In The Subtropical Garden: February
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 all the tips and tricks, and the best thinks to plant this February in the subtropical garden.
Ixora. Photo - Arno King
One of the toughest, most-low maintenance flowering shrubs. Plant in sun or semi-shade and fertilise regularly to enhance flowering. Popular cultivars include: ‘Malay Pink’, ‘Prince of Orange’ and ‘Coral Fire’.
Take cuttings from acalyphas, crotons, hibiscus and mussaenda while the weather is warm and wet. Cut leaves in half and slip into a pot in a shaded location and keep moist.
Keep the garden trim by removing dead leaves and branches and trimming back growth lightly. Prune seasonal flowering shrubs following flowering by a third and topdress with a complete organic fertiliser containing rock minerals.
Try amaranthus (Chinese spinach) and basella (Malabar spinach). These plants thrive over the warm, wet summer months. Sow seeds direct and thin as they mature, or plant seedlings. Amaranthus quickly grows to one metre. Harvest young shoots regularly to develop a bush. Malabar spinach can be treated as a ground cover or grown up a trellis.
Reduce the risk of fungal problems by growing cherry and currant tomato varieties over the summer months. The thicker skins of the fruit make them less prone to fruit fly too. Provide plants with a frame or trellis on which to grow.
Check you’re not cooking your vegetables - before you harvest them! Raised garden beds, particularly those with metal sides, can heat the soil, and hinder productive plant growth. To reduce the risk plant groundcover plants around the planter edge to insulate and shade sides from the sun. Try sweet potato cuttings, or sambung (Molluccan, longevity) spinach.
Plant trees for shade, shelter and screening. Plan before you plant as poor decisions can be costly. Consider the desirable height and width; evergreen or semi-deciduous leaf habit; flowering or perfume. Research some options and talk them over with knowledgeable nursery staff or horticulturists.