Philodendron

Searching for a large, exotic feature to your tropical landscape? A great addition is Split-Leaf Philodendron, or Philodendron bipinnatifidum, which sports huge, palm-like, dark green-lobed leaves.

Reaching 12-15′ in height and with a potentially matching width, this seemingly tropical and moisture loving plant actually prefers well drained fertile soils with an opportunity for the soil to dry out somewhat between watering. This plant does well in part-sun to part-shade conditions, is heat tolerant, but not very drought tolerant. Philodendron does produce white flowers, but they are inconspicuous and should be removed promptly to encourage leaf growth. Split-Leaf Philodendron is known to produce aerial roots which allows it to climb far past its published growth.

Native to the jungles of tropical America, easy-growing Philodendron loves humid conditions and thrives best in the Houston areas in USDA hardiness zones 8-11. (Hint:  Mimic any plant’s native habitat for best growth.) This plant is not a preferred option for the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but if planted, make sure to protect leaf growth from frost to prevent damage as these plants are only cold tolerant to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Philodendron can also be a great house plant as long as its leaves are washed regularly and misted often. It will tolerate low light but thrives in medium light indoors. Re-potting is needed as the plant’s roots get larger, and this is best done in the months of active growth (late winter or spring). Although a massive plant outdoors, Philodendron will not reach its full potential indoors.

Xanadu Philodendron is an excellent dwarf variety of Philodendron that gives a landscape a tropical feel without becoming an overbearing addition. ‘Xanadu’ is commonly propagated by divisions of the rootball, and only grows to be 4′ tall and wide. Its compact form can be used more readily as a minor accent, border, container plant, and house plant.

 

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© HDG Landscape Design, 2017

Variegated Ginger

Do you require a show stopper to set your yard apart from your neighbors? Variegated ginger’s striking, yellow and green striped form provides a perfect tropical look you’ve been searching for in your landscape. These unique plants will quickly fill in an area of your landscape, but be careful that you leave enough room for their vibrant and abundant growth.

A cousin of culinary ginger, Variegated Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’) boasts arching stalks of bright yellow and green-striped lanceolate leaves.  Often referred to as Shell Ginger, it blooms in spring with white clusters of shell-shaped flowers with pink tips. These fragrant flowers are grow on the end of a stalk that rises from the middle of the plant. A rapid grower, Variegated Ginger will mature to 6’ tall and up to 12’ wide, although awareness of the rapid growth rate, spread, and how to maintain this plant can create a more reasonable 4′ tall by 5′-6′ wide growth.

This plant is not drought tolerant and enjoys a regular watering schedule with well-drained and regularly fertilized soil. Plant Variegated Ginger where it can receive up to 6 hours of sunlight each day with afternoon shade and take care not to water too late in the evening to avoid a particularly nasty fungus.

Due to its lack of cold tolerance, this herbaceous perennial is best kept in USDA hardiness zones 8-11. Variegated ginger can withstand a low temperature of 25 degrees Fahrenheit, so if using in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area you can apply a thick layer of mulch during the winter and as long as the soil doesn’t freeze, it should reappear in the spring.

Easily propagated, Variegated ginger’s roots can be divided every two years. A low maintenance plant, regular pruning is only needed to remove a dead leaf, when the flower stalks have bloomed out, or to maintain size. Take care not to plant it too close to other plants or each other. A spacing of four feet from trees, plants or houses is recommended.  It is these rhizomes that allow the plant to spread and can lead to a wider growth rate than published in climates where it does not act as a perennial and die back to the ground (cooler climates than zone 8). You can dig up these rhizomes and store them, give them away, or discard them if your Ginger is traveling further than you prefer or if you would like to move it to another location where it will be easier to maintain.

Variegated Ginger’s ability to grow fast and provide contrasting pops of color makes it ideal for any tropical landscape. Keeping in mind its large size, it is best planted in groups, under palms or trees or to create a border under larger growing plants with smaller plants located in front of the Ginger. It can be used in large containers as a specimen but will need to be divided every few years to manage its size.

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© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Bulbine

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Looking for a unique and showy succulent for your Central Texas garden? Tropical-looking Bulbine is sure to become the “star” of your garden. Bulbine frutescens, or Bulbine, is a clumping, succulent, tender perennial with aloe-looking leaves and bright blooms.  Bulbine’s tough evergreen leaves grow 18”-24” high and spread just as far. The showy, star-shaped yellow to orange flowers are borne in clusters on the end of a stalk above the plant and have yellow fuzzy stamens in the center.

Not only are the flowers unique and beautiful but they bloom for a long time, from spring to late summer. Like most succulents, Bulbine is a full-sun, low maintenance, low water use plant and is tolerant of most soils except wet.

Bulbine grows in spreading clumps and can be propagated by stem cuttings and rhizome division. Originally from South Africa, it has adapted to the Central Texas and Austin area, zones 9-11. Classified as a cold tender perennial, Bulbine is not a good selection for the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area. While it is reported to survive to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it will show foliage damage at such low temperatures.

Due to its tropical appearance, Bulbine is enjoyed in a variety of ways in the landscape. It can be used as a low layer in a xeriscape landscape or rock garden, or massed as a groundcover, accent or in a container. Apply Bulbine to Mediterranean and rustic landscape styles where you want to attract wildlife such as hummingbirds and butterflies.

Not only is Bulbine similar in appearance to the aloe plant but also contains the same jelly-like substance in its leaves to ease burns, rashes and itches. There are three common varieties of Bulbine, mostly relating to the color of the flower, ‘Yellow’ and ‘Orange’ have corresponding colored flowers. ‘Tiny Tangerine’ has an orange-yellow flower and smaller growth of only a 6”-12” height and 12” – 15” spread.

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016