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Big leaves mean big rewards

Try these tropicals for a big splash

One of the best parts about living in Kentucky is getting to experience all four seasons without ever leaving home. In the summer when it feels like we live in the tropics, we have the opportunity to grow plants that normally we would have to get on an airplane to go see. Big beautiful tropical plants, huge leaves, and interesting colors bring a sense of the exotic to our Kentucky gardens.

1. Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ Red Banana is a perfect example. Available in many garden centers, this plant can be grown in a container or planted in the ground for the summer. It can reach 6 to 10 feet depending on growing conditions.

2. Alocasia odoro Upright Elephant Ear is another common tropical that is easy to grow. Leaves can get over 3 feet wide and the plant can grow 6 to 8 feet tall. It is amazing to stand in the shade of one of its leaves, they are like an umbrella.

3. Strelitzia nocolai White bird of Paradise can in fact flower but rarely does when not grown in its native climate. This large yet forgiving plant can grow successfully indoors year-round or as a seasonal tropical plant in your garden. The larger the container you plant it in the larger the plant will grow. Most often you see them anywhere from 5 to 8 feet tall.

All three are heat-tolerant and should be planted in full sun to part shade, watered regularly, and fertilized monthly for optimal growth and beauty. When considering planting location, avoid areas that are windy because even modest regular wind can tear off the large tropical leaves, leaving your display a shredded mess. All three are easily overwintered indoors and can be returned to the garden in the spring.

Shelly Nold from the January 2016 issue.


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