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In the Subtropical Garden: December

Hot and steamy with the odd torrential downpour is the order of business for the subtropical garden.

Our resident tropical garden expert Arno King has the lowdown on what’s happening this December in the subtropical garden.


The magnificent Poinciana, Delonix regia. Photo - Arno King


Admire poinciana

For greatest impact, plant trees where you can look down on and admire the canopy completely covered in vermillion flowers.


Arrange pots of poinsettias

For a stunning Christmas decoration nothing quite compares to the poinsettia. Arrange the pots for Christmas, then plant for winter colour, massed in single colours for impact, at 1-1.2m centres.


Refresh mulch

Now the bush turkey nesting period has passed it's time to get out there and mulch. Top up organic mulches to 50-70mm deep on garden beds. Source organic materials from local tree loppers, stables or council recycling centres. Nitrogen drawdown is seldom a serious problem in central and northern latitudes due to the many thunderstorms – nitrogen rains down from the heavens.

Keep vegetable garden mulch at around 20 to 40mm deep to reduce water loss and to keep soil cool. Composted stable manure, spoilt lucerne or coffee grounds are good choices. Apply mulch after rain or a good watering.



Dig up rhizomes of heliconias, chop off top growth and replant in beds prepared with composted organic matter and fertilizer before Christmas so that plants have a chance to establish before winter.

Plant snake beans, which are highly productive over the warmer, wetter months. Climbing cultivars are more productive than bush cultivars but require teepees or trellis.

Get some rosella plants in the ground. Keep them well watered and fertilise them weekly to push them along.

Continue applying liquid fertiliser at weekly intervals, using a combination of marine fish fertiliser such as Powerfeed and a seaweed tonic such as Seasol. The seaweed helps minimise drought and heat stress.


Take it easy

Install a daybed in shady quiet spot and plant some perfumed plants, such as gardenias, frangipani, tuberose, brugmansia, bush ylang ylang Arabian jasmine or beehive ginger nearby. Relax here with a book during the hottest part of the day.

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Author: Arno King