Monrovia Plant Savvy
design, inspiration and practical ideas from the plant experts. July-August 2010
simply delicious
  Dear Savvy Gardener,

Mandevillas are prized for their large, showy, tubular flowers. These tropical beauties need to be overwintered in colder climates, but are certainly worth the extra effort. The vining-habit varieties bring a splash of color to a trellis, fence or hanging from a basket. Bush varieties are stunning in window boxes, patio containers or along walkways, as they don’t need any type of support.

If you have not heard of Sun Parasol® Mandevillas -- prepare to fall in love. These somewhat new hybrids have been available in North America for just a few years. Considered a breakthrough in breeding, Sun Parasols are valued for their intense flower color and glossy foliage. They are super floriferous and will bloom with shorter daylight hours, so we can enjoy the flowers as early as February, depending on variety, while we must wait until April or as late as June with other Mandevillas.

Our plant expert, Nicholas Staddon, has a sneak peek at some new Sun Parasol varieties that will be arriving in independent garden centers soon.
a funny fruit with a fabulous taste
  Sun Parasol® Giant Crimson Mandevilla leafgif   flower power

These varieties are known for having the deepest saturated red color available. Try Crimson for a true red color, or Giant Crimson with huge four- to six-inch flowers. Giant Pink has equally large blooms, but in a pretty, bubble gum to pale pink color. Giant White dazzles with pure white blooms that have yellow heart-shaped centers. Stars & Stripes perfectly defines the red star-shaped petals that are streaked with white stripes.

Sun Parasol® Giant Pink Mandevilla

for the sun

Once established, Sun Parasol Mandevillas are easy-care and recognized for excellent vigor, weather tolerance, long bloom cycles and disease resistance. While the name Parasol makes you think of sun protection, actually they are natives of Central and South America, where para sol in Spanish is “for the sun,” which is just what they love. Give them plenty of sun and warmth and they’ll continue to surprise and delight you. Prune lightly in the fall.

Pink Fairy Duster Santa Rita Tubac™ Prickly Pear Goldsturm Black Eyed Susan

water-wise containers

Now that we’re in the hottest part of summer, you might be rethinking the choices you made in your patio containers. Thirsty varieties, especially planted in small or porous containers, may be requiring more watering and maintenance than you counted on for a hot, lazy summer day. You might want to consider some water-wise plants and combine different colors and textures.

Plant Pink Fairy Duster with Santa Rita Tubac™ Prickly Pear. We love the dainty pink flowers and fern-like foliage alongside the spiny pads of the Cactus. This Prickly Pear has soft green foliage in the summer, which turns deep purple in cooler weather.

The rich purple-burgundy foliage of the Purple Peppermint Tree is an excellent complement to the dusty blue-green of Topsy Turvy Echeveria. While the Purple Peppermint tree can reach 25 feet in the landscape, it does quite well in a container plant. Regular pruning will encourage the colorful young growth.

You wouldn’t guess that this colorful trio is water wise. In a nice large pot, mix a deep yellow Goldsturm Black Eyed Susan, Autumn Joy Stonecrop with its rosy russet flowers and the tall, spiky lavender-blue Little Spire Russian Sage. You’ll have easy-care color summer through fall.

Modern Metalic Pot Pixie Meadowbrite™ Coneflower

summer container care

The first four to six weeks after planting, water your container twice a week, making sure the water runs through the container. You may need to elevate your pot to ensure run-off. Gradually reduce the water to once per week, then every other week. If you live in a very hot, dry climate, you may need to increase to once per week. Measure the need to water by sticking your index finger into the planter to the knuckle joint. If it’s dry, it’s time to water.

By reducing water you also reduce the rate of growth, keeping your container plantings in size longer. Soil needs to be well draining, like Monrovia potting soil, which has added mycorrhizae to help water-wise plants. Add a layer of top dressing – bark, rocks, glass mulch, etc., to help keep roots cool and reduce water needs.

If you live in a colder climate, purchase plants that are two USDA hardiness zones down so you won’t need to overwinter. Just be sure your pot is stable for cold climate conditions.