Tag Archives: Tropical Plants

Subtropical Climate

Canarius | Tuesday May 11th, 2010 |

Subtropical climates are non tropical climates with cool winters with little or no frosts. In subtropical climates, Winter is a noticeably cooler season. It is relatively warm, but never as hot as the summer season. These climates rarely, if ever, see frost or snow. Subtropical belts exist in both hemispheres and they are located just North and South of the tropics.

Rainfall patterns vary widely throughout the subtropics including hot deserts, savannas, monsoon forests, humid forests and the warmer parts of the Mediterranean climate zone. Subtropical regions include:

Typical House in Tenerife, with a Subtropical Kentia Palm and Potted Cacti

Northern Hemisphere: California, Texas, Florida, Canary Islands and Madeira, parts of the Mediterranean, northern India, southeast China, Southern Japan

Southern Hemisphere:  So. Brazil, N. Argentina, Parts of Chile, Uruguay, large parts of Australia and coastal South Africa (Mostly Natal)

Subtropical Climate in Europe

Europe has some Subtropical spots too in warmer, coastal areas within the mediterranean climate area. The climate in the Southern Mediterranean, with little or no frost , can be defined as Subtropical climate. This is the case of the coastal areas of Southern Portugal (Algarve), Southern Spain (Andalucia, Almeria, Murcia), Southern Italy (Sicilia, Calabria) and Southern Greece. Even cooler Subtropical areas can be found in Southern France (Cote d’Azur). Warmer spots are also found in the United Kingdom, precisely in the Isles of Scilly with 6 °C (42.8 °F) average in the coldest month. Of course there is a lot of difference between the Isles of Scilly and a typically hot subtropical climate like Florida. The English islands have a cooler, even climate reminiscent of the mountain climate in the warmer Subtropics.

The Canary Islands are located in the Subtropical belt too, very close to the tropics. The climate is frost-free on the coast, but it less hot than in many Subtropical areas because of the trade winds and the cold ocean. The Canaries are the only territory of Europe located straight into the subtropical belt.  Even here we do not have a typical subtropical climate, because our climate is also Mediterranean, because of the rainfall pattern and also Oceanic, because of the cooling effect of the sea.

Fruiting papaya in the Canary Islands

Exotic Gardens and Crops in Subtropical Climates

Many tropical species will tolerate the winter in the Subtropics and will grow outdoors. More than 500 palm species can live in Subtropical areas with little or no frost, exotic flowers such as Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) or (Heliconia) and many Cycad species. The beautiful Bromeliad Family is a must in any garden. Hundreds of species of Succulent Plants from dry areas can grow and bloom as long as they are kept dry in winter. The dry subtropics include many of the world desert, so here is where most desert gardens are developed. Also the tropical succulent species will do fine, like Melocactus or Adenium and Pachypodium if kept well drained. Palm-like desert plants, such as Yucca and Dasylirion, thrive to perfection.

Melocactus conoideus grows outdoors on the Subtropical coast of Tenerife

Fully tropical species can grow in the Subtropics. They may slow down or stop in winter but most will grow reasonably well. Many tropical fruit trees grow freely. Mango, Papaya, Sugar Cane and Avocados are produced commercially in various subtropical regions of the world. Occasional frosts or short summers limit the spread of tropical horticulture in the Subtropics.

A blue leaved Cycad from the subtropical coast of South Africa, Encephalartos arenarius.

An impressive number of Palms and Cycads is kept by collectors. Many tropical flowers will winter outdoors. Bromeliads can be used freely as garden plants, as well as Heliconias. In lower latitudes, Cacti and Succulents are simply part of the landscape. Different species of Agave, mostly from Mexico, grow wild on the hillsides of Mediterranean Europe and Aloes flourish in pots and gardens. Large specimens will often enhance the garden of the villa, in the ground or in large pots. Southern Spain and Portugal are even sunnier, almost as Northern Africa so Cuban Royal Palms (Roystonea regia) and Royal Poincianas (Delonix regia) thrive in many coastal location, papayas will fruit with little effort.

With some protection and some effort you can grow subtropical plants in colder climates. Visit our blog section about Tropical Gardening in Northern Climates.

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Come to our shop and buy the best subtropical plants of all kinds. We ship to anywhere in Europe.

Neoregelia chlorosticta blooming with yellow and red leaves

Fabulous colours on the bromeliad Neoregelia chlorosticta, blooming with yellow and red leaves

Palmetum de Santa Cruz de Tenerife – Video Clip January 2009

Canarius | Tuesday January 5th, 2010 |

The Palmetum de Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the best botanical garden to see palms in Europe, with 470 species of palms. This fine video shows beautiful sceneries with piano music.

List of species shown in the video

  • 0:14 Sección/Section: Madagascar (Con el lago delante/with the pond in the foreground)
  • 0:20 Dypsis leptocheilos (Grupos/Clumps), Bismarckia nobilis (detrás/behind)
  • 0:23 Sección/Section: America Central. Sabal palmetto.
  • 0:27 Dypsis leptocheilos, Bismarckia nobilis
  • 0:37 Océano atlántico/Atlantic ocean, Araucaria columnaris
  • 0:43 Araucaria columnaris
  • 0:46 Dypsis leptocheilos. D. madagascariens detrás/behind
  • 0:49 Dypsis leptocheilos, Capitel/Crownshaft
  • 0:52 Ravenea rivularis derecha/left. Acoelorraphe wrightii detrás/behind
  • 0:57 Hyophorbe verschaffeltii. Bismarckia nobilis detrás/behind
  • 1:01 Cocos nucifera. Vistas al oceano en el Talud Sur/Ocean view on the Southern slopes.
  • 1:05 Latania loddigesii, con frutos/in fruit.
  • 1:11 Dypsis lutescens (izq./left), Arenga westerhoutii (dcha/right).
  • 1:16 Section: Australia. Center: Livistona decora. Sides: Howea forsteriana. Back: Wodyetia bifurcata
  • 1:26 Section: Caribbean islands. Roystonea regia. Copernicia baileyana (dcha/right).
  • 1:31 Riachuelo en la sección caribeña/Stream in the Caribbean section. Acoelorraphe (izq./left). Other palms (dcha/right).
  • 1:35 Roystonea lenis (izq./left), R.regia (izq./left) (dcha/right).
  • 1:38 Panoramica con palmeras/Landscape with palms. Roystonea regia (tall, center)
  • 1:41 Dypsis decaryi
  • 1:52 Corypha utan
  • 1:56 Copernicia baileyana (Hojas palmeadas/fan leaves), Roystonea regia arriba/above.
  • 2:00 Livistona australis
  • 2:04 Bentickia nicobarica (Hoja/Leaf) and Veitchia joannis (Fruits)
  • 2:08 Sección del Caribe/Caribbean section.
  • 2:13 Copernicia baileyana
  • 2:16 Acrocomia crispa
  • 2:28 Sabal palmetto (Centro/Center), tronco/trunk
  • 2:35 Arenga pinnata (tronco/trunk)
  • 2:38 Arenga pinnata (Centro/Center), Veitchia.
  • 2:44 Hemithrinax ekmaniana (esquina abajo izq./corner below left)
  • 2:47 Section: Indochina. Arenga pinnata, Arenga engleri, Arenga tremula.
  • 2:50 Hemithrinax ekmaniana
  • 2:53 Roystonea regia (trunk) and other Caribbean palm species.
  • 2:56 Sección del Caribe/Caribbean Section. Roystonea regia (altas/tall). Coccothrinax spp..
  • PIC1: En el Octógono (Invernadero de Sombra) / Inside the octagon (Shadehouse)
  • PIC2:Dypsis lutescens, Bismarckia nobilis, Howea forsteriana
  • PIC3: Cocos nucifera
  • PIC4: Southern Slope: Cocos nucifera, Latania loddigesii, Hyophorbe verschaffeltii, Araucaria columnaris
  • PIC5: Bismarckia nobilis, gris azul / grey blue
  • PIC6: Ladera Sur / Southern Slope: Cocos nucifera, Latania loddigesii, Hyophorbe verschaffeltii.
  • PIC7: Ladera Sur / Southern Slope: tapizantes suculentos / succulent groundcovers.  Araucaria columnaris.

Growing Tropical Plants in Cold Europe – Tips

Canarius | Tuesday January 5th, 2010 |

Tropical and Mediterranean garden styles are spreading through Europe. People are trying new species and new techniques to create exotic gardens in colder, northern climates. While many tropical species cannot survive cold winters, some can be replaced by subtropical species or tropical-looking hardy species. Tropical gardens are often rich in large leaved plants, such as palms and bananas. Mediterranean gardens are not so dense and lush, they rather show open vegetation, sculptured by wind and sun. Shrubs and trees are often enhanced by cacti, yuccas and palms from dry habitats.

Trachycarpus wagnerianus is a frost proof palm species

Trachycarpus wagnerianus is a frost proof palm species, hardy to about -18 C.

Canarius offers some tips to help growers in their tropical adventures:

  • Young plants are often less resistant to cold. If you are purchasing small sizes from Canarius, protect them in winter during a few years, especially if you are pushing the limits of your climate by introducing tender species.
  • Get protection from walls and canopy. Walls and buildings can stop the wind and release warmth at night. Even some large rocks on the ground can help. Canopy (a tree above) make a sheltered environment and helps to minimize the effect of frost or hail.
  • Sun in, wind out. Design the garden so that it can catch the sunlight from the South and trap the warmth. Keep it screened from the coldest winter winds.
  • Try the right speciesPalms and cacti are tropical plants but SOME palms and SOME cacti can grow in even in Northern Europe. Many tropical families or genera include a few species which are hardier than others, usually because their wild habitat is located at high elevations or high latitudes. Hardy Palms will take -18 or below! Canarius offers an excellent selection of hardy tropicals. Check our blog article Hardy Palms for Europe.

    Echinocereus  enneacanthus sarissophorus

    Cold hardy cactus. Echinocereus enneacanthus sarissophorus can take about – 20 C if kept dry.

  • All plants from dry areas increase their hardiness if kept dry. For example, many cacti can take freezes if kept dry. The same species might rot in warmer Mediterranean climates if left outdoors during the winter rains.
  • Desert plants in the garden do better on raised mounds. Palm-like plants from dry regions (Yucca and Dasylirion) and various cacti can take frosts to harder than -10 C (14 F). They will be even hardier if planted in a much drained site, such as a raised mound or in sandy soil.
  • Plants with underground stems increase resistance if mulched. Use abundant mulching during the coldest months. Heliconiabananas, Strelitziasugar-cane, gingers.
  • Use winter protections. All tropical plants will benefit from some protection, from cold, wind or hail. Plants from dry climates, such as cacti, succulents or desert palms might need a shelter for the rain. Learn about how to protect them. Cover them with anti-frost fabric. Build temporary shelters. Use plastic or bubblewrap, Check the temperature. Keen collectors use a number of materials and often provide some heating to the most valuable plants they grow outdoors.

    Yucca rostrata

    Yucca rostrata is a grey leaved beauty from American deserts. It grows into a palm-like frost hardy tree.

  • Think of pots. Move them in for winter. Some exotic plants, like cacti and cycads do very well in pots. Grow tropicals in large pots and take them to a protected place in winter. In many cases a sheltered patio, balcony or the southern wall of the house will be enough. Cacti and succulents will be protected from rain.
  • Cacti and Succulents will rest in winter. Many species can be grown in the North, as long as they are induced to rest during the long and dark months. It is possible to store resting cacti anywhere, as long as they are kept dry and above freezing. Some collectors store them in closets. Few succulents will grow actively indoors in house conditions, because of the lack of sunlight. Gasteria and Haworthia are some exceptions.
  • It is not all about temperature. Warmth is just one of the many needs of a tropical plant. The “Tropical people of the North” often focus too much on temperatures. Think of general horticulture, and think about irrigation, fertilizing, sunlight or shade, pest protection, etc. A well grown healthy plant will tolerate much colder temperatures than its weaker counterpart.