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Diggin’ In: Tropicals Take Your Back Yard to Another Latitude

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By Kathy Van Mullekom

Here’s a close look at these timely tropicals:

Happy Hibiscus
These brightly colored flowering shrubs burst open with some of the biggest, most flamboyant blooms you will ever see — up to 7 inches across in many cases. And, color ranges and mixes rival any rainbow. The leaves are just as showy, providing a deep-green shiny background for the flowers.

The plants are usually sold in their own decorative pots, so adding them to your patio or porch is as easy as 1-2-3. Pot them in your own containers or slip the pot they come in right into a bigger one. Groupings create an instant garden look.

Tropical hibiscus is not cold hardy when temperatures outdoors dip below 35 degrees; they can be wintered indoors — cut back on water and allow them to go dormant — and put back outdoors when warm weather stabilizes.

During summer, they prefer lots of sun, and need to be kept moist but not wet or in standing water. Apply a bloom-promoting fertilizer as directed on the product label. If you keep hibiscus indoors over winter, replant into a larger-sized pot with fresh soil in spring.

With summer sunshine comes more trumpet-shaped flowers from mandevilla. In fact, one plant pumps out dozens of flowers in pink, red, fuchsia or white day in, day out.

Mandevillas make themselves right at home no matter where you put them — in eye-catching pottery, long window boxes or in a garden bed.

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