(HOST) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi says that you can take advantage of midsummer heat and add an exotic touch to your back yard or patio with containers of tropical plants.
(NARDOZZI) Summer in Vermont is great – but short. To celebrate the sunny, warm weather, why not create a tropical oasis in your backyard. No, tropicals such as banana and hibiscus won’t grow here year round, but a rising trend in home gardening is to plant many of these heat-lovers as annual plants to enhance the lush feel of your garden.
If you’re trying tender tropicals, plant them in containers. Contain- ers offer several advantages. The plants grow and mature quicker. You can protect them from any late frosts or chilly summer nights by moving the container to a protected area. You can force feed fertilizer and water to keep them “pumped up” and growing strong. Those that flower, such as canna lilies, will do so quicker. And if you choose to overwinter these plants indoors, they are easy to move around.
Even if you want to integrate your tropicals into the perennial border, plant them in a container and place the plant, container and all, in the appropriate spot. The foliage from other plants will hide the container and you can still enjoy the lush feel.
When growing tropicals in containers, remember bigger is better. Choose a one-half whiskey barrel sized container, fill the bottom with empty soda cans and fill the top foot or so with potting soil. The cans take up space, yet don’t contribute weight to the con- tainer making it easier to move. I like to add some time release fertilizer to the mix and apply more liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion when watering. That way the plants get a double whammy of nutrients.
So, what should you grow? Brugmansia, or Angel’s Trumpet, is one of my favorites. It grows into a tree in the tropics, but in a container stays well behaved. This vigorous plant produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers with a heady fragrance. It’s sure to entice your summer house guests to order a mai tai cocktail. Elephant ears, also known as Colocasia or taro, is one of the oldest culti- vated crops in the world. It’s grown for its large, heart-shaped, colorful leaves and edible root. It thrives in warm, moist soil. Gin- gers are becoming more prevalent in gardens, too. They have colorful, strap-like leaves and fragrant flowers. Ginger loves a little shade and moist, acidic soil.
For the gardener on a budget, caster beans are a tropical treat. Grown from seed, they can reach 12 feet tall in one growing sea- son. Some varieties feature burgundy-colored, 18-inch diameter leaves. The seed pods are a bright red, but look out: The seeds inside the pods are poisonous and young children and pets should be kept away from the maturing plants.
Whatever tropical you choose, remember, as soon as tempera- tures approach 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night, either bring them indoors or let them go to that great tropical plant kingdom in the sky. If you do bring them indoors, they’ll survive best in a green- house or in a bright sunny, warm, humid room.
This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.
Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.