Monday, September 02, 2019

Want to save your banana palms, cannas and ginger lilies? Ways to protect 5 tender exotics in winter

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If you’ve a tropical garden, your jungle plants will need some help surviving the cold winter. We look at five tender plants and how to save them.
If you’ve planted exotics in your garden to create that holiday feel, it’s now time to cosy them up as summer fades, to help them survive winter.
Lush, jungle-like plants like bananas, ginger lilies, spiky cordylines, spreading tree ferns and tropical-flowering cannas will all need some TLC to get them through the cooler months.
Some exotic-looking gems are as tough as old boots and should weather the storms of winter unscathed, including fatsias, hostas and even some palms.
But many are not. So, what do you need to do to save your exotics from the winter elements?

1. Banana (Musa)

Banana plant (iStock/PA)
Banana plants will need winter protection (iStock/PA)
These exotic-leaved perennials won’t survive the winter without intervention, so you’ll need to give them some lagging.
Before frost has arrived, cut away the leaves and place a wide circle of chicken wire around the stems. Fill the inside of the circle with dry straw, going from the wire right to the stem and firming it around and down, so the insulation remains in place.
Place horticultural fleece across the top of the straw to further protect the plant during the winter, but still allow air circulation. Then, when winter is over and the danger of frost has passed, remove the lagging and tidy up your plant.

2. Canna

Canna (Hannah Stephenson/PA)
Cannas are best brought inside (Hannah Stephenson/PA)
These lush plants, with tropical leaves that open out to reveal showstopping spikes of exotic-looking flowers in summer in shades of red, orange, yellow and pink, also need care if they are to survive winter.
If you’ve grown them in pots, move them to a greenhouse or conservatory to allow them to flourish for a few more weeks. Alternatively, let the first frost catch the foliage, then cut back the plants and move them to a frost-free shed or garage and stop watering them until spring.
If not, you’re best off digging up the rhizomes (swollen stems that grow horizontally) in the autumn, then cut down the foliage and stems to around 15cm (6in) and keep them in a frost-free dry place in multi-purpose compost.
In mild areas where your cannas are in a sunny, sheltered position, you can risk keeping them in the ground through the winter, but cover them with a 15cm (6in) deep mulch of straw and be prepared for losses in very wet or harsh winters.

3. Ginger lily

Ginger lilies (iStock/PA)
Cover crowns of ginger lilies (iStock/PA)
With milder winters, these towering, tropical hedychiums (as they are also known) have grown in popularity, their huge palmate leaves giving any jungle-orientated garden a colourful pick-me-up, as well as chunky flowerheads of fragrant blooms.
These aromatic showstoppers will flower into the autumn, but once their leaves are caught by frost, cut them back to around 5cm (2in) above ground level and cover the crowns with a thick dry mulch.
For extra protection, you could cover the mulch with horticultural fleece, then lift that off in spring when the weather begins to get warmer and new growth starts to appear.
If you grow ginger lilies in containers, overwinter them indoors, in a greenhouse or conservatory.

4. Tree fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)

Tree fern (Tim Sandall/RHS/PA)
You may need to pack straw around the crown of a tree fern (Tim Sandall/RHS/PA)
These large ferns, native to tropical regions and the forests of south east Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America, love moisture, flourishing in damp soils, their handsome spreading fronds emerging from the crown.
In late autumn, tie up the fronds emerging from the thick trunks and erect a circular tube of chicken wire around the trunk, leaving around a foot between fern and wire, tying the circle together with cable ties. Then fill the tube with straw, insulating the trunk.
If you anticipate a cold winter, cut off the exposed leaves and cover the straw with horticultural fleece or a hessian sack for further protection. If the winter is mild, your leaves may withstand what winter throws at it.

5. Cordyline

Cordylines (iStock/PA)
Cordylines need tying up and covering (iStock/PA)
Many gardeners grow these spiky candidates as central features of summer containers because of their valuable architectural structure and colourful, sword-like leaves, which range from variegated green to purple.
Also known as the cabbage palm, cordylines do best in sun or partial shade. In cold spots they can suffer damage due to winter winds and snow, so they will need some protection.
Cordyline australis is made of strong stuff and even if you have a harsh winter, it should regenerate. But the variegated and purple types are more tender.
When cooler weather comes, you need to tie up the leaves together in a point, which stops any snow or frost reaching the crown. If your plant is in a container, place the pot on feet or bricks so water will seep straight through and not remain cold and wet on the roots.
Once you have done that, wrap the tied leaves in horticultural fleece and move them nearer to the house if you can, or move pots to a frost-free greenhouse over the winter.
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