like the Alpinia Ginger, they like to have evenly moist soil with good drainage both in a pot and in the ground. To ensure abundance in blooms, use a tropical blooming fertilizer with a high 1st and 3rd number and feed regularly through spring and summer. Use these tips and suggestions for your tropical garden and catch the envy of your friends and family all season!

Overwintering

Overwintering tropical plants can seem very intimidating to the inexperienced gardener, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated mess! There are plenty of ways you can overwinter your tropical plants and make sure you’ll have them to enjoy year after year.

Alpinia Ginger can be treated just like any other tropical bulb (canna, colocasia, caladium, etc;) in over-wintering.  It’s best to wait until the first frost, where mother nature tells the plants to go into dormancy. When you see the leaves start to look damaged, you are free to cut the stems back and carefully dig them out of the ground. Once you’ve done so, wash the soil off the bulbs and allow them to air-dry. Once dry, find a well ventilated container and place bulbs in there with peat moss or bark chips. Next is to find a perfect storage spot. 40-50F degrees is best storing temperature, and be sure to find a dark dry spot so no light or moisture comes into contact with the bulbs. Check on them every so often to keep track of potential molding or shriveling. Once the weather starts to warm in mid to late spring, it is now a safe time to replant your tropical bulbs and watch the performance of your plants occur yet again!

Angel trumpet and Hibiscus, along with other tropical shrubs, require a different approach. Keeping these in containers helps in the over-winterization process quite a bit. Instead of cutting the shrub back or leaving it outside, bring the pot into a dark cool dry spot such as your garage or shed. Refrain from watering it for a while- this will cause the plant to defoliate. Don’t be alarmed- this is a sign of dormancy, which we want in this case. Wait until the soil is dry through the first few inches at the top of your pot. Only then will you water, and water sparingly. We are only trying to prevent the stems of the shrub from becoming shriveled without encouraging foliation. Keep this up until mid to late spring, after the last frost, when it is safe to put your plants back in the outdoors.

A lot of experience may come from trial and error, and seasonal replanting. That being said, it’s very valuable to know that all of the time, energy, and resources don’t have to go to waste simply because winter is coming. By finding a dry, cool place with low moisture for all of your tropical plants is a sure way of ensuring your garden will be most spectacular every summer!