Friday, June 10, 2011

Growing Tropicals in Tucson

Good day to you all and thanks for reading!!  I really have enjoyed putting together these garden journals and series of writes.  We are coming to a close on the garden journal series very soon, but I have just a couple more things to write before we finish them up.  The best part of this is that I will update on the status of these plants from time to time in the comments section.

Let's face it.  Everyone, or mostly everyone, loves tropical plants.  Can we grow them in Tucson?  Yes.  BUT, there is a trick to it all.  Most experienced gardeners know where to use them, but for beginners, this can be a daunting task.  They see the lovely large and green foliage and put it in a pot.  Unknowingly, they place the plant in direct sun and the plant burns to a crisp.  Here are some rules about planting tropicals in our desert environment.

Rule 1.  Always place these plants in pots.  Very few tropicals do well in our soil.  There are a few exceptions, but around 98 percent of them need to be in a pot.  Pots can be moved around during our extreme cold temps that will kill this group of plants if not protected from the cold.  It will also allow you to move them into different places if the sun is too bright.  Mobility is important with tropicals here and they should be used as accents in your garden.

Rule 2.  Keep in part shade/part sun.  Don't put this group of plants in extreme sun or they will burn to the ground.  Here in Tucson, they prefer filtered sunlight or morning light only.  Afternoon sun will scorch them to their death.  There are exceptions....banana and cannas, BUT the banana has major issues with our wind.  

Rule 3.  Make sure that your pots drain. Don't let water sit in your pots or your tropicals will rot and die.  Dig them out every year and move them into larger pots.  Loosen the soil so that roots have room to expand.  Many times the roots will outgrow the pot and clog the hole where the water exits and causes rot to occur.

Rule 4.  Tropicals require regular watering. In our heat, water every several days.  It doesn't hurt at all.  I use datura to tell me when to water.  The leaves of the datura go limp and it indicates that it's time to water the plants. During the intense summer heat of June, September, and October, when rains are sparse, I usually have to water every 2-3 days.  Cluster your tropicals together so that watering is made easy.

Rule 5.  Protect from our Tucson wind.  Our wind can rip these larger leaf plants out of their keep these plants in areas protected from the wind.  The banana loves our sun and heat, but looks terrible after a nasty wind storm....especially during our monsoon season. 

Rule 6.  Keep tropicals grouped together.  Simple and basic.  They require water and it's easier if they are all placed together near the hose or water line. 

Tucson is subtropical and therefore our tropical plants will thrive in our late June through September monsoon rains.  They love the humidity and look their best outside during this time of year.  Follow these basic rules and you'll have beautiful tropical plants growing in your garden.  Tomorrow I have a special post on a place that sells lots and lots of wonderful tropicals here in Tucson all year round.  You won't want to miss my visit to this place.  Until tomorrow.....


  1. useful tips R, we seem to grow them inside more than outside here. I look forward to a few more posts before it is time to say goodbye ...

  2. Catmint, when you say goodbye, it's just for the year, right? I enjoy reading your posts in Australia....someday, I look forward to visiting several areas around this interesting continent.


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