Hair's To Growing Your Own Exotic Coif
Tropical plants are often overlooked when planning and designing the garden in the spring. Most
gardeners are familiar with the Canna Lily (see Canna Lily article), which is a beautiful summer
bulb (Tropical) that has multiple uses in the garden such as: planters, adding a vertical element to
the garden and adding a strong bold texture & colour in a perennial border. Another great tropical
we should all get to know a little better is the Eucomis, Pineapple Lily.
Eucomis, Greek for "beautiful head of hair" is the name rightfully given to this plant for its crown
of perfect leaf-like bracts on top of an impressive pineapple-like spike of flowers. Native to S. Africa,
this exotic conversation piece is beginning to attract attention amid all gardeners for its green to ruby
foliage and impressive blooms. Although the edible bulbs were originally used as food for S. African
tribes, it is now more frequently used for its aesthetics in the garden and as a potted plant.
Like any other tropical, the Eucomis is not hardy to our decimal winters so we must bring them in when it starts to get cool. A downer I know, but this plant is easy to overwinter because it tells you what to do, really! As temperatures cool, the foliage will wilt, tire and often fold. This is when you bring them in to a sunny window, cut the foliage to six inches and keep the soil moist over the winter months (do not overwater or you could rot the bulb). Often the foliage will die back and it will appear as though the plant has disappeared, it's dormant, don't worry. Give it several weeks (continue to water when dry) and new leaves will start to appear. Start fertilizing weekly in the spring with a liquid fertilizer. In the summer, once there is no more chance of frost; place the Pineapple Lily in a sunny location either in a container or directly in the garden. The foliage of this plant will reach approximately 24 inches tall.
Although tropicals require some work in overwintering them, they are a great addition to any garden. Often they don't take up much space during those winter months and during the summer months produce hefty amounts of new tubers/bulbs and rhizomes that you can use to expand your plantings or give to friends and neighbours. It's like buying annuals that you can re-plant and relocate every year. Tropicals are stunning in any landscape, patio or window. Their characteristics often include large (tropical) leaves, larger than life growth in a short season, colourful foliage and a presence in the garden that no other perennial can quite achieve.
Be fashion forward and start incorporating magnificent tropical plants in your garden this spring...you'll be happy you did.
Tropicals to try in your garden this spring:
Colocasia & Alocasia-Elephant Ears
These larger than life tropicals can grow to six feet tall in your garden and add a tropical influence like no other. It requires part shade, does well in containers (keep moist) and thrive in one growing season when planted in the garden. Cut foliage back in the fall, dig up and store tubers (root like bulbs) in a cool dry place. Plant in March so that you have some growth when you transplant them in the garden after any chance of frost has gone.
Araceae - Calla Lily
There are many varieties, species and cultivars of Calla Lily. Many are bulbs that go dormant in the winter; bring the bulbs indoor, keep in a cool dry place. Plant in March so that you have some growth when you transplant them in the garden after any chance of frost has gone. Select from many colours and leaf textures.
Chlorophytum comosum - Spider Plant
Yes I mean that plant your grandmother always has hanging in her window. It adds a light, variegated and grassy texture to any garden space and can tolerate part shade locations. Also look great in outdoor planters. Transplant before frost and bring indoors to enjoy over the winter months.
Ficus elastica - Rubber Plant
Most of us have these in our homes and if you don't you can easily go to any store that sells house plants to buy these beautiful creatures in good sizes and at a good price. Imagine the effect these thick purple rubbery leaves will have in your garden. Transplant before frost and bring indoors.
Sauromatum - Voodoo Lily Canna Lily Eucomis - Pineapple Plant