• October 31, 2014

Tropicals take backyard to another latitude

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Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 4:30 am

Staying home this summer but wishing you were lounging on a tropical island?

Turn your backyard into a tropical oasis with just a few additions from stores near you.

Fill a large pot with sand and insert a festive-looking beach umbrella. Sprinkle a few seashells purchased at a craft store on top of the sand.

Embellish the entire area with summer-flowering hibiscus and mandevilla, tropical plants that will entertain you with hundreds of flowers now until late fall.

Group some lounge chairs with a beachy look and crank up the grill while you sip some cooling beverages.

The new Tropic Escape Patio Collection from Costa Farms, grower and supplier of indoor and outdoor tropical plants, helps you create that perfect “staycation” environment at home.

“These plants bloom nonstop and are easy to care for,” said Karen Weir-Jimerson, garden editor and expert for Costa

Farms — www.costafarms.com

Here’s a close look at these timely tropicals:

Happy hibiscus

These brightly colored flowering shrubs burst open with some of the biggest, most flamboyant blooms you will ever see — up to 7 inches across in many cases. And, color ranges and mixes rival any rainbow. The leaves are just as showy, providing a deep-green shiny background for the flowers.

The plants are usually sold in their own decorative pots, so adding them to your patio or porch is as easy as 1-2-3. Pot them in your own containers or slip the pot they come in right into a bigger one. Groupings create an instant garden look.

Tropical hibiscus is not cold hardy when temperatures outdoors dip below 35 degrees; they can be wintered indoors — cut back on water and allow them to go dormant — and put back outdoors when warm weather stabilizes.

During summer, they prefer lots of sun, and need to be kept moist but not wet or in standing water. Apply a bloom-promoting fertilizer as directed on the product label. If you keep hibiscus indoors over winter, replant into a larger-sized pot with fresh soil in spring.

Magnificent mandevillas

With summer sunshine comes more trumpet-shaped flowers from mandevilla. In fact, one plant pumps out dozens of flowers in pink, red, fuchsia or white day in, day out.

Mandevillas make themselves right at home no matter where you put them — in eye-catching pottery, long window boxes or in a garden bed.

They twine, climb and splash everything with jewel-like color.

“Have them climb along a trellis or fence, trail from containers and window boxes, or crawl along and over a garden bed-wherever they land, these mandevillas sparkle,” Karen said.

Mandevilla prefers temperatures 50 degrees and above, weekly waters and a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks. Repot into a larger container as soon as you bring your new plant home.

Mix it up

For a really lush island look, Weir-Jimerson suggests you pair hibiscus and mandevilla together in the same combo pot or in-ground planting. The more you plant, the more you feel those tropical breezes.

“A humdrum porch becomes a tropical paradise instantly — and with very little fuss,” she said.

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