Tropical plant care
The plants you just received in the mail were born and raised in South Florida, in zone 10b. Our annual rainfall is 60 inches, and our average annual humidity is 73 percent. We have no frost dates and our average temperatures range from lows of 68 and highs of 82. What does that really mean? It means your plants were raised in a tropical climate, and by sending them to you, they are leaving their hot and humid bubble behind and starting a new life wherever you live, so they will need some help adjusting. “Hardening off” is a technique that farmers typically use to slowly expose their new greenhouse raised seedlings to the cold and harsh elements of early spring in the fields. It consists of giving the plants controlled doses of their new environment to slowly get them used to it. This will look different for all of you depending on where you live and what time of year it is. If you are in upstate New York in July you have plenty of humidity but you have cooler nights, so you’ll want to keep your new plants indoors for a few days but take them on fieldtrips outside around nightfall, leaving them out for a couple of hours before bringing them back in. If you live in Arizona and its August you have plenty of heat but no humidity and dry soil. In that case you may want to keep your plant in a shallow reservoir of water outdoors for a few days before planting it in your garden, and slowly wean it off of all that moisture as it settles in the garden. The key to doing this correctly is just observing the plant very carefully during its transition so that it can tell you what it needs before its too late.
When your plants arrive in the mail we suggest getting them out of their box as soon as possible. Plants feed on sunshine and yours have been in complete darkness for a couple of days now. Using the same logic as the climate based “hardening off” process, don't just stick them in full sun right away. Give them a day or two in filtered light so that its not such a shock. Its normal for plants to loose a few leaves during the shipping process, especially more tender annuals like tulsi and roselle. Plants cut off nutrients to a leaf as a way to protect themselves. Once they realize they don't have enough of something vital (nutrients, water, sunlight) they will cut off circulation to their oldest leaves because they know they don't need them to survive. Thats why plants loose their lowest and oldest leaves first and sometimes all they will have is a little green growing tip of hope at the tippy top. While we don’t expect your plants to do anything that drastic if they do it isn't the end of their lives, just the start of a new beginning where they can rebuild if and when they regain access to all the vitals.
Your plant comes in a biodegradable pot that you can plant along with your plant but we suggest you at the very least peel the top inch of it off so that it doesnt stick out of the soil. If the pot sticks out of the soil it will wick moisture away from the root system, and so it will act as a barrier for the plants roots if you are in a dry climate or have a dry/ sandy garden where it will have trouble composting, so if thats the case you can simply remove it and stick it in your compost. Until you plant it you can water your plant from above or stick it in a shallow pool of water (like half an inch deep) and let the moisture get wicked through the walls of the compostable pot into the root ball. The soil in the pot should be wet to the touch but not saturated.
We specialize in tropical hot climate plants and so most of them can’t survive a freeze. Keep that in mind when ordering and when deciding what to plant where. There are a few tricks gardeners and farmers have developed over time to keep their frost sensitive plants alive during quick freezes we'd like to share with you. One is deep watering and deep mulching. Water out of the ground does not change temperatures as quickly as the air does so oftentimes when it's freezing outside the water is coming out of your hose in the 60s or 70s. Moist ground will also stay warmer than dry ground, so if a frost is forecast it's helpful to water your garden very thoroughly about 24 hours ahead of the frost. Once you’ve watered you can add a deep layer of mulch (hay or wood chips) around the plant's root ball to further insulate it from the cold.
Plants can also be covered with sheets or plastic tarps for short stints of freezing temperatures. If you are expecting a freezing night there's no harm in wrapping a sheet around some of your most tropical specimens. Used sheets can be bought super cheap at thrift stores and if you are looking for more protection consider upgrading to a comforter or two.
If you have a longer winter with lots of freezing temperatures in your climate you have some options. First option is to not buy tropical plants that will surely perish, but that’s not super fun is it? Your second option is to treat your perennials like annuals, and accept the fact that they won't last through the winter. Other options include pruning your plant way back and putting it in a pot to bring into a warmer shelter, but depending on the plant it may not survive due to lower light or transplant shock. Whatever you do, read on to learn how to make cuttings so that you can potentially make a cutting of your plant and keep a little piece of it alive through winter so you can replant it safely in the spring.
Many of the plants that we grow are propagated from stem cuttings, and we encourage you to experiment with propagating your plant to expand your garden or share with friends. We often time tell customers they should think of the plant they buy from us as just the mother plant, from which they can make potentially hundreds of new babies. If you are new to making cuttings some varieties that are very easy to work with are cuban oregano, toilet paper plant, sissoo spinach, longevity spinach, and okinawa spinach. There are lots of propagation resources online from e-books to tutorials, so we definitely encourage you to give it a try, especially if you are looking for a way to fill a big space, share with pals, or keep your plant going through winter.
One vicks plant branch can produce a number of cuttings. Remove or flag (the practice of cutting a leaf down to a smaller size) the large leaves so the plant doesn't perspire too much, stick the cut end in potting mix and make sure to keep the whole project very moist and in the shade. The main challenge of making cuttings is keeping the cut material alive and not letting it dry out while it's making its new root system.
These toilet paper plant cuttings will root out in no time if kept moist. If you live in a dry area you may want to cover the cuttings with a dome or plastic bag to increase humidity, or keep a spray bottle nearby to spritz them 4-6 times a day. Spritzing the leaves and not just the soil will help them keep from drying out.
This longevity spinach was just a cutting 3 weeks ago and now you can see it has made new growth and filled the cell tray it was in with roots. it is now ready to be moved into a larger container.