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Tropical Vines Pay Beautiful Dividends
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
As we start to get into the heat of the summer, the tropical vines are showing that they are worth every penny of their cost. Everywhere I look, the mandevillas are showing off with their huge pink, bell-shaped flowers.
But we have some new tropical vine choices out there. In March, I was given a pandorea jasmine, or pandorea jasminoides, in a basket. It is also known as Bower Vine.
It was loaded with flowers and puts on blooms with regularity. I planted it in my backyard adjacent to some ironwork, and it looks like it is on steroids. This vine has climbed like no other tropical vine I have ever grown. The mandevilla, which practically grows up your leg if you stand still, is a wimpy climber compared to the pandorea jasmine.
The pandorea jasmine is in the bignonia family making it related to our native cross vine and our trumpet creeper that happens to be putting on a show of its own right now. The pandorea is an Aussie, however, being found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Recently I was in North Mississippi and found a nice selection of pandorea jasmine, including some that were variegated. Don't let North Mississippi fool you. This is a tropical vine hardy in zones 9 and 10. In Mississippi, you will probably be happier growing it where it gets a little protection from hot afternoon sun.
The flowers may be white, rose-colored or a pink-lavender with a darker throat and are not only beautiful but also fragrant. The foliage is a very handsome dark-green with high gloss. Plant yours in a moist organic-rich bed and provide a sturdy structure for support.
Mandevillas flower size makes me love them even more. Mostly, I see them on mailboxes, but recently I saw one intertwined with purple clematis that was very showy.
These tropical plants offer us some of our best options for plants with five or six months of continuous bloom. One of the best has to be the hybrid Mandevilla Alice du Pont.
The mandevilla is from Brazil, but at the garden center you will get the feeling it is one of the locals. It is related to the allamanda vine with yellow, bell-shaped flowers, and to plumeria, the flowers that leis are made out of in Hawaii.
Alice du Pont has large, pink, bell-shaped flowers produced on a vigorous vine. The dark, glossy leaves have a leathery feeling.
In April I came home from a 10-day trip in which my wife must have thought I wasn't coming back. She started adding her touches to the backyard. Rustic bluebird houses were attached to pine trees and a relatively new mandevilla called Little Red Riding Hood was trained to each house. As usual, it is her touches that make it look like I know what I am doing.
The Little Red Riding Hood flowers are probably the prettiest of all tropical vines. They are really red with bright yellow throats. They are not the vigorous climbers as the other mandevillas but make up for it in flower color.
Another new mandevilla receiving a lot of press is called Tropical Dreams. This is a variegated foliage variety with clusters of deep, golden-yellow flowers. It is very striking.
Mandevillas need to receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day, and full sunlight is even better. Since they are such vigorous vines and flower producers, they will appreciate small doses of fertilizer every two to three weeks.
Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer or time-released granules once a month. Be sure to maintain moisture during the hot, dry times of the summer. A prolonged period without water may prove fatal to the plant.
Being tropicals from Brazil means that gardeners on the Coast probably south of I-10 can get them to establish permanently. The rest of us will have to either treat them as annuals or give them winter protection.
Get out and do some shopping not only for tropical vines like mandevillas, pandorea jasmines and allamandas, but also for some extra special arbors, trellises and pieces of iron work for support.