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Cold protection - winter action for your plant collection

A note from our customer: Last winter was very cold here in Arizona, lower 30's. I used white synthetic sheets (called frost cloth, it is very light and yet effective) to cover my fruit trees, and kept simple light garlands on for the whole night. Sending you couple photos so you can share with others. It worked pretty well for my plants and no cold damage!

With winter approaching, it is time to take some actions to protect your rare plants from cold stress and damage.
If you live in a mild climate, you still need to get ready for the cold nights. When expecting a cold night, individual plants and trees can be wrapped with sheets, or blankets, to protect them from the wind chill. Christmas lights is a good idea for an additional warm up.

For large collections of tropical plants, temporary winter greenhouse doesn't have to be expensive. An easy-assembly mobile carport from a hardware store covered with a plastic or fabric will cost you $100-200. It can fit a hundred plants or more!

If you live in area with a hard freeze, Southern exposure windowsill will work for most of the compact tropicals providing proper care. Larger collections may also move into your garage for a few cold nights, or for longer periods if the garage has a bright light source.

Factors affecting tropical plant winter survival:

  1. Duration of cold period. Tropical plants can't stand long periods of cold. A few days of even upper 30's may kill a tropical plant. A few hours of frost may cause leaf drop but the plant will recover.
  2. Minimum temperature - of course, the warmer the better. But see 1) - if cold is not for too long, it may be OK.
  3. Wind-chill can be more dangerous than low temperatures.
  4. Exposure. Southern slopes get warm during daytime and stay warm longer.
  5. Protection with a house, fence, larger trees - where a "pocket" of warm air forms and stays - is beneficial.
  6. Humidity. A lake or a river nearby (especially ocean) will mild the micro-climate.
  7. Individual species hardiness. Don't try to grow Orchid Tree outdoors in New York.
  8. Plant maturity and health. A well-established plant with developed root system has more chances to survive cold. If a plant had a good change to develop during warm season (bright light, enough water, fertilizer), it will be more cold hardy. Healthy plant can withstand lower temperature, so proper nutrition is important, including micro-element applications. Large specimens, even ultra-tropical, may survive cooler winter than they normally do in their natural habitat. The Nature provided plants with better hardiness level than it is normally used. To boost plant immune system and improve cold tolerance even more, use SUNSHINE plant boosters. SUNSHINE-T - thermo-protection booster, is specially formulated for winter protection of tropical plants. To improve cold hardiness, spray 1-2 days prior to cold with 5 ml/1 gal solution and continue applications with 2.5 ml/1 gal solution every 10-15 days throughout winter period.
  9. Gradual temperature decrease is less dangerous than a sudden drop since it gives a plant a chance to adjust. One sudden freeze in December with prior warm fall may create more damage than a gradual temperature adjustment. If it starts to get cold early in the Fall, plants slow down their metabolism, and the new tender growth won't get hurt later in winter, since the plants are "expecting" the cold.
  10. Do not fertilize plants during cool months. Not only because they don't need much food beyond growing season, but also because fertilizer (especially Nitrogen) encourages rapid tender growth that will be damaged by cold and this will stress the whole plant.

Stay warm!


Plants for happiness and joy

Plants as homeopathic remedies and happiness boosters. Many people know about health benefits of vitamin C which improves and boosts our immune system similar to SUNSHINE plant booster stimulating growth of plants. But not everybody realizes that this vitamin is responsible for overall happiness of our body, it brings many systems in balance. A number of tropical plants used in salads, as well as fruit with high content of vitamin C can play dual role in your life. You can use them as food, as well as enjoy their beautiful tropical appearance. Such plants will help you feel interest and joy in life when you feel apathetic and resigned to the situation you are in. Just to name a few:

Barbados Cherry
Hibiscus Karkade

Try them out. Stay healthy and happy!


Helping plants to survive winter:

A magic plant hormone so wanted by gardeners, is finally here! When people purchase plants and trees either on-line, or from their local nursery, expectation and anticipation for their new find is high. Many times, however, disappointment is encountered due to a variety of reasons. These reasons include changes in light, temperature, water, soil conditions and transportation; just to name a few. So how can the stress on newly transported and transplanted plants be mitigated? Easy! There are plant stimulators able to reduce the shock encountered.

One such plant stimulator, produced at TT Laboratories is SUNSHINE, a revolutionary, broad spectrum, plant stress reliever. Extracted initially from plant pollen, SUNSHINE can bring back and keep the vigor to stressed plants in both the home and garden. Sunshine is indeed a plant stimulator on the cutting edge of plant care technology. Reasonably priced, and easy to use, SUNSHINE will be your plants' best friend, next to yourself, of course.

SUNSHINE will help your plants:
- recover from stress
- dramatically increase growth rate
- get profuse flowering and fruiting
- improve disease resistance, cold hardiness, and heat resistance
- promote seed germination and root cuttings easily

Great for indoor plants and improving cold tolerance!

Line of products:
SUNSHINE-E - general plant booster, growth stimulator and immune booster
SUNSHINE-BC - Bonsai and Caudex developer
SUNSHINE-S - seeds and cuttings pre-treatment
SUNSHINE-T - Thermo-protection for overwintering tropical plants
SUNSHINE-Micro - ultimate micro-element mix from TT Laboratories

On the photo: Tomato seedlings, with and without Sunshine-E treatment; 1 week after treatment, 09-01-2016. Continue reading...

Order online


Libra Zodiac lucky plants

Libra - 9/23-10/22. Libra is an AIR sign, and is ruled by the planet Venus. Because Venus is the planet of beauty and love, Libra's plants often have light, lovely flowers and gorgeous scents.
Libra has been related to the endocrine system, the kidneys, and the bladder. Venus (which also rules Taurus) is responsible for the harmony between the various body systems, as well as the abdomen, kidneys and urinary tract, and thyroid. Libra's plants help to bring balance to these areas of the body. Libra's romantic nature appreciates a spice that cultivates love and sensuality. Cardamom is a spice known for its gently warming nature, so add a sprinkle when you want to heat things up slowly.

Libra Zodiac lucky plants: Jasmine, Gardenia, Euclinia, Pua Keni Keni, Randia, Beaumontia, Faradaya, Butterfly Ginger, Kopsia, Hydrangea, Montanoa, Aglaia, Dwarf Ylang-Ylang, Desmos, Clematis, Almond Bush, Brunfelsia, Four oclock plant, Juniper, Moonflower, Carissa, White Chocolate Jasmine, Night blooming jasmine, Fiddlewood, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Clerodendrums, Millingtonia, Parijat, Fried Egg Tree, Oxyceros, Phaleria, Tuberose, Cubanola, Portlandia, Rothmannia, Allamanda, Nasturtium, Rose, Camellia, Ephedra, Fuchsia, Ylang-Ylang, Magnolia, Stemmadenia, White Plumeria, Appleblossom, Needle Flower Tree, Tree Jasmine, Guaiacum, Epiphyllum, Amazon Lily, India Hawthorn, Stephanotis, Talauma, Pakalana vine, Wrightia, White flowers, Cypress, Lucky Bamboo, Dracaena, Bakul, Apple, Pear, Fig, Raspberry, Olive, Pomegranate, Apricot, Peach, Plum, Loquat, Grape, Blackberry, Mango, Cherries, Chrysobalanus icaco, Berries, Neem tree, Asparagus, Spices, Mint, Catnip, Bergamot, Thyme, Cardamom.

For other signs information, see full Plant Horoscope.



About Cold Protection...

Q: I have a question, if I'm in Okeechobee Florida zone 9b are there any plants that you sell that would have to be protected at all? I have a lot that I've purchased from you and don't want to lose any of them winter.

A: Sometimes it is hard to guarantee if certain plants are hardy enough in certain area. From our experience, tropical plant performance in non-tropical areas depend on many factors; a lot of times plants appear to be hardier than they are believed to be. Other times, an obviously hardy plant doesn't survive winter. So there always will be a chance of risk involved, while nice surprises are not an exception. We have been testing many tropical species throughout many years of our nursery experience. Wind protection in many cases is more important than temperature. Enclosed sections of your garden provide better chances to survive cold snaps. Generally speaking, here is the list of some plants (not complete list, just examples) that in our experience have been surviving light freezes without significant damage.

Q: I live in San Jose,CA. Got Mango Alphonso 2 yrs back and protected it for a year in a pot during winter. Last spring I planted it and during winter I put a freeze cloth to protect it but it died. How can I make sure it wont die if I buy this time plz?

A: Mango trees are tolerant only to light frost, once established. If it gets below freezing in your area for more than a few hours, and especially if you have numerous nights with frost throughout winter, we recommend to keep mango tree in a pot. This way it can be moved to protected area during cold night. The more established the tree, the more chances to survive colder temperatures.
We also use plant booster Sunshine to increase plants cold tolerance
Cold protection is a lengthy subject. You may also use propane heaters during cold nights.
Here is some more information on cold protection.
Also, we recommend to check out our magazine Tropical Treasures (about pushing the limits of tropical gardening) for a detailed article on cold protection.
These are specific articles on Zone-Pushing in different issue #s regarding dealing with cold. See downloadable issues:
(#1) Growing Tropicals in Nontropical Climate, Three Freezing Nights in Southwest Florida
(#2) Temperature drops - an alert or a rehearsal?
(#5) Dealing with cold snaps, Cold hardy beauties
(#7) When winter is around the corner, Growing exotic Cordyline in colder climate
(#8) When the weather outside is frightful
(#9) Winter champions
(#11) Ready-for-winter checklist for in-ground plants
(#13) Winter checklist
(#18) Dealing with cold damaged plants
You may also order hard copies.

If temperatures drop below freezing in your area, remember to add Heat Pack to your order!


Organic remedy for indoor plants insect protection

Q: Winter is coming and I moved my collection of fragrant plants inside the house about a week ago. Today I noticed some aphids on my jasmine. I guess they sneaked in with the plant from the garden where it was a week ago. I don't want them to spread around and get to the nearby gardenia. What should I do to protect my plants from insects indoors?

A: Sometimes bugs attack indoor plants more than those outside in the garden. The main reason is lack of air circulation, lack of sunlight, lack of bug natural predators, and lack of plant's immune resistance due to winter dormancy. So, you need to pay extra attention at your plants health during colder months they spend indoors. Inspect leaves, especially underneath, at least on weekly basis.

If noticed first signs of insect attacks (insects and/or leaf damage such as holes, chewed edges, discoloration, dark or sticky coating), use a simple organic remedy that is handy in every house. Mix in a cup of hot water two tablespoons of any cooking oil: Canola, Vegetable, Sunflower, Olive; Neem oil is the best for this purpose, but it does have a pungent odor (bugs don't like it as well as some people). Add a few drops of dish-soap for better mixing oil in the water. You may add a clove of pressed fresh garlic - bugs hate it! Clean leaves with this solution using cloth, paper towel, and/or spray bottle.

If insects are persistent or your treatment arrived too late when a plant is excessively infested, after cleaning with the oil solution, you may use additionally systemic insecticide sprays sold in garden centers, with active ingredients of pyrethrin, imidacloprid or similar. Make sure to read product label and follow instructions.

However try the organic recipe first, it really works! You may repeat it as needed, as often as you want! See TopTropicals Video on Safe and Easy Pest Control.


Planting instructions for bare-rooted succulent plants

Q: I would like to order a few Adeniums from your selection. You website says "shipped barerooted". What do I need to know about potting these plants before I order?

A: Adeniums do not require much soil; large 4-5" wide caudex plant can be grown in 1 gal pot. After unpacking the plants, position it in a pot, size of root system. Use only well-drained soil with high content of perlite and/or sand. Cactus mix can be used too, although we recommend using our special TopTropicals professional soilless potting mix. Water once and keep in warm (75-80F) place in filtered light. Do not water again until soil dries on surface. Once the plant is established and starts growing new leaves (may take a few weeks), gradually move it into brighter light. Then you can start fertilizing it. You may place shells and lime rocks on top of adenium planting, as these plants benefit from slightly alkaline soils.

See Info sheet on Adenium care.
See full list of Adeniums.
See full list of Plumerias.
See full list of Euphorbias.


Hardy avocados

Q: I intend to gift three avocados, at least one type A and one type B, to a friend who lives in an area where the temperature never goes below 25F. The idea is to give them a ripening season as long as possible. Which combinations do you suggest, and which are the A and B?

A: When talking about "A" type and "B" type in Avocados, it is referring to the flowers. An avocado will produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. "A" type means that the flowers are female in the morning and male at afternoon. "B" type means that the flowers are male in the morning and female in the afternoon. If you plant to start a commercial growth, then it's important to create a proper mix of both types. However, in hot and humid climate a single tree produces flowers of both types, so it is not necessary to have both A- and B- types planted together in backyard. Even a single tree produces enough fruits for home gardener.

It is also important to know that while there are more cold hardy avocados, it refers to a full grown established tree. They will still need protection from the cold until they are bigger and more established. One can not expect a small tree, which was planted in June, to survive the first winter. It'll take few years until the tree is "harden" enough.

Wurtz Avocado: Fruits from May to Sept. Dwarf hybrid. It is very compact and slow growing, reaching only about 8-12 feet at maturity. Distinctive weeping growth habit. Suited for planters, containers, patios, greenhouse use. Great for dooryard or container growing. The tree can handle temperatures to 25(F) degrees. Production is good and it is a consistent bearer.

Day Avocado: Fruits July to Sept. Day avocado is green, smooth skin and is shaped like a club. The fruit is of very good quality and has a nice buttery consistency. The slender tree is relatively cold tolerant and produces July through September.

Fuerte Avocado: Fruits Nov to June. Relatively cold hardy variety. Green fruit, elongated,flavor excellent, buttery. Vigorous compact tree with decidedly alternate year bearing habit. Ripens November to June.

These three will provide you with fruit ripening during the whole warm season. For the most cold hardy avocado varieties, see this info sheet.


Virgo - 8/23-9/22. Virgo is an EARTH sign ruled by the planet Mercury, which also rules Gemini.

Virgo is traditionally the Goddess of the Grain, and is associated with autumn. Her plants often have finely divided leaves or stems, subtle odors, or small, brightly-colored flowers. The most beneficial plants for Virgo are high in potassium and help to calm the nerves.

In its rulership of Virgo, Mercury governs the abdomen and the lower intestinal tract and the entire digestive process. Herbs associated with Virgo assist in digestion (as do Cancer herbs) and help to reduce flatulence. The relaxing, calming scents help Virgo release stress and worries.

Virgo Zodiac lucky plants: Amorphophallus, Anethum graveolens (Dill), Barringtonia, Bolusanthus, Dioscorea, Grewia asiatica (Falsa), Hibiscus sabdariffa (Karkade), Iboza riparia, Lagerstroemia speciosa (Queens Crape Myrtle), Laurus nobilis (Bay Leaf), Lippia, Melissa, Catnip, Mint, Arugula, Piper betle, Piper sarmentosum, Psychotria, Syzygium aromaticum (Clove), Banisteriopsis, Papaya, Mesua ferrea (Ironwood), Momordica, Euterpe oleracea (Assai Palm), JacarandaMagnolia officinalis, Pimenta dioica (Allspice), Osteospermum, Petrea, Plumbago, Clitoria, Eranthemum, Litchi, Cashew, Pecan, Nut trees, Cherries, Lavender, Myrtles, Sansiveria, Aloe vera, Blackberry, Honey suckle, Satureja, Vitex, Mulberry, Elaeocarpus, Clausena lansium (Wampi), Feronia elephantum (Bel Fruit).

For other signs information, see full Plant Horoscope.


More useful information on Grow Lights!

By Michael Aiton, FL: When I was taking classes at Palm Beach State College for my AA degree in Horticulture, what we used in the lab for 'grow lights' was a combination of incandescent and florescent lights to get the full spectrum of red/blue/green light. I saw it as a tried and true method, and cheaper than going out and buying 'grow lights', although they are making incandescent lights harder and harder to get anymore...

Fluorescent lights are by far the most economical and easy choice for houseplants. They come in tubes or compact bulbs (CFL) that screw into regular lamp sockets, and they’re cool enough to put close to plant foliage. Generic fluorescent tubes and bulbs are higher in blue wavelengths, so look for “full-spectrum” or include a mix of "cool" and "warm" bulbs. When in doubt, buy "cool white" products, since white light contains the full spectrum of wavelengths. For maximum effect, position fluorescents about a foot away from plant foliage.

Incandescent lights give off a lot of heat and should be placed farther away from plant foliage. Incandescent bulbs give off more red wavelengths, so they can be used to supplement fluorescent light and balance out the spectrum, especially if you’re trying to encourage plants to bloom. If you want to mix the two, try using a ratio of about one-third incandescent and two-thirds fluorescent by wattage.

See more information on grow lights