There is little doubt that tropical plants now hold a powerful appeal for a great many South Africans despite the extensive and varied array of attractive local flora with which the nation has been blessed naturally. Although the local climatic conditions may not match perfectly those of their countries of origin, many of these imported varieties are sufficiently adaptable to thrive in most areas with just a little bit of help from the grower.
In practice many of these exotic species have now become so commonplace over the years that many of us now tend to think of them as indigenous. One wonders, for instance, how many are actually aware that the magnificent Jacarandas for which Pretoria is famed are Brazilian immigrants, unknown in South Africa before their introduction in 1880. While this illustrates how the introduction and proliferation of tropical plants have been successful in adding to the natural beauty of many parts of the country, opportunistic invaders such as the water hyacinth have had a damaging and costly impact on our environment. The result is that importers of exotic flora are required to comply with the stringent regulations introduced to protect against the threat of potentially harmful species.
Of the tropical plants that are usually found in local nurseries, most should prove to be suitable for planting in locations that are naturally frost-free or, at least, in which they may be effectively protected against the potentially lethal effects of frost. Many tropical plants required shady areas within the garden that may be protected from the wind by large trees and/or by the garden wall. These conditions would approximate the climatic conditions in tropical forests in that the plants are adequately protected from excessive sunshine, cold winds and/or frost.
Among the tropical plants that are proving to be particularly popular with gardeners in most parts of the country is the Azalea. The original varieties of this flowering shrub were native to Asia, North America and Europe and these have been bred and cross-bred for hundreds of years. The result is that today’s collection is made up of more than 10,000 cultivars and continues to grow. The main reason for the prolific hybridization efforts is to produce species with new and visually appealing characteristics. However, as is often the case, there is a downside. In the quest for beauty some have also become less hardy and others more prone to disease so it’s a good idea to seek some guidance from a nursery professional before basing your choice on good looks alone.
Perhaps Coco and Date Palms most typify the tropical ambience provided by plants. They conjure up an image of exotic islands and azure waters that seems to generate an irresistible appeal. Though they may be large, these too can be vulnerable and some expert advice on their positioning and care could protect your investment.
At our wholesale nursery in Honeydew, Johannesburg, we stock the species described above along with varieties of Philodendron, Clivia, Brunfelsia, Arum Lilies and Bamboo, to name just a few. All have been hardened to local conditions and are guaranteed healthy. Our specialised personnel are happy to provide guidance with your selection as well as advice about or assistance with the transplantation and care of your purchases. For guaranteed quality in indigenous or tropical plants visit Windy Willows.