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Luscious reds, lively greens: Tropicals in the landscape

Cordyline 'Picasso'
Cordyline ‘Picasso’

By Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director

In many of the past blogs and newsletters, I have written about using tropical plants in our summer displays.  Traditionally, we have always used a wide array of tropical hibiscus, copper and allamandas to provide color in these displays.

Cordyline 'Florica'
Cordyline ‘Florica’

Since most of the plants we use in the summer would not survive our winter temperatures, we maintain stock plants from which we take cuttings to provide plants for these summer displays. This summer, we broadened our use of tropicals by adding more traditional foliage plants in many of our containers and planting beds.

Cordyline 'Morning Sunshine'
Cordyline ‘Morning Sunshine’

Perhaps the most striking and colorful foliage plants we are using this summer are named varieties of Ti plants, Cordyline terminalis. This species is native to Hawaii, South America, New Zealand and Australia. We were able to purchase many of the varieties we are now displaying as leftovers from this year’s Festival of Flowers.

Many of the more showy varieties are the result of hybridization over the years. The named varieties that we purchased are ‘Morning Sunshine,’ ‘Miss Andrea,’ ‘Picasso’s Red,’ ‘Picasso,’ ‘Red Pepper,’ ‘Maria’ and ‘Florica Red.’ Although some of the more exotic varieties are propagated by tissue culture, most are propagated vegetatively by tip cuttings.

Ti plants respond well to slow release fertilizers to maintain their color. This summer’s plantings are in varying light levels and I am eager to see how well they perform under each of these conditions. My guess is that a little shade may be required to have good foliage, but I certainly have been surprised by how well plants perform in Mobile.


DSC_1833Perhaps one of the best indoor foliage plants is Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum. I have always wondered why this plant received the common name of Peace Lily, but one explanation is that the white flowers resemble a white flag of surrender. Peace Lilies are native to tropical regions of South America and southeastern Asia.  When used outdoors, shade is definitely required, along with moist soil conditions.

Barbara Smith, our design coordinator, has used Peace Lilies as accent plants in many of the pots surrounding the fountain at Rebecca at the Well. Additionally, she has incorporated a variety of Bird’s Nest Fern, Asplenium nidis. 

In the Rockery, our gardener Ann Moody has planted a variety of Bromeliad, Neoregelia ‘Michi,’ along with a variety of Alocacia ‘Ebony’ with distinct dark green foliage and prominent veining.

Alocacia ‘Ebony’

Wonderful Wednesdays: June 1- July 27

Learn more about summer tropicals in the Gardens on Wednesday, June 1, at our Summer Garden Walk, the first of our Wonderful Wednesday programs this summer. Join Bellingrath’s Horticultural Management Team at 10:30 a.m. for a guided tour of the Gardens.

Click here to view the full schedule of Wonderful Wednesdays. Unless otherwise noted, all sessions are from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Magnolia Room in the Gift Shop/Café building. Register is requested for each program; to register, call 251.973.2217. Admission fees are $13 for adults, $7.50 for children ages 5-12 and free to members and to ages 4 and younger.