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Exotic Plants: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Exotic Plants: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Have you ever felt like turning your garden or patio into a tropical getaway? Exotic plants fit the bill. They add value and beauty to your home with a one-of-a-kind look you’ll love.

But in certain areas, people are often hesitant to grow exotic plants because of their tropical origins. However, these plants are actually very easy to grow and thrive in most temperate regions. There are even some varieties that can survive freezing temperatures.

The key to growing exotic plants is selecting the correct ones for your climate and becoming familiar with a few simple guidelines for growing them. Since there are so many available varieties, selection is an important part of the process. And we’re here to help with our guide on how to select and care for your tropical beauties.

Selection

So, how do you select the correct plant for your yard? If you are uncertain which plants will work for your area, we recommend speaking with one of our plant specialists at our nursery to get advice. This is especially important since not all varieties are suitable for every climate.

Purchasing from a nursery like ours, however, generally gives you a higher quality plant. Nursery prices may often be more expensive but better care it taken of the plants and they are less likely to be infected with pests. If you decide to purchase from a store, spend some time examining the plants for damage and infections.

Prior to choosing your plants, remember that the best exotic gardens are made up of a variety of foliage plants. These plants consist of different colors, flowers, and textures, and add the most interest to your landscape. It is best to choose a few taller plants that will serve as accent points within your landscape. Planting the taller varieties is also practical because they will help out with providing shade to the smaller plants.

Plant Varieties

The fun part about planting exotic trees is there are so many varieties to choose from. Keep in mind each plant has specific requirements that are crucial to its survival. Many exotic plants will grow with the right care and conditions in areas they would not seem permitted. However, some plants are hardier than others so it’s important to know the hardiness zones of the plants you select.

Plants that climb and crawl can also enhance your garden’s exotic effect by adding depth and interest. Nothing is quite as stunning as a tropical climbing vine growing up the side of your home or fencing. Their bright, beautiful flowers and rampant growth can make an exciting addition to your yard.

Vines are also practical when working with a small space. Their twisting and twirling stems quickly provide your yard with fragrant flowers and depth. They also look lovely on trellises or as ground covers. More importantly, flowering vines attract pollinators like insects and birds.

Container Gardening

The wonderful thing about planting in a container is anything that holds soil and has drainage holes can be transformed into a container garden for your plants. Container plants can act as focal points, create privacy, or divide outdoor spaces. They hold appeal, are cost effective, and convenient – especially if the plants need to be brought indoors during the cold months.

Container growing can also be beneficial if you have poor soil conditions outside. You will be better able to manage the soil inside of containers by purchasing the right potting mixes.

Spillers: Plants that have a weeping look and add accent to your garden.

Thrillers: Statuesque or sizable plants that add height to your garden.

Fillers: Plants that add depth to your garden.

You can experiment with your garden by placing different shapes and sizes of the plants side by side. This helps provide texture, while contrasting sizes, colors and texture help provide a dramatic look to your garden.

Banana Trees

These trees make valuable landscape plants because they produce large beautiful foliage and delicious edible fruits. These lovely plants come in a range of sizes and can even be planted in containers and grown in most climates across the country. It is a good idea to bring them indoors before you get your first frost or when night time temperatures dip below 50 degrees.

Bananas

Palm Trees

Palm Trees are the perfect trees to add a tropical flavor to your garden. They work very well as potted plants and can be moved indoors during the cold months, bringing that same tropical flair to your home’s interior. These exotic plants prefer a tropical environment, so with adequate lighting and moisture, they can easily thrive as a patio plant or indoors.

Citrus Trees

Citrus Trees are wonderfully suited for container growing. Not only are they lovely evergreen plants with beautiful foliage and fragrant blooms, but they also produce succulent fruit. Most importantly, they can be kept at a manageable size in a container. These trees thrive best if they are not overwatered – ensure that you let them dry between waterings.

Citrus

Avocado Trees

Avocado Trees are warm, seasoned plants that grow wonderfully in containers. They offer attractive green foliage and delicious, edible fruit, making them a necessary addition to your garden. Avocado Trees are subtropical trees, so they grow best in semi-humid conditions. As a result, it is best to keep them as container plants. You can then bring them indoors before the temperature reaches freezing levels.

Time and Maintenance

Whether you are growing your plants in the ground or in a container, there are a few things to consider when caring for your exotic plants. First of all, exotic plants need heat to thrive. You will want to come as close as possible to providing your plants with a tropical atmosphere. Most tropical plants need full to partial sun, generally six hours of sunlight a day. Also, tropical plants need the correct amount of watering.

Once you finally get your exotic garden established, you will not have to provide it with much care except watering (with the exception of those that are planted in cold climates). If you do live in a cold climate, it may be a good idea to grow your plants in containers so they can be moved indoors during the winter months.

If you live in a hot, humid climate, it may be best to tend to your plants in the morning before the humidity builds up.

Soil

Exotic plants need rich, organic soil, and will need to be planted in a well-draining area or pot. If you do not have ideal soil conditions, you can achieve this by using compost or an organic plant mix. Organic soils have substances that will naturally break down into nutrients that will feed your plants. The more organic matter in your soil, the more your plants will benefit, and the better drainage for the soil. Most importantly, the soil around your plants should dry out in between waterings.

Acidification of the soil also has an impact on a plant’s growth. If the soil pH declines, the supply of nutrients for plants decreases. Think back to what you were taught in elementary school: a pH of 7.0 represents neutrality. Your soil’s pH has an enormous effect on your plant’s ability to take in nutrients. Plants need both alkaline and acidic soil conditions to thrive. Some plants require slightly more acidic soil than others, and vice versa.

If you are uncertain of your soil’s pH, you can purchase a pH tester from your local nursery or garden center. Once you are familiar with the pH balance of your soil, you will have a better idea of which plants will thrive in your soil. If the plants you are interested in are not ideal for your soil type, the soil can be amended with planting mixes and fertilizers as mentioned above.

Watering

Watering your exotic plants improperly can kill the plant. This is why it’s important not to overwater your plants. Though it is important to water your plants thoroughly when you do water them. Shallow watering can lead to frail stems and poor root growth. Every plant is slightly different in reference to the amount of water it needs for survival, so be sure to check for planting and care instructions prior to purchasing.

If you are uncertain of how much to water your plants, the best way to determine if they need water is to check the moisture level of the soil. You can do this simply by sticking your finger about 2 inches down into the soil. Is the soil still wet or damp? If the soil is still damp, you will not need to water your plants. If it is dry, then you should water your plants.

Watering

You will know if you are watering your plants correctly by the way they respond. Browning or spotting on the leaves can be a sign of both overwatering and under-watering. This is why it is best to pay attention to certain signs, such as wilting and browning on the tips. Keep in mind that plants with a lot of foliage will require more moisture than other plants.

If you have trouble remembering when to water or how, consider a self-watering system. This applies to both container plants and those planted in the ground. Potted plants can be placed in self-watering containers. These containers can make your plants look great while watering them for you.

For outdoor plants, you should consider utilizing an irrigation system. With most sprinkler systems, you can control the frequency of watering by adjusting the settings on the system. If possible, it’s best to use drip irrigation to water your plants. This helps save water and ensures that the plants are still able to receive ample water.

Fertilization

Plants benefit greatly from fertilization. How often you fertilize your plants depends on the plant type. Some plants can be fertilized annually, while others benefit from being fertilized monthly or every few months. As a rule of thumb, you should fertilize most tropical plants two to three times during the growing season.

For flowering varieties, it is best to fertilize them once the flower buds start to come out. This helps your plants make a more appealing floral display. You can fertilize your plants all the way up to early to late fall, depending on your zone. In general, you should use nitrogen-based fertilizers or aged compost for tropical plants. For flowering and fruiting varieties, you will want to use a low nitrogen formula like 10-10-10.

Ideal fertilizers will contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These are all essential nutrients for your plants’ health. High nitrogen formulas like 25-10-10 are best used on plants with foliage only. Fertilizers containing Ironite can help to green up plants with foliage that have a tendency to yellow out. However, we do not recommend using Irontite on palm trees. Palm fertilizers have minor elements such as iron and manganese. You can find them in palm-tone fertilizers with formulas similar to 8-4-12.

Fish Emulsion also makes a great organic fertilizer for your plants. This fertilizer especially works well on plants that are sick or struggling. Slow release fertilizers like those found in pellets are also advisable. They are less likely to burn the roots of your plants. Whichever fertilizer you choose, be sure to read the instructions prior to fertilization to ensure the safety of your plants.

Air

Exotic plants respond quickly to temperatures. Keeping a close eye on the temperature is one of the most successful ingredients to keeping your plants alive. During late fall as the temperature drops, the foliage on your tropical plants will start to look wilted and mushy. Before this happens it may be a good idea to bring your plants indoors for the winter. Keep in mind this depends on the species of plants that you have. Some plants are hardier than others and can take cold weather.

Once you move your plants indoors, air circulation will become important for them. The air inside your home tends to be both hot and dry. As a result, your plants can end up drying out. It is best to raise the humidity around your plants. There are a couple of ways that you can achieve this. You can either mist the leaves daily with a spray bottle, or you can place your plants on top of pebbles; this will also raise the humidity around your plants.

Exotic Plants

Sunlight

Exotic plants typically need lots of sunlight. Placing them in areas with full sun will be most beneficial to them. There are some exotic plants that can thrive in partial shade. If you have a shaded yard, be certain to choose varieties that do not require full sun. That information is typically available online.

Indoor plants also typically need full sun or at least six hours of sunlight a day. A grow light can also be used as a substitute if you do not have ample sunlight. If you are bringing the plants inside from outdoors, give them some time to acclimate to their new environment and then place them in an area where they will receive as much light as possible.

If you do not have ample lighting available inside, you may also need to use a grow light a few hours a day. Furthermore, if you are uncertain how much sun your plants need, you can do some research online for care instructions for your plant or give us a call.

Tips for Exotic Plants and Gardening

1. Research

Find out what grows well in your area and climate. Select easy-care plants that will not consume too much of your time. Also, as we mentioned earlier, if you live in a cold climate, consider plants that can withstand freezing temperatures, or that can be placed in containers and brought indoors for the colder months (i.e. Cold Hardy Banana).

2. Dense Planting and Color

When trying to achieve a tropical look in your yard, it is best to practice dense planting, especially if you are working with a small space. This means placing several plants around each other in vertical layers, essentially creating a wall around your garden. This will give your landscape the desired exotic look.

Planting densely helps to create a rainforest-like impression in your yard. It also helps protect some of your hardier plants from frost during the cold months and provides a nice habitat for nearby wildlife.

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