Posts Tagged ‘Tropical’

Taro in the Northern Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on July 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

taro-leafTaro, is widely grown in the tropics for food. In Hawaii, Taro is usually grown in pond fields, known as loʻi where the cool, flowing water yields the best crop of edible corms. The edible tubers are used in Poi and the young shoots are blanched and used as a winter vegetable.

Although, native to tropical Asia and Polynesia, Colocasia has given us lots of pleasure all Summer. With its huge, velvet or glossy, dark green, heart-shaped leaves lined with darker veins, Taro adds real drama to our shade garden.

We grow them in containers with little thought given to eating the stems or beating their roots to a pulp to make something that taste like bland wallpaper paste. Taro really work well around a garden structure or up against a stone wall. We like to use them with banana trees and potted palms.


Tips of the Month

Taro is best grown in fertile, organically rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Full sun generally brings out the best leaf color. However, in the hot dry Summers the plants appear to do best in part shade. When growing plants in garden soils, provide regular moisture, especially during dry summer periods, and do not allow soils to dry out.

Plants may also be grown as pond marginals in up to 4-6 inches of standing water. These plants produce prodigious amounts of growth and appreciate weekly fertilization during the growing season.

Tubers may be left in the ground year-round in Zones 8-10. In Michigan, however, tubers should be planted in the ground in mid-spring dug up in fall after first frost and then overwintered in a cool dry place. We have had excellent luck planting taro in containers and just moving these in when Winter approaches along with our other houseplants. Plants grown in containers need to be re-potted on a yearly basis or at the end of the growing season.


Flower of the Month


Colocasia esculenta “Midnight“

It has the darkest leaves of any colocasia we have grown. Native to tropical Asia and Polynesia where it is considered an evergreen perennial tuberous herb. It enjoys part sun and in our garden has grown to over three feet tall. A very hardy plant but not hardy enough to withstand our Michigan Winters. A wonderful addition to the tropical garden we use it with Sago Palms and Musa velutina, the Pink Velvet Banana. It is also spectacular as a sturdy backdrop for perennials in the flower border. Excellent for water gardens when planted in a pot submerged in the pond.


Featured Web Site


Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

They are a third generation bulb grower and hybridizers of daffodils in Gloucester, Virginia. They are launching a new specialty mail-order flower bulb business, via the internet, where we are offering selections of the bulbs, some old favorites and new introductions.

They are creating display gardens and hope to create an educational foundation in which we can help educate school groups, Master Gardener groups or the general public about the ways to incorporate and grow bulbs amongst other perennials, annuals and woody plants. They are excited about their ideas and dreams and we look forward to pursuing them and sharing our experience with you.

Posted in  

The Lobster Claw

Icon Written by Wayne on February 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

Lobster Claw

Lobster Claw

My wife’s favorite tropical flower is the Heliconia bihai, better known as the ‘Lobster Claw’ which she first saw at the Allerton National Botanical Gardens on the island of Kauai during our 2005 trip to Ha-waii. This widely cultivated variety grows from 5 to 16 feet high in full sun to light shade. The ones we saw had 4 to 5 banana-like leaves up to 6 feet long, with beautiful, long lasting inflorescences composed of showy bracts which contain the true flowers.

The inflorescence consists of 7 to 12 bracts which are light-to dark red with a yellow edge and a green top. The Lobster Claw is at its best from April to December when it is in full bloom. Individual inflo-rescences last for many weeks, even when cut, making them important for the floral trade. Within the flowers are the pollen-producing stamens and the pollen-receptive stigma on a long style. The pollina-tion is done by hummingbirds and bats, shinny violet seeds form in the bracts.

While hardy to only zones 9-11 they can be grown inside in large containers in colder climates. Being a tropical plant it needs high humidity and a temperature range from 70-85 degrees. Heliconia are an ex-cellent choice for plants that are grown indoors in the Winter and moved outdoors for the Spring and Summer. They do require a well drained growing medium such as a cactus mix. The usual way to propagate is to plant rhizomes, which are horizontal underground stems, in a well draining soil with the very tip protruding out of the soil. Water thoroughly and let dry out somewhat be-tween watering. If kept too wet, there is a good chance they may rot.
Spent flower canes should be cut to the ground. Every few years when the growth slows down, dig the clump out, and divide it. This is also a good time to amend the soil before replanting. They are heavy feeders, feed regularly with palm fertilizer. Except for the fact that they are much more tropical, Helico-nias behave much like Cannas. Once we have mastered growing Sago Palms, Plumairas, and Taro we are going to give the Lobster Claw a try.


Tips of the Month

Heliconia rhizome planting instructions:

  1. Upon receipt of rhizome or bare root plant, carefully unpack, plant quickly not to let rhizomes or roots dry out. Soak bottom 2/3 of rhizome or roots if visible for ½ hour at room temperature.
  2. Plant your rhizome as soon as you receive it using a well draining soil mixture. Do not use soil from your back yard as heavy, dense soils will hold too much water and cause the rhizome to rot. It is very important that your soil is well draining.
  3. After your first time watering we would not water in the future until we find that the surface soil is dry to the touch. It is very important that you do not keep the soil wet.
  4. Heliconia like warm temperatures and bright light to grow strong. An ideal temperature would be 75 degrees with humidity over 50 percent.
  5. The amount of light to provide full sun to 30 percent shade.
  6. Fertilize at least once a month during growing season.
  7. Daily misting of plants is beneficial if grown inside or in dry outdoor environment.


Flower of the Month

Lobster Claw

Lobster Claw

Heliconia bihai “Lobster claw” can be found abundantly in the tropical rain-forest of Hawaii growing to 16 feet tall and has up to five lancelet leaves, 6 feet long each. The bracts are light-to dark red with a yellow edge and a green top.


Web Site

The Allerton Estate and National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Kauai, Hawaii is a garden paradise extending over an area of more than 100 acres. The grounds were the mid-1800s summer cottage of Queen Emma, wife of King Kame-hameha IV, and the former home of Robert & John Allerton. They have been returned to their former glory, as have the surrounding stately gardens. The Allerton Estate is managed by the adjoining National Tropical Botanical Garden, a non-profit organization that conducts guided tours of the estate.


National Tropical Botanical Garden

Posted in