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Although most people are familiar with certain types of tropical plants and fruits such as bananas, lemons, and oranges, little is known about how to grow them and care for them.
People usually think that it is a demanding task. But, in fact, growing tropical plants is easy if you pay attention to their characteristics and the conditions in which they thrive. It can even be fun.
Favorable Growing Conditions for Tropical Plants
Before we delve into the topic of how to care for them, the first question that needs answering is where and under what conditions tropical plants can grow.
Tropical plants can be grown in the backyard, in a greenhouse, or in containers, either small ones like pots or large ones that are built-in features in many houses. Whatever the case, you will have to do something about the soil in which your plant is to grow.
First of all, tropical plants need a lot of nutrients and good drainage.
So the first important thing to do is to improve the quality of the soil. Heavy rains and overuse may have exhausted the nutrients, and it may contain the invasive roots of a former tree.
Having dug up a hole at least 15 cm large, add the material that will lighten and enrich the soil.
Some of the things that will help with drainage are sand from a riverbed, old sawdust, grated coconut fiber, topsoil or pre-mixed potting soil. Mix it well with the old soil in a ratio of about two parts of the new material to one part of the old.
Some gardeners recommend the addition of hydrated lime which you should sprinkle over the soil a month before the plants are potted. This reduces acidity and helps break up the clay.
Of course, if you’re going with pre-mixed tropical plant soil, you won’t have to do this.
The final step is adding a good quality fertilizer, either organic or inorganic, that will give new plants the nutrients they need.
You should apply fertilizers both before planting and afterward at regular intervals. Especially at the end and at the beginning of the rainy season.
I’m sure you already know that there is no need to use fertilizer during winter. It can mess up your plant bog time!
In case you opt for containers, at the bottom of it there should be a layer of broken shards or gravel to prevent roots from clogging the drainage holes.
Of course, we already talked about rocks in plant pots, but you should know that large tropical plants have a specific root system.
Add the pre-mixed potting soil or make your own by mixing earth (preferably baked to kill any pests or weeds), well-rooted manure, compost and river sand in a ratio of 2-1-1-1.
Given the right conditions – adequate sunlight, rich and moist soil, plants such as flowering shrubs, trees and creepers will make a memorable display.
Taking Care of Tropical Plants
There is no such thing as a maintenance-free tropical garden.
Most desirable plants require frequent attention, I’ll have you know!
Pruning is necessary to induce more flowering in many shrubs and creepers and to maintain the desired shape of your plants.
The tools you will need for this are strong hand shears and hedge shears.
Besides pruning and weeding, removing dead branches might also be necessary sometimes.
Naturally, watering is important in prolonged dry periods and, ideally, it should be a good soaking rather than a light sprinkling, but avoid over-watering.
So, how much water does your plant need and how often should you water it, you ask?
Well, it depends on a variety of factors:
- the type of the plant (orchids should be kept evenly moist, while some types of cacti and succulents prefer dry soil)
- the pot size
- the light intensity
- the time of the year
- the amount of foliage and the overall health of the plant
- and others.
However, watering too often is harmful.
When the root system of a plant is constantly saturated, the plant will begin to wither.
Hence the only way to determine whether it is time to water is to check the moisture level in the soil at regular intervals.
It is common knowledge that you shouldn’t water the leaves. Instead, try cleaning them with a soft, slightly wet sponge or a cloth.
Additionally, a layer of mulch is a great help in conserving moisture, saving on water use, and providing extra nutrition.
Next, bananas are extremely beneficial for plants. You can smear them over the leaves for additional shine.
You can also let a banana peel soak in the water for 24 hours. Water the plants with enriched water afterward.
Pests often pose a problem and whether to spray or not is a topic that is hotly debated among tropical gardeners. While most of them agree that spraying occasionally is vital, it is up to you. It helps, though, to inspect new plants carefully and hand-pick as many leaf eaters as possible.
Finally, you can propagate vines and shrubs by cuttings. On the other hand, layering and marcotting are more popular with trees that are hard to root from cuttings. Seeds should be sown in pots in light soil immediately after collection.
A Low-Maintenance Garden
Some tropical plants require less attention than others.
For instance, Orchids, Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Begonias, and Ficus benjamina are low-maintenance.
They require bright, indirect light and a warm, humid environment.
Moreover, Cordyline (C. terminalis) has bold and colorful foliage and needs a warm, draft-free location. Keep it continually moist except in the winter.
Tips for plant selection
There are certain factors that you need to consider when selecting your plants:
- How much sun does the garden receive?
- What kind of effect do you want to achieve? Dense, sparse, dramatic? Which plants can you use to achieve this?
- What plants combine well together and can bring vivid splashes of color to your garden?
- Consider the ultimate size of the plants and their growing habits and allow for enough space in your garden.
- Use your imagination to create an interesting garden design depending on the size of the garden.
- Consult a book giving the proper names of tropical plants and their growing conditions.
Tropical plants evoke the spirit of far, exotic lands and untamed jungles. Your tropical garden will indubitably be a little oasis of peace, style, and inspiration to you and your visitors.
Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!