I write blog posts for the UCCE Master Gardeners which keeps me on my toes searching for new subjects and interesting things to write about that are topical to our region. It also gets me out of my focus on my immediate gardens and looking at gardening in general. I must admit that the tropical plant look is not one that I embrace entirely for an all over look in my gardens, but I do have a lot of tropical plants mixed in throughout simply because they get along so well in our climate and are so easy to grow in many cases. Oddly enough, many of them are drought tolerant and can get along with very little water once established. This is the time of year we should be planting them so I must admit I have some bare spots that I am going to consider some tropicals for simply because they add color and can get along without water. Of course California is often associated with bougainvillea and although I do kind of love it, I have very little of it grow in my gardens. It goes very well with our Mediterranean style house and adds the color I am always looking for almost year round. It doesn't have the constant issue with pests that roses have most of the time so I don't know why I don't use it more often. It can be hard to get established due to sensitive roots, but once you get it going it is carefree.
Some neighbors have a lovely peach colored flower canna with bright apple green leaves that I have fallen in love with, even though I thought I would never plant another canna after I put some in years ago, changed my mind and could never get rid of them. It is had to believe they are so drought tolerant because you would think they come from a tropical rain forest, but they are!
I have a few hibiscus for some odd reason. They seem much too tropical for me and are not exactly considered a drought tolerant plant. But they do survive on the same amount of water as everything else and although they are not covered in blooms as you see them where they get ample amounts of water and lots of sunshine, did I mention mine are in the shade, mine do have a few pretty flowers and are pest free (as in no white flies).
Acanthus or bear's breeches are tropical plants that grow in the shade and are used primarily for their large, dramatic leaves. They use very little water once established and they do have those dramatic tall blooms (covered in spikes) if you like those kinds of things, this time of year. Years ago I sent away for a variegated one that was about eight inches across when it came. Five years later it is still about eight inches across, But I found a larger one at the nursery a couple weeks ago that I planted in a bit sunnier spot and we'll see how that one does. I do grow them because they tolerate the dry shade so well so planting in a sunny spot kind of defeats the purpose!
After following and learning from garden bloggers in Texas that have been dealing with their drought for so many years, my heart goes out to them with all the rain they are getting, resulting in floods. I hope their gardens that they have worked so hard to adapt to the dry conditions survive this onslaught of wet weather.