In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
November, 2009
Regional Report

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While Japanese honeysuckle is a noxious invader, neat trumpet honeysuckles keep their place with only annual pruning.

Vine Time

For some gardeners, vines of any sort are the enemy because they often creep right out of their designated space. This plant group may not be for you, unless you like verdant, florific vines running everywhere.

My own love affair began with a sweet potato vine in a mason jar on the windowsill of my fourth grade classroom. It ran everywhere that winter, and we measured its every inch. But vines have their downside. Some even collapse their arbors, and most sneer at those adorable little trellises you see in every shop. To grow some of the fastest growers like trumpet vine, you may want to build supports for them out of 4x4 posts and hogwire. Neat honeysuckles can be sheared or thinned now to promote flowering and keep them on their arbor.

Creepy, Crawling Beauties
Bougainvillea, mandevilla, allamanda -- it sounds like there's a Jimmy Buffet song title in there somewhere! But these are the names of three vines that can only be described as "good to grow."

In the Tropical region, these are the vines that everyone takes for granted, but may find challenging to maintain. Easier to grow are morning glories and passionflowers, akebia more temperamental, but these three deserve all the attention they get.

Southern Coast gardeners take them on in two ways: replant them in the garden each year that the temperatures freeze them, or care for them in ways that sustain the vines. Both regions can use these vines to great effect as container plants, protecting them in winter where necessary.

They may be the reason to have a sunporch, since warm temperatures, water, and fertilizer keep them blooming month after month, even indoors. If you have great success with bougainvillea, but have never managed to keep allamanda or mandevilla blooming for long, here's why. Bougie thrives in the same plentiful sunny site, but prefers to be fertilized sparingly and allowed to dry out a bit between waterings. The most beautiful single plant of this species I've ever seen spilled 20 feet down a rock ledge with flowers hiding its foliage. When we reached the summit, a backyard patio, I saw that the huge bougainvillea was growing in a 10-inch x10-inch space between rocks. Not much opportunity for the TLC we gardeners like to give our plants.

That environment is a starvation diet to allamanda and mandevilla. While they appreciate good drainage, there are considered heavy feeders and bloom with regular fertilization. Consider a slow-release pellet such as Osmocote in their soil, and add fertilizer to their water once a month.

Differences to Note
Where the vines grow and flowers come all year round (in the Tropics zone and greenhouse conditions along the Coast), they have other specific needs to keep the flowers coming. Give bougainvilla a very well-drained soil, and know that limiting root space actually promotes flowering. This extends to allowing this plant to become potbound before repotting it, which may take several years. As it outgrows its space, you can prune back a few branches at a time as they go out of bloom.

Allamanda and mandevilla, on the other hand, prefer a richer, more organic soil that drains well. Prune out any dead stems if they develop, and cut the whole plant back in early spring or fall if necessary to rejuvenate. Try to keep new growth coming, and the need to prune these vines will be minimal, except to keep them as tidy as you like. For many gardeners, that means never.


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