Tropical plants, known for their exotic and jungle-like appearance make perfect specimens to grow for a quick privacy fence without the expense, work or unnatural appearance that a true fence would have. They are also excellent choices for a quick cover up to make a garden look established.
Ricinus communis or Castor Beans as they are commonly called are easy to start from seed each spring. By fall you will have a full sized plant that will have flowered and be producing seeds for you to save for next year’s garden. The typical castor bean plant grows quite tall making it an excellent specimen for the back of a border, be aware however that there are miniature varieties available. The seeds are toxic. This plant prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade.
Cannas can be dug and the rhizomes stored in a cool, dark place such as an unheated garage or basement. Once spring rolls around again, just replant the rhizomes. For an earlier start Cannas can be started in pots around March then transplanted into the garden once warm weather sets in. Cannas can be grown in full sun, but depending on the variety you may find that there is less leaf burn if they are grown in light shade.
Brugmansia are easily over wintered in an unheated garage or basement. They can also be brought indoors where they will continue to grow. Brugmansia are toxic and the flowers do put off a strong fragrance. When over wintering indoors you may want to keep the blooms cut off. Outdoors once acclimated to the sun these plants prefer at least six hours a day of sun.
Calocasias are an easy bulb to over winter. You can continue to grow them indoors or dig them and store them along with your other bulbs. These plants prefer slightly damp soil and full sun to part shade. The Calocasia with dark leaves, such as ‘Blackie,’ seem to loose their color in the shade.
Ipomea batatas or Sweet Potato Vines can be dug and stored or you may continue to grow them indoors. These plants are best used as a ground cover instead of a typical climbing vine.
The key to over wintering any type of bulb is to either dig it and store it in a cool, dark place or leave it in the pot and give a small amount of water every four to six weeks to keep the tuber moist.
Caladiums and Tuberous Begonias are both bulbs that can either be dug and stored or kept growing. If they do die back on you it is likely that they have just gone dormant. Once spring rolls back around bring them out and begin watering again. Caladiums prefer shade. Tuberous Begonias prefer a bright, shaded spot. Both plants like to be kept moist but not wet.
If you decide to over winter your plants in the house and they go dormant, either move them to a cooler area or be sure to give them a small amount of water each month so that they do not dry up.