There are lots of ways to “set a mood” for our outdoor living spaces. Creating a feel of the tropics is one of the easiest and most popular.
If you want to get an early start now, you can plant many of these tropical beauties from packaged bulbs and rhizomes. All you need is a warm spot indoors and some bright light to encourage strong growth once the plants sprout. Once the weather’s warm enough, you can move the plants into your outdoor containers.
Let’s start with caladiums!
Caladiums like the ones pictured here and above are proof positive that plants don’t need to have flowers to be beautiful! Once warm weather has arrived, Tagawa’s routinely sells caladiums in our Annuals Department already growing, but starting them yourself indoors can be a fun project and offer a wider choice of colors and patterns.
Caladiums are native to South America, but with proper care, they can be right at home in our outdoor containers during the spring and summer seasons.
Caladiums prefer rich, moist high-quality soil… like in the tropics, right? Make sure the large container they’ll be grown in over the summer has plenty of good drainage.
Caladiums prefer bright shade but can tolerate some morning sun here along the Colorado Front Range. They come in a wide variety of different colors and patterns. They’ll easily be one of the highlights of your summer flower containers, whether they’re surrounded by other shade-loving plants or grown on their own.
If it’s unbridled tropical flare that you’re after, cannas are the plants for you! If they could talk, they’d certainly be shouting “look at me!”
Cannas love the hot sun, which is why they look spectacular in Colorado gardens, but you’ll need to plan on keeping them consistently moist, but never soggy. A container with good drainage is a must!
Cannas are deer resistant, but not deer-proof. A hungry deer will eat almost anything. But “deer-resistant” is a bonus, for sure. Cannas can get quite tall, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about where to place them in your garden.
Calla lilies are as beautiful as cannas but in a very different way. Where cannas are bold and ready to hold center stage, most callas are much more subtle.
The calla lily shown above, “Picasso,” is a good example. The colors of many callas are soft and welcoming… whites, yellows, pinks, and purples. The plants can grow to be about two-feet tall… shorter than most varieties of cannas.
Callas need rich soil in containers kept very consistently moist but never soggy. They prefer sun or part shade. Truly, they are nothing short of elegant.
Elephant ears don’t have showy flowers like cannas or callas, but tropical they most certainly are!
Elephant ears can be grown as a focal point in a container garden or as a backdrop in a grouping of plants.
Here in Colorado, elephant ears will be happy in the morning sun with light afternoon shade. They prefer evenly moist soil in containers with good drainage. Their mature height can range from two to four feet.
None of the plants listed here is winter hardy in Colorado. Like gladiolus and dahlias, they’ll need to be dug up or “lifted” once our first frost has shut down the foliage.
After that first frost, wait a week or so, leaving the bulbs or rhizomes in the soil so they shut down, too. Then carefully dig them up and let them air dry for a few days in a cool protected place indoors.
Remove most of the dried soil and all but about four to six inches of the top growth, then store for the winter in sawdust or peat moss in a dark place where they won’t freeze. You may need to water the medium you’re storing them in very slightly over the winter to keep them from drying out completely.
If you have any questions about planting, maintaining, or storing these tropical gems, don’t hesitate to ask for help from our friendly staff at Tagawa Gardens. Hope to see you soon!