Tropical Paradise. We often see commercials of tropical vacations and dream of better days sitting under the sun with a drink in our hands. What is it about the tropics we so enduring? What lures us to these places? In colder climates during the winter months plants have acclimated to the climate. They can take freezing temperatures and months of snow and ice. However tropical plants are not capable of surviving these climates. But we still long for that Tropical fruit we buy in the store for outrageous prices. What if we could go over to a tropical tree, select a ripe fruit and eat it right then and there, while outside a blizzard is taking place? Our own tropical paradise, right inside out own home. Many tropical plants will grow with the right care and conditions in areas that normally would not permit them. These same plants that grow in abundance in Asia, South America, Africa, can grow right in your own living room, ready to pluck the ripe, sweet fruit grown specifically by you.
There are many different types of pots available and each has its benefits and drawbacks. There is plastic with can heat up or freeze quickly, Metal, same as plastic, Clay and wood dry quicker, ceramic that can be heavy and many others that you can buy at local garden centers. For the most part all can be used quite successfully with tropical plants. Choose one based on your own preferences.
These pots should have holes in the bottom for adequate drainage. When you buy your pot, and before you put in soil, cover these holes with a mesh of some sort to help retain the soil, it is also good to put down an inch or two of gravel to insure good drainage. With tropical plants drainage is essential to healthy plants.
Potting soil from the local garden center will suffice; however a much better solution would be 1 part Perlite or Vermiculite, 1 part course sand, and 1 part Peat. This gives good drainage as well as sufficient nutrients. Make sure your soil is not packed down heavy to allow good drainage but not excessive drainage.
Remove your plant from its original container; look carefully at the root system. It they are heavily packed in and there is more root then dirt, we want to prune these roots before we plant. Take some of these roots and loosen them up and then carefully clip the ends to stimulate the plant to root more in its new container. If pruning is not needed, then just loosen the root ball before planting.
Place the plant in the new container making sure you have filled it halve way with the new planting material. You want to make sure that when you fill the rest of the container with soil, the soil line is the same as the original plant when you pulled it out. The soil like should be about 1-4 inches below the rim of the pot when you are all finished.
Important key: Make sure your fully grown plant will be proportional to your pot. Don’t put an 8 foot tall tree in a 10 inch pot. Allow the roots to be able to grow, the larger the pot the more fruit it will bear.
Tropical plants usually require lots of sunlight, anywhere you can place them to receive full sunlight is beneficial to them. Search on the internet for your species to find out their light requirements. Some tropicals do well in partial shade however most need to receive the maximum sunlight available.
Tropical plants, when you receive them are most likely used to full sunlight, when you are going to bring them indoors, or for winter times, when bringing them indoors, you must acclimate them to your indoor area. Make sure to put them near a good light source and if possible add additional light
Tropical plants are used to lots of water, however they are also used to well drained soil, so their water requirements are different for potted plants. These dependencies are based on size of the pot, size of the plant, type of plant, temperature where you keep the plant, the humidity and the type of soil you have. You are usually safe to water, when the upper surface of the soil is dry before you water your plant. Slowly fill the container watching for runoff at the bottom holes. Remember that wood or clay pots dry faster, making watering more frequent, and cooler weather slows down the growth of the plant, thus reducing the need to water as much.
This is probably the key ingredient to successful tropical plant keeping. NO FREEZING WEATHER. Tropical plants cannot take cold temperatures, so you will need to find a way to bring these indoors. Cold temperatures will lead to root damage, and leave damage. Again it depends on the species of tropical plant you have to the extent it can take cold weather. Some plants you can just cover overnight and then remove each morning, others will need to be brought indoors. If you bring them indoors make sure you keep them away from drafts from doors or windows to freeze, and out of the heating vent areas so not to dry out too fast.
Too much fertilizer is very bad for tropical plants. The best type of fertilizer to use are water soluble types, any local garden center can help you pick out a good fertilizer that will meet the plants requirements. Read the directions completely. After spending good money on a beautiful tropical plant, you would hate to kill it by over fertilizing it. Usually with a tropical plant the mature foliage will show deep green indicating that you are fertilizing on the correct scale. Make sure your fertilizer has a complete balanced diet of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Lesser amounts of Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, again Read the label.
With most container tropical plants little or no pruning is needed. However if the plant becomes “leggy” due to poor light conditions then cut it back greatly to force it to bush out. If the top becomes too large for the root structure, again a large pruning spree is needed. Also when you start to get leaf shed and twig die back this is an indication that the root structure is not large enough for the top foliage and pruning is needed.
Will I get fruit? This is the question we all ask. Is it worth the time and effort? Ask anyone that has a fruit tree planted in a pot, as they pick tropical fruit on a blizzard day of 10 below zero, and they will always tell you “Yes!” For the most part container tropic plants are dependent on the light source and size of the pot to how much fruit they will have. Most fruit trees will fruit in pots as long as we keep all of the requirements alive in our head. The larger the tree the larger the pot that is needed. Fruit will bear proportional to the size of the pot and plant. Please keep in mind that some fruit will need a presence of another cultivator to be able to fruit. Again check the specifics of your plant before you decide to buy it.
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Photo. BON-SIL KOO