We all know that the easiest and usually the most successful plants to grow are natives. They are used to our weather, soil, wind patterns, and water patterns but there is always a temptation to have something “different”. This is where one may have a rock garden, another a water garden, and another “as tropical as possible garden”. We tend to think of tropicals with big leaves-quite often with variegated colors.

          We can do this in several ways such as potting the plants and bringing them in. But you need to know their limits and if you have room. During winter half of my two car garage is plants in different stages of survival. A Norfolk Island Pine or an Elephant Foot doesn’t seem to mind as long as the air temperature remains above 35 degrees F. and then perk up after a week or so outside, first in the shade to get used to much more light and wind.

          The Banana is one of my favorites and I try to find the ones with the huge reddish leaves that may be 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. Wind can rip those leaf edges so I like one in front of a light green shed. Some years they have babies come up very close to the main stem and I have been able to separate a baby to bring into the greenhouse where it takes them awhile to root well before growing. If they do it too fast they get too big before Spring I have never gotten any bananas.

          Some of the Cannas look very tropical with their huge leaves. Have you seen Tropicana with its red and yellow stripes or Bengal Tiger with its bold yellow and green striped leaves? Both of these are harder to keep over winter as they tend to dry up.  This past summer I found a huge black leaved one. I put it in a pot and it grew 8 feet tall. Then I have the easy ones. One with green leaves and two with mahogany leaves. They make a good background or a “smaller plant near the Banana Plant”.

          Many of our houseplants are really tropicals that do very well if outside all summer on the south side of the house after they have been “hardened off”. In spite of being in a south window there is large amount of light difference outside. A good number of my south window plants go on the east side to protect them from those hot west winds.

          Last fall, at a garden tour, I noticed a small shrub with tiny thick green leaves with a red edge in Carol Damklows yard and liked it very much. It was from New Zealand, called Tequila Sunrise (Coprosma sp.). My encyclopedia says it will have bright colored berries in the fall after it “grows up”. It will get about three and a half feet tall and three and a half wide. A few days before frost she dug it up and brought it to me.  It is hardy in z ones 8 through 11.  It likes the green house which is usually close to 70 degrees F. and almost 100% humidity. It is nearing 3 feet so maybe by next fall we will have the berries.  However, we may not as there is only one and many of the species are listed as being only male or female.  I don’t know which species this is but the leaves are gorgeous.

          Last summer I found two Ginger plants, tall and slender, so I put them in two round ribbed blue pots and they liked being on the south side of the house.  I think it was Alpinia vittata, the variegated ginger from the Solomon Islands.  Green leaves, striped with white and cream, with hairy margins, and made it to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide.  It demanded lots of water. A good contrast to that tall black canna.

Copyrighted 2012




          1. The weekend of April 13-15 produced extreme storms in most of Nebraska. Saturday afternoon the Red and White Spring football game was even cancelled. At kickoff time it was raining with lightning. They were concerned about the safety of the players and the fans. The official rainfall for the weekend in Lincoln was 3.75 inches. Parts of Nebraska had considerable hail and tornadoes. Do not walk on a soggy garden or lawn, either from rain, from a hose sprinkler, or from an underground sprinkler system. Let the ground dry or you will compact the soil which is not good for the plants and is hard to correct. To loosen the soil core aerate your lawn at least once a year. Lawn mower wheels really compact the soil and lawn tractors are the worst.

          2. My “Van Houtte Spirea” hedge is in full bloom and my “Old Fashioned Lilac” is done blooming. Spring blooming shrubs such as Van Houtte Spirea, Lilac, Forsythia, Flowering Almond, etc. bloom on the ends of old wood (wood that grew last year and overwintered). You have a three to four week window to prune these plants without removing the blooms for next year. My Lilacs are way too tall now and my Spirea branches are way too long as I have not been able to prune them for a couple years because of illness. I use a pruning saw or loppers for the Spirea and a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade for the Lilacs. I cut one-fourth of the biggest, oldest canes of these spring bloomers all the way to the ground. This opens up the middle of the shrub to sunlight and allows any new stems to get sunlight and thus develop. Also this means I have a brand new shrub every four years.

          The old fashioned purple Lilacs like I have are susceptible to “borers”. Lilac Borers usually do not get into the canes until the canes are at least 5 years old. By removing one fourth of the largest, oldest canes every year, I reduce the height of the Lilacs, do not lose a year or two of blooms, in time have blooms all up and down the shrub, avoid the Borers, and do not have to use an insecticide for Borer control.

          3. Did you get your pre-emergent herbicide (crabgrass killer) put down early? Have you even put yours on the lawn yet? The usual time in Lincoln is after April 15th and about May 1st. This unusual warm weather came early and many did not get their herbicide on at the right time. If you did not get yours on, apply now so you get the late germinating weeds and if you put yours on earlier, then put on a second application about the last week in May for season long control. We are certain to have some late germinating weeds. And Spurge and Foxtail usually do not germinate until June and by then most pre-emergent herbicide is worn out.

Copyright 2012