SEATTLE — Master gardener Ciscoe Morris says many tropical plants work well in this PNW climate. He says you need a Thriller and a Spiller! Here are his thoughts on bringing the tropics into your own backyard:
Try something new by planting up a tropical paradise in a shade container.
To start, visit a nursery with a great selection of tropical houseplants. Some of the most colorful plants come from tropical locations throughout the world. Most tropical plants will do great outdoors in a container as long as you wait until temperatures remain above 50 degrees and the container is in a bright shady location.
Have fun and experiment with color. Look for plants that have big, bold, brightly colored or variegated leaves that will stand out in a shady garden. Blooms aren’t necessary if the leaves are showy enough.
When planting a shade pot with tropical plants use the same design principles as you would in any container design. Begin with a thriller or centerpiece making sure that it is well proportioned with the size of the pot.
Choose fillers to plant around the centerpiece, choosing plants that are in proportion with the centerpiece and create interesting combinations using plants that have contrasting form, texture and color.
For spillers, choose plants with colorful foliage or blooms that weep over the side of the plant. Feel free to use hardy plants if they fit in well with the design.
Fertilize your tropical paradise design with soluble houseplant food, half strength every 2 weeks. Keep the planting looking great by deadheading regularly and removing any leaves that turn brown or unsightly.
Finally, if you have puppies that tend to chew plants, go on line and do a search on safe houseplants so your puppy doesn’t get ill from chewing on toxic plants.
The plants I chose for my tropical paradise pot are as follows:
- Centerpiece: Cordyline fruticosa ‘Auntie Lou’, 3 feet tall featuring deep burgundy foliage.
- Fillers: Stromanthe 'triostar' (Stromanthe sanguinea) 2 feet tall, combining beautifully with green and white variegated foliage with vibrant shades of pink.
- Black mondo grass, (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') 6 to 10 inch tall clumps dense, purple-black, grass-like foliage with dark lavender flowers in summer and purple berries in fall.
- Spiller: Vinca minor ‘Illumination' Features. Bright gold leaves edged in green with soft blue flowers.
There are numerous cool tropical plants to choose from. Have fun and create a spectacular tropical paradise in a shady container for your garden.