Are you shopping for flowering, tropical plants? Central Alberta gardening expert points to three varieties. (File photo by Metro)

Are you shopping for flowering, tropical plants? Central Alberta gardening expert points to three varieties. (File photo by Metro)

Gardening: All about mandivillas, canna lilies and passion vines

A number of flowering, tropical plants are sold in the spring with the bedding out plants. Place them outside in a warm sunny area when night time temperatures are above 10 C, and they will flourish adding a bit of the tropics to the patio.

Mandivilla are available in climbing, mounting or hanging forms. Newer varieties have shiny green foliage while the older ones are rough and textured.

A multitude of flowers in red, white and shades of pink appear at the end of spring, and continue until frost.

The plant is easy to care for. It does best in full sunlight, over six hours, and water when needed. Fertilize regularly during the growing season and do not allow the plant to dry out completely.

Mandivillas can also be overwintered inside as a houseplant or in a dormant state.

Placing the plants in a south or west facing window in the fall will encourage the plant to continue to bloom.

Cutting it back and reducing the amount of water it receive will help the plant to become dormant. Once dormant, place the plant in a cool area. As the days become longer in late winter the plant will break dormancy and begin to leaf out. At this time increase the water and bring it into full light.

Canna lilies are another plant that does best in hot areas. Cannas are not true lilies as they grow from a rhizome as opposed to a bulb. The rhizomes are readily available in the spring and can be potted up and grown as a bedding-out-plant. Place it outside in a container once all the nights get warmer.

The size of the plant is dependent on the variety. Size ranges from dwarf varieties under 18 inches (45 cm), standard cultivar at 24 inches (61 cm) and the tall varieties at over 60 inches (152 cm).

Canna lilies do best in rich, moist, organic soil and will withstand some drought.

Canna’s are grown for both their flowers and foliage. The flowers are either red, orange, cream, pink or yellow while the foliage can be green, bronze or striped. Expect to see the plant flower from early spring until fall. This flower is a favorite of hummingbids.

When the weather turns cold, or after the first frost, dig up the rhizomes. Allow the roots to dry for about a week then brush off excess soil and place them in a cardboard box covered with peatmoss or vermiculite. They should be stored in a cool place until next spring.

Passion vines also called passionflowers are grown for their unique flowers and fruit in the tropics. In Canada they are grown for their flowers and their ability to provide colour by climbing or twining trellises.

Plant the plants in containers containing soil high in nutrients then place it in a warm sunny location. Water as needed and watch it grow.

The vines can be overwintered in a bright window.

These are just three of the tropical that can add to the patio during the summer months.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who has gardened in central Alberta for over 30 years. She can be reached at

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