PARIS, Maine — When you think of tropical plants you don't think of Maine, but Katherine Young of Young's Greenhouse in South Paris, Maine says to think again. From one of her greenhouses devoted entirely to the gorgeous plants, Young explained To Todd Gutner, host of Gardening with Gutner, how tropical plants are a good fit for northerners.
"Tropicals are actually one of your easiest annuals to take care of because they can take drought and they can take over watering. You could go away for a vacation, a mini vacation, and come back they'd still be fine," Young said.
Mandevilla is one of Young's favorite plants.
"They bloom all summer for you. You get all kinds of blooms on them, and they can actually go into October as well," Young explained. "They can take a little bit of a frost."
Humans aren't the only ones who appreciate tropical plants. Young revealed that hummingbirds love them, as she showed a dipladenia bush, which is in the mandevilla family.
"The trumpet-like flower, it just has a deep throat, so the hummingbirds definitely like them a lot," she said.
For large blossoms, Young recommends the hibiscus, which comes in many colors and has varieties with double flowers that bloom all summer long.
If you're looking for something with fragrance, Young had a gardenia to show Todd, who shared a memory from high school of the flowers.
"Oh I know the fragrance of a Gardenia. My senior prom date, Jill Gale, I put a corsage," Gutner said as he motioned to his wrist. "It was a gardenia. It's amazing. They're so fragrant."
To keep your tropical plants looking healthy and vibrant, Young recommends frequent use of a liquid fertilizer.
"In order to keep them blossoming really, really well all summer long and just to keep the vibrant green color, you definitely want to fertilize them," Young instructed.
The greenhouse owner recommended using a liquid fertilizer over a slow release because you can better control how much you are fertilizing.
If you want your tropical plant to feed you, then an avocado tree is just what you need. Young showed Todd a tree that had fruit that was ready to pick. Gutner joked that his daughter loves avocado toast.
"They're actually really low maintenance. You have it outside in the summertime. It will grow great for you. Bring it in during the winter and just put it in the most sunny spot in your house. Just don't overwater it," the greenhouse owner explained. "You have to pick them [referring to the avocados] in order for them to ripen."
Shade is always a challenge for any gardener, but ferns are perfect for low-light situations, and they require very little watering compared to other plants.
"These are my favorite hangers. They are the ferns, and they just don't require a lot of maintenance, a lot of sun. I have a covered porch that hardly gets any sun at all. They do well there. They get huge all summer long," Young said. "You hardly have to water them. I'll leave them for like a week and then maybe water them and they're perfectly fine."
Not only are they low maintenance, but ferns can be brought into the house as a house plant in the winter months.
The last plant that Young talked about was the elephant ear. A large plant with sizable leaves resembling an elephant's ear.
"It's a great houseplant. You can also have it outside during the summertime. Looks good at a pool. Anywhere outside. But if you don't have space for it in the wintertime, you can take it inside and you want to chop it off just about there," Young explained as she pointed to about 7 inches above the base of the plant. "And you just want to make sure you put it in a cool dry spot like in a root cellar or a heated garage. Something that's cool. You just don't want it to get a frost."
Young then instructed to put the elephant ear outside in the spring in the sun, and it will grow back.
Where to cut when overwintering:
Don't let the exotic blooms of a tropical plant intimidate you. Spice up your flora decor with their colorful flowers all summer long. The love affair doesn't have to end when cooler temperatures arrive, bring them into your home to enjoy or to overwinter. Tropicals were made even for northerners to enjoy!
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