March 2013 • Gardening in Paradise (Puerto Vallarta)

By Paul Sanders • March, 2013

gardening_1Just because a plant grows well in San Francisco or Montreal does not mean it is going to thrive in the tropical conditions we have here. They are just like us people, some do well in hot humid weather and some just can’t stand it. Lilacs, peonies and russet potatoes love it when they are in a colder climate. Don’t try to grow them here unless you plant them in a refrigerated greenhouse. I have seen some Norte Americanos and Canadians look much better after a winter in paradise, but never a spring flower. Plants are sensitive and most do not adapt as well as humans do. Many of these plants that like the cool dry air back home will develop mold, mildew …and rot. Stick to the tropicals and sub-tropicals, there are so many that are available to us and you won’t have to work so hard.

The Tulips were a sight to see at Sam’s and Wal-Mart last February, but will hardly last till you get them home. Your chances of holding them over till the next year are almost zero. Enjoy them while you shop, or just use them like a cut flower. They bring back so many sweet memories.

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Don’t expect your trees and plants to bloom all the year around. It seems that they do here because we have such a variety of them. Always some are in bloom but at different times. These plants and trees need a time of rest just like we do. At a particular time of year, and this will vary, they just say “enough already, give me a break”. This is all natural and is the time when the plant re-vitalizes itself and builds up the flower and leaf buds that will become its next display.

If you see certain exotic produce in our local super mercados, it still does not mean that it will grow here. Just look at those disgusting little stickers on the fruits and vegetables. You know the ones with the big numbers and the point of origin printed very tiny. In many cases you will see those little words like Washington, California and Florida. Tasty but not very Mexican.   Many of these products need cold and dry soil, something hard to come by in these parts. Others will need a full sun exposure and would be drowned before harvest time.

Geraniums and Petunias are such a common plant in most of the world but are a special treat here. This type of plant will grow in the cooler areas like Guadalajara but they usually are treated as an annual here. Such plants should be replaced each year as they do so well when it is cool and dry but go south in a hurry when the rains come. The Geraniums might be saved if they can be protected and kept dry. As for Petunias, just enjoy them while they are in bloom and replace them next year.

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Hibiscus, Bougainvilleas, Palms, Crotons and even Plumeria do so well here with very few problems. Drainage and lack of food are there worst enemies. During the Rainey season these plants get more than their share of water. This not only can rot their roots if they do not get sufficient drainage, but the water washes thru the root system and the nutrients must then be replaced. Any good fertilizer is sufficient, just read the label and make sure you do not burn them. The time release fertilizer granules are perfect for this climate and so easy to use.

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Any time of year that you see butterflies and or moth activity around your Bougainvilleas, watch for tiny black worm droppings falling from the leaves. Those beautiful winged creatures have laid eggs on you plants and they have hatched into very hungry caterpillars they will strip the leaves off your plant in no time. A systemic spray, available at the supers or the “Poison Store” will take care of this. Remember it does not work unless you take it out of the bottle and use it.

Hibiscus can be grown as a potted plant or a large hedge. It is the same plant; it is just what you do with it. There are singles, doubles, large blossoms and petit. Very versatile, they should be part of every landscape.

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Birds of Paradise are a very hardy plant here. They are slow growing and take patience, but the rewards after they get a good start are worth the effort. Easy to grow, give them lots
of sun, a little water, some food, and they are happy campers.

Croton plants won’t give you bowers of flowers but they sure add color to your surroundings. Plant them anywhere, inside and out. The more light they receive, the more color you will have. This is a “one plant fits all” type of plant. It was made for this area, so enjoy this low maintenance beauty.

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The joys of gardening in paradise can be enhanced if you stick to the plants that do best in this location. Trying to grow foreign ones only makes it less enjoyable. Even some Orchids do not do well here at sea level. Some require the cool mist of the higher altitudes. I brought several Orchids back from Michoacan where it is much higher cooler and dryer. They have been sitting for a year with not a sign of growth. I am thinking of returning them to their happy home on my next trip back. The overall look of your landscape is like a frame for your home. It should be low care and non stress. Take advantage of the beautiful native plants we have available to us. They are easy to get and easy to care for. Wouldn’t you rather see a healthy Hibiscus than a puny Rose? You would not try to grow Bougainvilleas outside in Quebec, so it is not wise to try to grow peonies and lilacs in Puerto Vallarta

Paul Sanders
E-mail: jesusdeavila@ymail.com

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