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Full Sun Garden vs Shade Garden

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." (Warren Buffett)

Q: I live in California and I have a large area of my garden in full shade. Are there any plants that will be happy there? I am looking for something colorful. I also have a smaller area in front of the house that has full sun almost all day long, but I am afraid this can be too hot for flowering plants? Can you recommend something?

A: Full sun gardens have a strong, bright look while shade gardens have cooler, subdued appearance. Both types of gardens are fun to design and maintain as long as you pick the right plants.
Full Sun Garden is the easiest to grow. Depending on exposure, it may require some plants that can tolerate the hottest summer days and the dry conditions in your area. The good news is, the majority of tropical and subtropical plants prefer full sun, so you have a large selection to pick from - fruit trees, flowering trees, shrubs, vines, and small perennials. The more sun, the more flowers and fruit you will get! However, keep in mind that sun gardens require more water, but generous mulching will help to minimize watering.
Shade Garden is much more restful in appearance, but sometimes may be a little more difficult to work with. As shade trees grow bigger and thicker, it may become too dark; nothing will grow in total darkness. In this case you need to prune back some branches to let more light in. Filtered sunlight or dappled light coming through the leaves of the trees is beneficial and considered light shade, which would be the best light conditions for shade loving plants to thrive. Although shady cooler spaces attract more insects and will require more attention to control them, they also have some advantages over sun gardens. You can enjoy working in cooler conditions, and your garden will require less water. Many foliage plants look more deeply colored and healthier than in full sun; white flowers shine instead of looking washed out!
Our favorite shade plants are fragrant brunfelsias , clerodendrums, and of course colorful gingers and heliconias. You may also consider ornamental foliage of Calatheas, lush Alocasias, Colocasias, and colorful Cordylines. Check out our shade loving plant list for more colorful suggestions. These are also great for indoor gardens!

On the photo: Calathea lancifolia Rattlesnake



Spring is coming, plants need food! Time to fertilize...

Last winter was long and snowy in the most part of our country. Hold on fellow gardeners up North, it is almost over!
Here in Florida we have been blessed again with a mild winter without serious cold snaps. Early Spring that is already in the air. Look at this picture of flowers in our front yard now.
If the weather is already warm in your area (low temperatures above 55), it is time to start fertilizing. We are sending our love and support to tropical Puerto Rico suffered from hurricane last year, and will be happy to help you guys to restore your lost gardens!


what to do to give your garden a good kick start:

  1. Slow release granulated food. Apply Slow Release Fertilizer and continue once a month. 1 tsp per gallon of pot, or a handful for in-ground plants. This will provide essential macro elements (NPK) required for a plant growth.
  2. Water soluble micro-elements. Besides macro-elements, plants need many other elements that most of the time missing in soil. A lack of micro-elements causes different deficiencies, resulting in weak root systems, slow growth, deformed leaves, leaves yellowing, lack or no flowers/fruit. Apply these supplements as a foliar spray once a month to induce healthy growth and flower/fruit development. We recommend the following micro-element products to keep your plants healthy and vigorous year round:

a) SUNSHINE SuperFood - plant health booster. This revolutionary new liquid complex contains ALL microelements needed and can fix all possible problems occuring to your tropical plants - from roots to flowers and fruit. We have convenient dropper bottles of 5 ml for small plant collections, 50 ml for larger gardens, and 100 ml for professional landscape applications.
b) SUNSHINE-Micro - Microelement booster - for common iron deficiency (pale leaves)
c) SUNSHINE-Super-Iron - Microelement booster - for severe iron deficiency (severe yellowing leaves)

3. SUNSHINE plant boosters - SUNSHINE-E, -BC (caudex plants and bonsai), -H (house plants). Apply these natural plant stimulants to help plants recover from cold, dormancy, increase plant's metabolism and make a plant more readily absorb both Macro- and Micro-elements. SUNSHINE boosters also will help plants grow vigorously, withstand Summer heat and drought, and produce bigger and better flowers and fruit.

4. Kickstart a sweeter fruit. To get a better and sweeter crop in Summer and Fall, you need to start first application now. SUNSHINE Honey - is natural, Amber-colored, honey-like liquid microelement product for fruiting and edible plants that will make them sweeter, tastier and more flavorful! Very effective for tropical fruits, tubers, vegetables. Great for tropical fruit trees: Mango, June Plum, Annonas, Tropical Cherries, Carambola, Citrus; subtropical fruit trees: Peaches, Apricots, Loquat and berry plants (blackberry, mulberry, etc.)

5. SUNSHINE-S. Don't forget to plant seeds! It's a perfect timing now to start your tropical garden indoors even if it is still cold outside. Soak them in SUNSHINE-S solution to increase germination rate.

See full list of SUNSHINE boosters. All these products are essential plant elements. They are not toxic and can be used safely for edible landscapes.


How to keep your plants green

We continue experimenting with a new plant health booster SUNSHINE SuperFood. Couple weeks ago we grabbed a very sad looking jasmine with completely yellow leaves... It suffered from winter cool night temperatures plus some overwatering that caused weak roots and due to that - a number of deficiencies. The plant looked pretty hopeless as far as turning yellow leaves back to green. The best bet to revive it was to cut it short, remove old leaves and wait for new healthy growth... but we decided to try SuperFood. And it worked! Since the plant was almost hopeless, we put it in a far corner and forgot about it. Imagine the surprise when we looked again and it was green! See full plant photo of this jasmine.

Try SUNSHINE SuperFood on sick looking plants, especially with yellowing and/or deformed leaves. There are no miracles, but this one works a like a Miracle! All you need is a few drops of SUNSHINE SuperFood - item 6000!
Read more about SUNSHINE SuperFood...

Buy 5-ml bottle for only $4.95


Asian New Year started! Year of Down to Earth Dog...

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, started on February 16, 2018. It is the Year of the Yellow Dog, or the Earth Dog.

According to Chinese horoscope, in 2018, the corresponding element is Earth. Earth is also associated with the color yellow. The Year of the Earth Dog is therefore also known as the Year of the Yellow Dog. So what happens when you mix the Dog with the Earth Element?
The Dog is sincere, independent, and clever. Like man's best friend, they are extremely loyal and devoted and you can always count on them to stick by your side.
The Earth element, by its very nature, denotes origins and growth and is associated with practicality, harmony and hard work. The Earth seeks to nurture and be nurtured, it anchors you and provides stability.
A loyal and hard working Dog combined with the steady and sensible characteristics of Earth, heralds a secure, rewarding and profitable year. A year of blossoming, to achieve things, and to thrive. An Earth Dog combines the integrity and diligence of the dog with a very "down-to-earth" climate, perfect for longstanding projects requiring persistence and grit. Real estate is high in the agenda in the year of the Yellow Dog, whether you are contemplating any investments or purchasing a home, everything should align well for you this year.
The Year of the Dog follows an energetic and chaotic Year of the Rooster... An Earth Dog Year will welcome some much needed sense of harmony, peace and goodwill, a year of unity and understanding that will reward all of us for our hard work and diligence!
Lucky colors for 2018 are colors that symbolize the element Wood (green) and the element Water (blue). Just keep your plants green, and get some blue flowers!

For more information on Plant Astrology, see Plant Horoscope.



SUNSHINE-SuperFood for your plants health

We are getting very high interest from our customers to our new plant booster SUNSHINE-SuperFood as well as many questions. We continue experimenting with the Jasmine that you saw in our previous newsletter, that had pale yellow leaves and numerous deficiencies. Right now, after only 2 applications, it looks healthy green again. Click on the picture to zoom in and see leaves turning from yellow to green within less than a month. See also full plant photo of this jasmine.

Q: Is SUNSHINE-SuperFood a fertilizer?

A: Traditionally we call a fertilizer macro-elements (NPK - nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Technically, SUNSHINE-SuperFood is a complex of micro-elements that are essential for plant's health. It provides such elements as Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, Mo, S, and Amino-acids that our soils are usually poor of. These elements are responsible for proper development of leaves, roots, flowers, and overall plant vigor. Read more about role of these micro elements.

Q: Can I just get these additional elements in a dry form and add to soil like a fertilizer?

A: No. Some of these elements must present in extremely low concentrations (this is why they are called micro-). SUNSHINE-SuperFood is a liquid substance with very high bioavailability that has very complicated formula; it is not just a mix of the elements. The formula is developed with the maximum efficiency for a plant to absorb through leaves and a root system.

Q: Is it better to spray leaves or water the plant with the solution?

A: Foliar applications are always most efficient in regards of seeing a quick result. However, we recommend to also drench the root ball with SUNSHINE-SuperFood solution to deliver the necessary elements evenly to all parts of the plant through its natural metabolism.

Q: My gardenia looks very sad after winter - most leaves are yellow and some have pale spots. Should I use SUNSHINE-SuperFood more often and in higher concentrations?

A: We recommend to apply SUNSHINE-SuperFood once a month to maintain a general plant health. In difficult cases like with this jasmine on the photo, you can do twice a month. However do not exceed recommended concentration. The rule of thumb is, you can apply water soluble fertilizers and supplements more often, but with lower concentrations - this way a plant will be more responsive. Plant metabolism in general is rather slow, changes take days and weeks - don't try to speed it up. Your patience will be rewarded.

Try SUNSHINE SuperFood on sick looking plants, especially with leaves that are yellowing, deformed or have spots (see photos of different deficiencies). There are no miracles, but this one works like a Miracle! All you need is a few drops of SUNSHINE SuperFood - item 6000! We also have bottles 50 ml and 100 ml for large plant collections and yard/landscape applications. Read more about SUNSHINE SuperFood...


Growing tropicals from seeds.

From Kristi the Wizard of Rose: I grow many plants from seeds, both for my personal collection, and for TopTropicals. I receive many questions from customers who want to grow tropical plants from seeds. Some of them live in colder climates and try to extend growing season of their tropical collections by starting new varieties early in the year from seeds. These are a few tips that may be helpful.

Q: What do I need to do to speed up germination process?

A: Many factors affect germination. Considering you get fresh seeds (for example from TopTropicals) and Mother Nature gives them a good kick start, there are a few things that may speed up germination:

  1. Scarification. Large seeds with a hard outer shell can be slightly sanded down just enough for moisture to get inside to wake up the seed during the pre-soaking. Be careful not to damage the seed. See example of Lotus seed scarification.
  2. Pre-soaking. We recommend pre-soaking most of the seeds for only a few hours (3-8 depending on species. Some seeds are very sensitive to moisture and may start rotting if stay wet without air circulation. Small seeds, especially tiny ones like dust, should not be soaked.
  3. SUNSHINE-S treatment. Adding a few drops of SUNSHINE-S booster when pre-soaking seeds increases their germination rate 3-5 times.
  4. Temperature. Warm temperatures help germination. If grown indoors, put seeds containers or trays in the warmest spot of your house; you may use heat pads. Outdoors, putting them in full sun helps a lot, just don't let soil to dry out.

    Use only special porous seed germination mix to provide air circulation and prevent seeds from rotting.

    Q: Should I keep seeds in refrigerator before planting?

    A: Do not refrigerate tropical seeds. Stratification (treatment with cold) works only for temperate species, and some subtropical (like non-tropical Magnolias)

    Q: How do you grow eucalyptus from seeds? I tried a few times with no success.

    A: The secret of germinating tiny seeds like eucalyptus is - to sow them on top of the moist soil surface (soil must be very fine and soft), without covering. Keep container covered with clear plastic, in bright light. Use spray bottle to keep surface moist but not soggy. I have a customer who germinates eucalyptus seeds using an old fish tank, covered with a glass. Perfect environment - bright light and moist all the time.



Secrets of perfect mulch

Poor man's mulch... or natural solution? With warmer weather weeds started spreading around the garden... pulling, spraying, mulching them... that helps. Here are a few tips about natural mulch based on our own experience.

1) Do not rake dry leaves and pine needles, use them as natural mulch. A leaf is a part of a plant with the highest nitrogen content which is a major plant nutrient. After breaking down, leaves will work as a fertilizer. If you prefer to have a fancy mulch, put it on top of those leaves.

2) Do not dispose cut grass. Spread it around trees and shrubs. Hay is one of the best mulching materials. It has at least 2 exceptional benefits: a) after couple rains it becomes dense, creating perfect protection from sprouting weeds, and b) grass is actually also a leaf - so it had built up lots of nitrogen too, and works as a fertilizer.

3) Be careful with "bulk mulch" that sometimes offered by local tree service companies (usually for free). It often contains bugs, plant parts that are infested with bad insects, or simply fleas. Natural mulch from your own garden is always the best choice, proven organic and safe solution.

4) A few layers of newspaper (or even better - cardboard from your endless Amazon deliveries) placed underneath the mulch work as a great weed barrier and will make your mulching work results last 4-5 times longer. Water drains through them, and paper products are ecologically safe and biodegradable.



How to make a Mango tree bloom and fruit

Mango trees are especially beautiful during spring time when they flush out multi-color new leaves! But you want your mango be not only beautiful but fruitful as well. Here are some tips:

1) Fertilize Mango tree with a balanced slow release fertilizer starting March. Use 1 tsp of granulated fertilizer per 1 gal of soil, or a handful or two for an in-ground tree. You may add one application of foliar spray of a water-soluble bloom booster fertilizer (the one for Roses or Azaleas will work). This will give your tree a good macro-nutrient kick-start.

2) Spray entire tree with SUNSHINE-Superfood solution. This will provide all necessary micro-elements and keep the plant healthy and strong throughout the season. Repeat treatment once a month until harvest time.

3) For sweeter fruit, apply SUNSHINE-Honey solution several times:
- early spring before flowering
- at setting buds
- right at the beginning of setting fruit
- after harvesting, to provide the tree with all good micro-nutrients before resting season.



What you need for successful growing Adeniums

1) Adenium plants - from TopTropicals Endless selection of Adeniums. We have double flower, red, purple, yellow and even black flowers!
2) A small pot with excellent drainage is a must. Position the plant in a pot, size of root system.
3) Adenium soil mix. TopTropicals Adenium Soilless Mix. Use only well-drained soil.
4) Lots of light. Adeniums need lots of light for heavy flowering. However from our own experience, in super hot climates, they look healthier in filtered bright light. After initial planting, once the plant is established and starts growing new leaves (may take a few weeks), gradually move it into brighter light.
5) Little water. Adeniums like a neutral to hard water. Acidic water tends to sour the soil too fast and may cause root rot. Water plants preferably in the early morning, and allow them to drink up throughout the day. Watering can be done daily to every few days. Do not water again until soil dries on surface. Never allow your plants to sit in a saucer of water, but don't let them to dry out too often - this causes adeniums to go into early dormancy. Adeniums do not like both over-watering or drying-out.
6) Fertilizer. To make your plant develop a large swollen base/trunk, you'll need a good quality fertilizer. Use slow-release granulated fertilizer for overall plant health, and liquid water soluble fertilizer for swelling up trunks that is also used to increase flowering. It shouldn't be too high in nitrogen, the middle number should be the highest (similar to 10-50-10). Never apply fertilizer directly on roots and do not liquid feed when a plant is thirsty: always water first slightly to avoid root burn and leaf drop. Do not wet leaves.
7) SuperFood micro-elements. Besides macro-nutrients provided by fertilizer, Adenium needs micro-elements for balanced development of root system and especially caudex: Sunshine-SuperFood.
8) SUNSHINE-BC. Spray leaves with SUNSHINE-BC once a month to encourage young growth, profuse flowering and large caudex.
9) Growing caudex. There is a secret how to create a large swollen caudex: raise the plant a bit every time you re-pot it, so that the upper part of roots will be a little exposed. The plant will form more roots that will go down.

See full list of Adeniums - plants and seeds.



Avocado, Lychee and Mango setting fruit... give them some FOOD!

Q: Do I need to fertilize tropical fruit when they set fruit?

A: It is traditionally believed that mango and other tropical fruit shouldn't be fertilized during fruiting period. It is true to an extent: you don't want fruit to burst from fast excessive growing. Instead, try to feed fruit trees wisely, because they still need proper nutrition to produce flowers and fruit.
Our spring specials of Lychee, Avocado and Mango are full of buds and some already set tiny fruit (see examples on the photo). Here is the feeding plan for these plants once you receive your mail order:

  1. Once received the plant, pot it into container size of the root ball and let establish for couple weeks. Use SUNSHINE-E to help the plant recover from shipping stress and establish root system.
  2. Apply SUNSHINE-Honey right before flowering, and next time at setting fruit, to provide sweeter and bigger fruit, eliminate fruit cracks and help resist fungus and other fruit diseases.
  3. Use balanced granulated fertilizer, 1 tsp per each gallon of soil. Apply once a month during Spring-Summer season. This gives the plant balanced macro-elements (NPK) necessary for overall plant health. Do not use on fruit trees fertilizers with high Nitrogen content.
  4. Apply SUNSHINE SuperFood micro-element booster to keep fruit trees vigorous, develop strong root system and avoid deficiencies.
  5. In case of signs of chlorosis (yellowing leaves with darker veins), give the tree SUNSHINE-GreenLeaf and watch the leaves turning green quickly.

After harvesting, don't forget to make another treatment of SUNSHINE-Honey as a preparation for the next year flowering and fruiting season.