Looking for other Utah tropicalesque enthusiasts

zone_denial(6b)October 5, 2006

I'm wondering who else in northern Utah is into tropicalesque gardening?? I.E. hardy palms, bananas, yuccas, cannas, hibiscis, colocasia, bamboo, etc. etc.

I'd love to exchange ideas and compare notes with local growers. I'm usually haunting the palm, banana and tropicalesque forums.

Alan in Lindon

Here's a couple of pics from August

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spyfferoni(z/5 UT)

Wow! That looks amazing. I didn't know you could grow all of those things up here. I lived in Puerto Rico for a couple of years and would love to ahve a tropical look in my yard. Are these all plants you have to dig up in the fall and store indoors for the winter?


    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 1:26AM
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Hi spyfferoni, and thanks for the kind words!

Depending on where you are, many will overwinter - with a little work.

I dig the cannas up and store the rhizomes - they spread so fast that no matter where you live you'd have to divide and thin them out anyways.

Heavy mulch will protect most elephant ears here - or they can be dug up and stored. I plan to thin the leaves and use wall o waters on them.

This will be my first winter with hardy palms, I plan to pyramid mulch the bases. Needle palm and sabal minor don't start to damage until below 0f. Trachycarpus will need some help below 5f.

Musa basjoo bananas can overwinter with heavy mulch, but if you build a protective cage around the pseudostem they'll start and grow taller the following summer.

Many of the items in the picture started out at ground level this past spring and with some tlc and fertilizer grew like crazy during the summer.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 8:31AM
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beth4(z5 - Utah)

Zone denial -- great name!

I would not have believed this was truly a Utah yard, were it not for the Wasatch range in the background that I do recognize. You've achieved a remarkable landscape! I'll be interested in how it winter overs. Also, how much water do you pour on it to keep your garden lush and tropical? Where in Utah are you located? Northern, central or southern -- east or west?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 2:54PM
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Hi beth4

I ran the sprinkler system(grey water) about every other day and spot watered as needed throughout the 100f spell. The most important thing I did was to prep the soil beforehand - A couple of big bags of pete, a couple of course sand and a couple of pea gravel. The mix helped to hold moisture and improve drainage. Tropicals love it moist but hate sitting in sloppy water. Palms especially need good drainage.

I'm in Lindon - about seven miles north of Provo. Many towns along the Wasatch have anciently and arbitrarily been rated at z5, but with a little research you'll see that in many cases that is completely bogus. At our closest weather station in Pleasant Grove we haven't had less than a z6b winter in 16 years, and have not dropped below 0f in six years.

Good luck - ps, nearly anyone along the lower Wasatch can pull it off, with some planning(find warmer microclimates in the yard, etc.) and knowledge!!!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2006 at 9:44AM
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I live in AF. I mostly just grow bamboo. What species do you have? I am wondering how well Musa basjoo will do here? Would be interested in seeing more of your garden or know what you have tried and how it has done.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 6:41PM
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Hi ocimum nate

I have arundinaria gigantia, yellow stripe, fargasia rufa(takes full Utah sun!! All the hype is true)and a dwarf runner I can't remember off hand.

Basjoo does just fine here - simply mulch heavily or build a cage to protect the pseudostem(that's how people are getting those 15 foot specimens way up north) Mine like filtered light best, but adapt to most anything. I've killed them to the ground and moved them around and still they come back!!!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 8:34AM
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ethane(9 FL)

I love having tropical plants so much I had to build a green house in my back yard last year. Now, I think I'm going to have to build a bigger one as there's barely room for walking! I'm in Spanish Fork and have loads of passion flowers, as well as other things like citrus and bananas.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 5:31PM
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Hi ethane

I would love to build a greenhouse, but I have too many garden bridges etc. on the backburner already. I just go and hang out in Cook's tropical greenhouse to get a hit of brugmansia when I need it!!

Have you tried Poncirus trifoliata outside yet? I'm planning on trying one out next spring. I need to add something besides cacti and yuccas to stab the hell out of me when I'm not paying attention. That faxoniana in the picture nearly planted a third eye in my forehead this past summer!! I've since nipped the sharp tips on the lower portion.

Best, Alan

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 9:50PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

You mentioned brugmansia -- I have one that a friend gave me, and I just put it in the basement by a south window in the fall and it does fine through the winter. I keep it in a large pot on the back deck through the summer. It seems to flower best when inside in the fall, and the smell is oh so sweet!

I agree we're not zone 5. I say zone 6 for sure.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 11:30PM
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I am not sure if you have gotten my message. I know at least one of my posts got yanked because I mentioned another website on it. Oh well if this doesn't get pulled send me an email.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 10:08PM
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Thanks, Nate!

I got your email and returned another. I'll check it out.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 10:53AM
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karalyn(Z6 W. Boise)

I love to garden tropicale! You won't hate me if I live in Idaho will you? I was born in Utah. LOL

I have several tropical plants that I put in my watergardens and koi ponds. In fact, I just had to bring some in and also put on my deck next to my house wall.

I covered my other waterliliy tanks to save my tropical lilies until I can move them to my other fish pond in front of my house which faces south and the pond is up right next to the basement wall with a black liner.

This one stays warmer than my others out in the backyard getting northwestern winds and not much shelter.

I was hoping to have my greenhouse done by now, but that is to be built on top of a pump and filter vault that connects to my larger koi pond. We just have a 12 ft deep pit dug and I wonder if I can over winter some of my plants down in that pit?

What do you think? They would have to be covered some way and I thought maybe having a lightbulb down there under the cover to keep the edge off.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 1:20PM
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Hi Karalyn

I would think that it could work. But, I would worry about snow/rain buildup on the cover.

I would love to have a nice koi pond, and actually started digging a couple of years ago, but with all the trees we have everywhere I ran into tons of roots and was worried they'd eventually breach the pond; so I filled it back in.

Now that we have our grandaughter running around I'm kind of glad I did. We'd constantly worry about that one in a million chance.....

Best, Alan

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 8:27AM
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Alan, great pictures. I see you also grow Abyssinian Banana. I have found out after growing them for several years that they grow so much faster than the musa banana and do so much better in our climate. Musa seems weak and delicate in comparison. In the past, I have overwintered them by transplanting them into 5 gallon pots, cutting the leaves off and sticking them in an unheated, unlit room in the basement, and giving them water only once or twice. They stay fairly dormant until Spring. I decided to keep one upstairs in the living room this year, and it has already reached 10 feet high.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 1:21PM
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new to the forum. i too have a bit of zone denial.

i have a tiny t. takil (lost a few others last year) and a t. fortuni (not brave enough to leave it out after loosing the takils i paid so much for). last year i lost my basjoo (in summer, go figure). really sad about that. need to find another. i have a few hardy hibiscus and plant a tropical edible hibiscus/manihotÂnot a real hibiscus, but looks like it. have a ton of seeds if anyone is interested. it is a fast grower to about 7'. i also have been getting into figs and am rooting some cuttings right now with more on the way. happy to share cuttings if i ever get them growing. i also have a few pinapples, cocoanut, a few other tropical palms, plumeria, mangrove, citrus and what not that all go outside for the summer but are hiding indoors right now. nothing great or wonderful in the dirt, as i am still landscaping/remodeling the house and have a lot left to do, but i plan to get a few "hardy tropical" permanently in the dirt at some time. if i could, i would glass in the entire back yard.

nice to know there are others ignoring the zone map in utah. i think i killed my artichokes last nightÂforgot to bring them in after putting them out to kill the aphids. can't bring myself to accept that it really does get that cold here.

i am going to kauai next month and usually pack my suitcase with every seed i find and plumeria cuttings. i love to germinate seeds and try to figure out what they are. don't mind sharing. if you want a fresh or sprouted coconut or plaumeria, let me know and i will try to please as many as i can especially if you have a basjoo, hardy palm seeds or something else to bribe me with. like i said, coconuts are large seeds and can literally pack the suitcase quickly, and si i don't bring more than i can handle or give away. if people want something, speak now, or at least email me before jan 10th and i will bring some extras. if any are concerned, i don't go around digging up everything, just pick up what litters the ground below trees or washes up on beaches. ok the odd plumeria looses a twig, but they are not harmed ;)

anyone growing pawpaws? they certainly have an exotic tropical look but are extremely hardy. i started some seeds last year. now 6" tall in pots. was wondering if anyone had any experience with them and advice to pass on. i also planted some on my neighbors side of the fence in a feral area behind his garage shhh don't tell.

for those in salt lake, there is a 3' palm growing on 5th south and 12th east. it has been there about 3 years. very cool.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 5:21PM
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For those who want to try growing palms in the intermountain west, you might read a post I submitted in the Palm Forum for growing palms in zone 3-4. I've grown outdoor palms in Cache Valley for over 10 years. The tallest is an 8 foot high Windmill Palm. If you don't mind building a styrofoam box and heating it with a couple of screw-in type florescent bulbs, please read the post.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 12:28AM
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Sorry, but I meant to say Far North Forum instead of the Palm Forum.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 1:10AM
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I too grow bananas in my yard! Musa basjoo! I actually manage a nursery and of course we have the bananas! I dont want to advertise because it is against the forum policy! But I will add that if you get ahold of me I can hook you up with some Musa basjoo!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 12:23PM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

Hi, I love the pictures you posted. I was wondering about a plant in the first picture. What is the one with the red tassles, next to the mailboxes? Also is that a castor bean in the backgroud of the second picture? I just ordered some red castor beans seeds that I plan to try this year. I started "going tropical" last summer and plan to do a lot more this year. I already have cannas, elephant ears and a couple of bananas that I bring in for the winter. I think this year I will try to overwinter outside. I would love to see more pictures of your yard. I always like to see what ideas other people have. Have you ever grown brugmansia? I ordered one from a catalogue but don't have it yet. Just wondered if they are hard to grow.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 9:18PM
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Hi Linda

The tassled plant is an Ameranthus "Love Lies Bleeding"; it is an annual but is very prolific, just like the Castor Bean in the second picture. Either will explode with growth throughout the summer. There are numerous colors of Amaranths, and shapes for that matter, but all should be considered annual. I took a cutting and tried to over winter it but forgot about it in the window sill and it died on me. It did seem to take to cutting very easily - just dip the newly cut stem in a root stimulator and place the cutting about an inch in the soil of a small pot, then place a large ziplock or some other clear plastic bag over it to make its own mini greenhouse.

I have never tried Brugmansia, but would love to. I think they would need to be done in a container and brought in in the winter.

I've tried a few varieties of bananas, outside, but in the spring they were mush, filled with these little worm-like critters. I did try to protect the trunk though so I think I didn't have enough mulch over the base. If I attempt them outdoors again I'll probably just chop the trunk at the base and heavily mulch over it. Unless you want to build a protective box as Kevin in Logan has done, they'll need significant mulch.

My problem is I have two obsessions at once - tropicalesque plants as well as desert flora. There are many people in the state growing a large variety of cacti, trunking yuccas, agave etc.

If you want to go to the ultimate in nurseries to see what is being done in both tropical and desert flora go to the Rose Shop in Sandy. It's roughly 10600 south and 1300 east. Take some money; you may come out with a little more than you expected!!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 8:46AM
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You have mail.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:08AM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

Hi Alan! Thanks for the info. I will check out the Rose Shop sometime. Is that a trunking Yucca in your picture? Whatever it is, it looks pretty cool. Do you bring it in for the winter? I have also been thinking about getting an agave. What is your favorite one? Do you bring them in for the winter. I don't have any desert plants but I have seen the agave in books and I love the look of it. I am planning on keeping the brugmansia in a pot so I can bring it in for the winter. I think soon my house will be overrun with plants.

I just got a Parks seed catalog and they have seeds for a lot of different amaranthus. I think i will get some of the Love Lies Bleeding and another one called Summer Poinsetta. They look really cool. I think it is the same thing that they had planted at Lagoon last summer. Very tropical looking. We are having a wedding in our yard this summer and I need a lot of annuals to provide a lot of color.

So, do you bring your bananas in the house for the winter? I keep mine in pots but I'm not sure the pots are big enough to keep them in very long. A friend of mine dug hers up and is just storing the root ball and stem in the basement. I don't know how well that will work. Maybe I should just plant in the ground in the spring and dig it up and bring it in for the fall. Last summer they were in pots on the patio but I would like them to get a lot bigger.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 7:59PM
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Hi Linda

I have numerous Agave outside, but I've managed to kill a few in the past that way. This past spring I added a lot more gravelly sand on raised beds for them. Agave need nearly perfect drainage to survive our cold wet northern winters. Agave parryi, A. neomexicana or utahensis are the best candidates for survival here. Agave americana gets huge but would need to be brought in to overwinter.

The plant on the left is a Yucca torryi, but it is not quite as hardy as some other trunking yuccas. Still, I do leave it outside with a burlap wrap and c-9 xmas lights around it for the toughest winter days, which has been many this winter. The funny thing is that most people who see it thinks it's a palm. Eventually, I will not use protection at all because it really has shown itself to be tougher than the 5f rating it has. Other trunking yuccas that do very well here are Yucca brevifolia jaegeriana(Joshua Tree), Yucca elata, Y. thompsonia. Yucca rostrata is closely related to thompsoniana but is more sensitive to moisture. Another trunking yucca that would need a protected site here is Y. aloifolia. I have two small ones in the yard, as well as a rostrata. A pretty non trunker that is proving to do well for me is Texas red yucca(Hesperaloe Parviflora).

I'm actually down to one banana plant right now and it is potted in the house. I plan to start my banana collection again this summer. That's the problem with experimentation, you kill off plenty of things in the process of the learning curve.

Best, Alan

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:45PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

Hey, I had a nice Brugmansia for a few years, but it was so picky that I got rid of it. Someone gave it to me when it was already mature in a large pot. I tried keeping it on my deck in the summer, but it would only flower when I brought it indoors. All through the late fall, winter, and early spring, my basement was filled with its wonderful perfume and it flowered profusely sitting by a large south-facing window. But as soon as I put it outside when it warmed up, it would stop flowering. I tried full sun and part sun/part shade, but it didn't help. It also was very touchy about water. I would accidentally water it a little too much or not enough and it would drop a bunch of leaves.

I tried to keep it for two years, but then I had enough of its pickiness! If I had a greenhouse or sunroom, it would have been perfect.

I don't know what they really need in terms of culture. I suspect it didn't like its roots getting warm in the pot outside, or perhaps it needed more humidity, but I'm really not sure what the problem was. When it flowered indoors, it was AWESOME! But I don't care much for indoor gardening.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:42PM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

Stevation, Thanks for the info on Brugmansia. I think maybe I will checkout the brug forum and see if anybody knows how to keep them blooming in a pot in the summer. I would be okay with it blooming in the house but I really want it to bloom outside also. I checked out the picture of your yard. Very nice!!! I too have lots of perennials in my yard but would like to start adding a more tropical appearance. But of course I can't give up my daylilies and dahlias and everything else. I seem to have an addiction to plants...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 6:37PM
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Hey Alan I live in Pleasant Grove close by and would love to check out your garden, and get some tips about growing as I am going to plant some bamboo in my yard this year. I am wondering what species of bamboo to plant and would love to try going the ones you have. Thanks, my email is Kavoral@gmail.com if you wanna email me!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 7:47PM
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