Mid-Atlantic

February, 2009
Regional Report

Escape to the Tropics

The tropical section of your local nursery, garden center, public garden, conservatory, that is. For a winter boost, check out local plant havens for lush, fragrant, exotic hot-weather specialties. Stroll and enjoy the burgundy-leafed banana trees, shiny red Anthurium with yellow spadix, tulip-shaped Siam ginger, tropical fruit trees and bright-blossomed hibiscus. Feel free to sniff the lemon tree flowers... but don't pick the plump, ripe fruit!

Throw Caution to the Wind

When the soil thaws enough, feel free to plant any spring- and summer-flowering bulbs you find left over from last year. What's there to lose? No guarantee they'll grow and bloom without a cold dormancy period. But they've no chance of flowering if left in the packaging.

Dispose of Leftover Pesticides and Herbicides

Check your shelves for leftover herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Products open from previous years or unopened but several years old should be disposed of properly. In spring, communities often have official Disposal Days for all sorts of toxic products, used oil and tires, oversize appliances, and furniture. Residents are usually asked to bring the containers to a specific location for disposal. The municipality has contracted with a disposal company for their removal... so take advantage.

Bring a Tropical Home

Meandering through the tropical plants in your local garden center or conservatory is one thing. If a colorful, fascinating plant strikes your fancy, bring it home. Check first that your light conditions are sufficient for your favorite though. Anthuriums in red, rose, pink, or white grow best in low light. Gingers are partial to shade and need warm soil. Bananas, hibiscus and fruit trees thrive in lots of sunlight. Bonus! You keep the oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits you grow.

Plant that Tropical Outdoors When Summer Comes

Want to brighten a shady garden spot? Bring those colorful, exotic-looking, shade-tolerant tropicals -- anthurium, ginger, many calatheas, Hawaiian ti plant, giant hardy begonia (Begonia poponeii) and kaempferias -- outdoors when temps are consistently in the 60s. If you keep them in pots, you can put them out in high 50-degree weather. They'll also be easy to take indoors in late fall. Make sure the soil's warm before planting any in-ground.

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