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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cold hardy Palms - Pindo

When people think of the tropics, palm trees are usually one of the first things to come to mind! There are plenty of palms that can grow in zone 7 climates.
The Pindo Palm (Butia capitata) is a cold hardy variety that is a great addition to the home tropical landscape! The Pindo is native to the south eastern region of South America. It can grow up to 20 feet tall with about an 18 inch thick trunk, but it is a very slow grower. Each leaf can be up to 10 feet long, so make sure to leave space for it to fill out!
One fantastic feature of this palm is it bears edible fruit! The clusters of yellow fruits appear in the summer, and create quite a mess if not harvested. They are tart and sweet and contain a fair amount of pectin, making them a natural candidate for jelly (in fact this palm is also know as the jelly palm). Each palm produces both male and female flowers, so only one palm is needed for pollination.
Like yuccas, this palm can tolerate poor soils and droughts, provided it is well watered until established. The soil should be well drained to prevent root rot. A slow release fertilizer can be applied in the spring and summer. The pindo prefers soils that are slightly acidic, so don't lime the soil by the palm if you apply lime to your lawn. Try to remove a leaf only if it is dead, cut above the base and make sure to wear gloves!
The bigger the palm is, the easier it will winter, while it is small protect the base of the tree with loose leaf litter or straw, making sure there is some air flow to prevent rot. If you have a larger tree and there is a blizzard or severe cold snap, wrap burlap around the trunk to protect it, but be sure to remove it once the event is over. There is no need to remove the leaves for winter.
The pindo palm is a great plant that looks like the tropics, and with fruit that can taste like it too!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Cold hardy Gingers

Cold hardy ginger plants produce stunning bunches of flowers which butterflies flock to! Many gingers of the Hedychium genus are cold hardy to Zone 7 as long as they are properly winterized.

Gingers grow up to 7 foot tall and will require support if you want the stalks to remain vertical. The leaves are well spaced and remind me a little of corn in their arrangement. They may be adorned with leaves that are narrow or wide, or even variegated depending on the variety. Blooming begins in mid summer, with the flowers being produced in a cluster at the top of the stalk.

Ginger rhizomes should be planted shallow with compost added. New shoots should start popping up soon after planting, but don't be surprised if it takes a year for the plant to produce its first flower if the rhizome cutting and attached stalk was small. Once fully established, gingers have moderate water and fertilizer needs, much less than the thirsty bananas and cannas. Winterizing is very important in Zone 7, in colder zones I would dig up the rhizome and store it inside in a pot of soil until spring.

Two years ago I started an orange bottle brush ginger (Hedychium coccineum) from a small rhizome cutting. This particular ginger is not often recommended for Zone 7, but I've "cheated" a little and placed the plant on the most sheltered side of my house right next to the foundation, which keeps it a little warmer during the coldest nights.

If you are looking to add a little height (and butterflies!) to your garden, give gingers a try!

It's not too late to winterize bananas!

If your life is like mine, you have so many things going on at once that before you know it there's snow on the ground and your plants are covered in it! Not to fear, as long as the ground has not froze hard down to the roots, cold hardy bananas should be fine! Today I finally winterized my pink velvet banana and expect it to start shooting up stalks in the spring.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


While the sight of a yucca may conjure up visions of a dry desert landscape, far from the tropical landscapes bananas bring to mind, they are terrific plants for a tropical garden!

Yuccas are native to the arid and dry regions of the Americas, where temperatures fluctuate greatly and the sun is bright and unforgiving. They can tolerate frigid nights and weeks without water. They come in many varieties, some have leafs that stand proud and sharp, some have leaves that are fold over gently, still others are variegated with stunning gold streaks. Each year a single stem will grow out of the center of the leaf mass, bearing beautiful flowers for a short period of time in early summer.

It's important to keep in mind that while yuccas will do best in that one part of the garden you just can't keep moist enough for cannas and bananas, they still require regular watering until they are established. Once established only water when there is a prolonged dry period. Make sure the soil is well drained and fertilize sparingly, the weeds will use it more than the yucca! After flowering, I prefer to let the stems on my yuccas dry completely before removing to minimize stress on the plant. Trim away dead leafs if desired, and leave uncovered in the winter to enjoy the look of a desert snow!

The yucca is a nearly indestructible plant that is perfect for the tough care areas tropical garden. Give them a try!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Growth of the Pink Velvet Banana

After almost two full growing seasons, the pink velvet banana (Musa velutina) has grown quickly! This year Virginia started off cool and ended dry, and despite giving the plant no special treatment other than a feed of fertilizer in the spring and treating for the dreaded Japanese beetles, the banana grew several pups and flowered! I am convinced this banana is quite hardy and a (perhaps the) perfect tropical for gardens in Virginia and the surrounding mid-Atlantic region.

As the first frosts have come in gone, it's important to winterize your tropicals before the ground freezes. Many tropicals can survive cold weather, but very few can survive their roots freezing! You can see how I winterize my tropicals in my post about winterization.

Pink velvet banana 18 months after planting


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's been a long time since a banana update!

Wow, it has been a very long time since I updated this blog! So far, my tropicals have not grown as fast as they have in previous years due to the long, cool spring. The tropicals I have discussed in this blog do quite well in a Virginia climate, but as a general rule; the more heat they have, the more they will grow!

Despite the cool start to the year, my hibiscus has done very well and just bloomed for the first time last week (six blooms at once, last year it was one at a time!) and the velvet pink banana has taken off like a rocket!

Unfortunately, Japanese beetles have taken a liking to my banana plants and did quite a bit of leaf damage before I sprayed (I use pesticides if there is a heavy infestation). Bananas are so fast growing the damaged leaf area is quickly replaced by new growth, so the plant will recover quite quickly from a beetle attack. You can trim the damaged leaf area off for aesthetics.

Here's a pic of the banana!