Every season I deliberately spread all my tropical plants apart in containers and at the back of the beds in an effort to distribute them evenly throughout the garden. This time I decided my barren and ugly spot needed something special (see right “before” photo), so I decided to go hog-wild and put all the colocasias, cannas, and dinosaur kale in one tropical jungle garden bed.
Mixed in with the black-eyed susans and tall sedum at the back of my front lawn vegetable beds I made my very own tropical jungle garden which had it’s spectacular final show in September – at the very end of Chicagoland’s zone 5b season. Some of you, I’m sure, will declare my attempt MADNESS, but I found the jungle garden experiment fun, colorful, and refreshing. Best yet, in September there are only a few things left in the garden still blooming – this gave me a spectacular extension of this northern garden season which brought a lot of joy to my garden heart.
HOW TO GROW A TROPICAL JUNGLE GARDEN –
- Amend your soil with things that tropical plants such as colocasia and canna love – I mixed in rotted manure, Organic Mechanics soil, and Worm Castings.
- Find some delicious tropical plants – I got these from Plants Nouveau and Brian’s Botanicals who sent the plants out in the spring for me to try out in my test gardens. In the photos for this tropical jungle garden bed you see Canna Blueberry Sparkler , Colocasia Red-Eyed Gecko, Poison Dart Frog Caladiums, Colocasia Electric Blue Gecko, Colocasia Bikini-tini, Colocasia Imperial Gigante, Colocasia Thailand Giant, and Musa Basjoo Banana.
- Then vegetable plants Black Magic Dinosaur Kale and Bright Lights Swiss Chard, as well as Dusty Miller, Purple Verbena and Lobelia from Jung Seed. Both verbena and lobelia attracted butterflies to the garden, which was a pleasant bonus. Hanging in the mix of tropicals is HGTV Home Plants Soft Pink Breeze Mandevilla.
- Plant tall plants in the back and short plants in the front. Fertilize in the planting hole, following directions, then twice in the season with Espoma Organic Palm-tone Fertilizer.
- Water regularly and hope for rain.
Water is a definite concern. Tropicals love water, so while the season was relatively moist, I still needed to water regularly. One heavy rain could bring more than six inches of growth over night, while hand watering from the tap produced slower growing results. It was a relatively cool season, so the plants waited until the end of our season – in September – to really explode in growth in order to create the tropical jungle garden look. I loved the experiment and having a tropical jungle garden; my favorite plants in the garden were the Thai Giant Colocasia and their absolutely monstrous leaves. Try growing your own jungle garden this year!