Looking for plants in Hilo area

honugirlhawaiiApril 1, 2014

I'll be visiting the Hilo area and would like to purchase interesting flowering tropicals for my garden. I'm especially interested in gingers( hedychium and alpinia).
On my last trip to Hilo, a few years back, I looked up nurseries online and when I went to check them out, they were mainly landscape nurseries.
Also, are there "swap meets" where plants are sold?

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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

Are you taking the plants to another part of Hawaii, or planning to take them to the mainland?

If you're taking or shipping plants to the mainland, the plants have to be grown in an approved facility and all plant materials (including cuttings, seeds, cut flowers, and starts) are subject to USDA inspection--and usually, in my sad experience, confiscation--at the airport. You could probably google around for a list of plants that can leave the state.

That said, there are GREAT places to buy plants in the Hilo area. I like Garden Exchange in downtown Hilo. Paradise Plants often has great stuff, it's out toward Walmart. Um, hate to say it, but Walmart and Home Depot both have interesting plant selections, too.

The farmers market on Sundays out in lower Puna is fantastic for plants. It's on Highway 130 to Pahoa, close to Maku'u, open from maybe 6am to 2pm.

They also have produce, crafts, clothes, second hand goods, and food booths. Try the crepes, papaya salad, or Thai iced tea made with coconut milk.

There is a farmers market in downtown Hilo, but I don't think there are a lot of live plants there. They do have nice cut flowers, and you can get flower shipping boxes next door at Dolly's Handicrafts.

There are other occasional events; the Big Island Association of Nurserymen (BIAN) sale in March and Sept, and monthly or less frequent sales at various subdivisions like HPP and Ainaloa.

And CHECK EVERY SINGLE PLANT YOU BUY ANYWHERE FOR BUGS, especially little fire ants. And frogs, too. You don't want to spread the nasty critters!

good luck!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:02AM
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Aloha Lee,
My trip to Hilo in April was cancelled so I am planning to go in August.
I live in Honolulu and yes, I am very concerned about frogs and fire ants hiding in any plants I buy. I'll be sure to have them cleared a the Agriculture Extension Office in Hilo before I get to the airport.
Thank you so much for your suggestions on places to hunt for plants! I will definitely be making stops there.
BTW, I met a woman the other day who said her nephew from the Big Island gave her a "miniature red ginger". I'm assuming its a red alpinia. She said it has very tiny flowers.
Have you seen this plant for sale anywhere?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:30PM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

I haven't seen any miniature red ginger, but I like BIG flowers, so might have passed it by.

Are you familiar with vireya, tropical rhododendrons? Trumpet shaped flowers ranging from tiny to huge, white to yellow, pink, coral, orange, solids and bicolors, and some are even fragrant. Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Botanical Garden has a vireya section. I've seen them for sale occasionally in most of the places I mentioned before.

You can get your plants cleared at the airport, Ag has an office there. Just take the plants to the ag inspection station at the curb, and they'll send you to the office if needed.

Orchid show is August 1-2-3
Last year's BIAN fall show was Sept 6&7; their website doesn't have this year's dates up yet. http://www.hawaiiplants.org/ GREAT SHOW, great selection, great bargains

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 4:18AM
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Lee, you're a wealth of information! Mahalo for sharing.
I've never heard of Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Garden. Looks like we'll be making a stop there.
I have a coral colored vireya . They are stunning when in full bloom. My plant is actually one long stalk and I've been wondering how to prune it to make it more full. I've never seen any in gardens so seeing the Vireya section will give me ideas.
Mahalo plenty, Lee!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 5:59AM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

I mentioned vireya because I went to a presentation on them last night.

Sherla, the presenter, showed how to prune/propagate them from a plant that was "one long stalk". She snipped just above the second-highest poodle-puff of leaves. Then she snipped just above the third-highest... all the way down until there was just one puff of leaves. (You can leave as many puffs as you like). The top remaining puff will send out new branches for a bushier plant.

From each cutting (called a truss), she trimmed off at least half of each leaf, removed any flower buds, and trimmed the stem at an angle to about 2" long. Sink that stem firmly into a pot of spagnum or other media; make sure the plant can't move around, the roots are fragile. Then keep it moistly well drained but leave it alone until new growth starts in about 3 months or so.

There's a great botanical garden just north of Hilo to check out; their link below also has a plant database that might help you find your ginger.

Also, you're welcome to come to our club meetings; I belong to the Vireya Society, which meets the third Sunday of the month at noon and to the Big Island Water Garden Club, which meets the third Tuesday at 7 pm. Both meet in Keaau, which is just south of Hilo and include plant auctions/giveaways. And food.

There are also Palm, orchid, and Bamboo clubs, but I don't belong and am not sure when they meet. Pretty much everybody welcomes strangers.

Check Craigslist for rummage sales; most offer a selection of plants. http://www.bigisland-bigisland.com/Big-Island-Farmers-Markets.html list farmers markets.

A friend of mine digs a hole for each plant she's going to buy before going to sales, and that keeps her focused. I think she's nuts.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hawaii tropical botanical garden

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 3:14PM
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Lee, you're da best! I am so grateful for you taking the time to help me with all my questions.

Oh, so I'm not the only one with a "one long stalk" vireya. It got that way because I was too afraid to cut it back. I will definitely try what I've learned from you.

I think your friend who digs a hole for each plant before she buys, is my twin! The first comment I hear from people who visit my garden is, "You sure love your plants." (!!)
My husband says I'm a Plant Hoarder!

Thanks for your other shopping suggestions and your invitation to your meetings. We won't be on the Big Island long enough to squeeze that in. How kind of you to offer.
Hope others out there reading this thread takes advantage of the info you've shared with me.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 4:56PM
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The nurseryman with the most selection of tropicals is Tom at vintage green farms
He is a 'plantsman' and sells on the internet mostly, but you can call and make an appt to come. He is about 20 minutes out of Hilo. Like you, I shop the nurseries everywhere I go in Hawaii..

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:00PM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

Tom does have a fantastic selection; I always go to his booth first at the BIAN sale. Thanks for the link, next time I have a dearth of plants, I'll call him (might be a while, I have hundreds in pots, waiting to be planted.)

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:57PM
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