I get a lot of clients who want to create a lush, tropical looking garden, but are concerned about water use and don’t want to plant a garden that requires constant moisture. Can we have that tropical feel in the garden, and also be responsible water users? The answer is yes! Try out some of the large ‘dry tropicals’ below, and let me know if you like them (or if you have others to add to the list). In an upcoming post I will describe some of my favorite smaller ‘dry tropicals’ as well.
Pink Powder Puff (Calleandra haematocephala) is an evergreen shrub that grows rapidly to about 8 feet in height, with a dwarf variety that is much smaller. This plant likes sun, but can also be grown in part shade and tolerates poor soil conditions as well. A beautiful, tropical looking background or screen plant, this Calleandra can be espaliered against a wall, or trimmed as an informal hedge.
Yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana). This tropical, evergreen shrub is 8 to 10 ft. tall when mature, with clusters of fragrant funnel-shaped yellow to apricot flowers from early summer into fall. It’s narrow glossy dark green leaves are attractive all year long. Yellow Oleander tolerates drought, wind, heat and poor soil.
Huge Philodendron (Philodendron ‘Evansii’). If you want some really dramatic foliage against a wall or fence, try this one. Evergreen, tropical and luxuriant, Philodendron ‘Evansii’ grows rapidly to 8-12 feet in height with an equal spread. Leaves are up to 5 feet in size, dark green and uncut. This plant likes sun to light shade, and will do better with some water during growth period, but is surprisingly drought tolerant.
Castor Bean (Ricinus communis). This fast growing, tender perennial is usually grown as an annual. Easily propagated from seed, it grows quickly to 6-8 ft., with very large burgundy foliage and bright red furry seedpods that can be harvested and planted again for next year. This is a fun and unusual ‘Dr. Seuss’ kind of plant.
Honey Bush (Melianthus) is a very sculptural evergreen shrub with rapid growth 12 – 14 ft. in height. Large bold blue-green leaves offer a tropical appearance, and spikes of reddish-brown to maroon flowers bloom late winter, attracting hummingbirds with their dripping nectar. Melianthus prefers full sun but can tolerate shade. And it’s deer resistant too!