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When Tropical Gardening Works
by Thomas Fyrd
Growing plants that originate in tropical areas, no matter where you live, has become a popular hobby. Most of our houseplants today, in fact, are actually tropical or semi-tropical species that we've begun growing indoors for decoration and pleasure. Many of them are from India, Central America, and Africa.
Many gardeners are finding that tropical plants will also do well in their outdoor gardens, if given proper care and nurturing. This is especially true in the milder climates and those zones with fairly high average temperatures year round. Whole industries of hybrid tropical-looking plants that are better in colder weather have cropped up, making it easier than ever to grow tropicals out of doors.
In Victorian times, tropical gardens were expensive, lavish affairs and were considered the highest of fashion. These were often "pot" gardens, with the plants in large containers that could be moved inside in inclement weather and the colder months. Whole rooms and even wings of homes were dedicated "conservatories" for these plants and for the nurturing and propagation of them.
Many of the flowers and plants that we see today as "everyday" are actually tropicals. Annuals like geraniums, impatients, and begonias are examples of this that might surprise you. Whether you live in an area warm enough to plant these outdoors year-round or in a greenhouse or in pots you bring inside in the colder times of year, tropicals are beautiful additions (or exclusives) for any garden.
Be aware that warm temperatures are not enough, however. Humidity and how the weather changes with nightfall are also important factors. If you live in the desert southwest, for instance, you will likely find that tropicals will not do well without lots of moisture and barriers from the cold night air. Greenhouses are almost required if you are not growing your tropicals indoors.
Providing heat and moisture is what makes tropicals grow their best, pushing to the sky with vibrant colors and strong roots. If you can provide the moisture and sunlight the plants require, along with the warmth they need, you can grow even the smallest varieties into mammoths of their species.
If the weather is conducive, even indoor plants will appreciate some time out doors when the weather permit. A few hours outside each day can do wonders for your plant's growth and beauty. Just be sure to keep the soil moist and the leaves from becoming burnt from too much sunlight. Popular tropical houseplants like rubber plants, dieffenbachia, spider plants, pothos and others will make great additions to a tropical garden outdoors for a few hours each day. If you live where these can be outside all the time, then they can make great spot flourishes or border plants as well.
Keeping them in containers year round in colder climates will make it much easier to enjoy your plants both indoors and out, whenever the weather permits. Enjoy your tropicals and remember that growing them comes with a rich heritage and makes for a great atmosphere for you in your home!