Tropicalissimo Redux

Anybody remember “tropicalissimo”? In gardening, it references a word used maybe a decade ago for the then-shocking innovation of incorporating tropicals in summer borders and containers. A fairly mundane practice now. Somewhat counter-intuitively, I’ve found these plants, the alocasia, colocasias, xanthosomas and many more, far easier than summer-flowering annuals to grow in containers, stay fresher longer with much less effort, and the thick leaves withstand the vagaries of irrigation far superior to, say, thin-leaved coleus. In fact, this year, other than succulents and a couple big containers with a mish-mash of begonias, pelargoniums and cordylines, the tropicals are what’s growing in pots for summer, taking center stage. Just a few containers produce a big impact for surprisingly little care, the plants reveling in mid-summer heat and humidity.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’ with Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ in the background.
(The dust from ongoing house repairs evident on the dark leaves.)


Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’


Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ producing a weird, “Two-Face” bifurcated leaf.


In my zone 10 I overwinter these outdoors, tipping the pots on their sides during dormancy to keep rain out. (Gardeners in colder climates avail themselves of basements, garages, etc., with or without grow lights. It’s quite an impressive undertaking and requires dedication but is very doable, even for neophyte gardeners. A good place to start researching strategies for a particular climate zone is the Tropicals forum on Gardenweb.) The lime-green xanthosoma in particular is amazingly robust and would dearly like a bigger pot to explode upwards to as much as 5 feet. Gardeners in colder climates seem mesmerized by the size tropicals can achieve in one growing season with regular applications of fertilizer, but other than mixing in some organic fertilizer with fresh potting soil in spring and then renewing a bit more in July, I don’t indulge their robust appetites. I’m not after size, just those gently swaying tropical leaves.

Plant Delights has a very good selection.

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4 Responses to Tropicalissimo Redux

  1. hb says:

    I honestly can’t figure those Alocasias out. This past rainy winter ‘Black Magic’ kept a few leaves and looked happier than it has in some summers. “Explain yourself, sir!” I demanded, but got no answer.

    ‘Frydek’ is another good one, though fussy.

  2. I love my “containerized” Colocasia and Alocasia…so easy to overwinter in the basement. This year my new “tropicalissimo” love is the Palm Leaf Begonia. Not so sure what to do with it when winter arrives…

    Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ is a new one for me, I’ll have to do a little research…

  3. Denise says:

    Hoov, all I can say is these three have been bullet-proof. Maybe these leaves are thicker?
    Loree, the first time I saw your Palm Leaf Begonia (B. luxurians) was in a Portland garden! And it was huge. I haven’t seen a lot of info on overwintering indoors. I’d try protecting it outdoors in those amazing jackets you crafted for some of your tender stuff.

  4. Grace says:

    These are way, way cooler than petunias. 🙂

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