Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
October, 2006
Regional Report

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A life without plants in pots is impossible to imagine, so make the most of them.

Common or Quintessential?

The world where cold weather looms nigh would love to have the plants we consider common. We should appreciate these tropical ambassadors, too. While the selection of tropical plants gets wider every year, we see the same ones over and over. Weeping ficus, Boston fern, corn plant, maybe a wide-leaved croton for some color. Maybe it's because we take the entire group for granted. Window boxes and garden beds spill over with pothos and we think nothing of it.

Take the next step and grow them boldly. A regular fertilizer regime can take leaves to new sizes, or grow a ficus big enough to light for the holidays. Send the vines up a totem pole made of a fence post, and put a giant pot of ferns on top of a column instead of hanging it.

Variegated, New Varieties
Try some different versions of old favorites. Fall is a good time to shop, since supplies are plentiful. If you're good with crotons or corn plants, go for one of their narrow-leaved relatives to soften the texture of your collection. Look for variegated ficus, and ferns painted with silver to shake up your style. Unlike our northern neighbors, we can grow these plants, so let's do it right.

How to Choose
When shopping for small container-grown tropicals, look at the pot first. If there is a white residue on the container or if roots are growing out the drainage holes, pass it up unless you're on a rescue mission. That plant has been in the container a long time. Transition into your home garden may be more difficult for plants in stress. And since the whole point is to add serenity to the scene, who needs a stressed plant?

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