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Meet PeopleCats of TopTropicals. Fearless Mr Barcy, the Boss

Mr Barcy is the Boss. He owns the property, the street, the neighborhood, and the City of Ft Myers. Once he told us that he owns the whole State of Florida too but he won't go any further... for political reasons he preferred not to disclose.
Along with Chief, Mr Barcy is one of the oldest cats of TopTropicals.
His story is, some 10 years ago, he was sitting in Animal Control shelter in Sebring, FL with no one wanting to adopt him... His "time" expired and he was supposed to be put down on Friday... Someone sent us his picture in a shelter cage and... on Wednesday, we picked him up (along with a few other "scheduled" cats). Since then, Mr Barcy has been living with us, running the business, and being the smartest Purrrson we ever met.
As a Boss, Mr Barcy has his own GPS tracker - and he walks 3-4 miles every day (not bad for a senior purrson ah?) around his premises, keeping operations under control, and himself in great shape.
In his leisure time, Mr Barcy prefers mice- and snake- hunting, keeping the neighborhood safe and monitored. He can walk a human without using a leash, and his tail is ALWAYS up!

Check out Video: Meet PeopleCats of TopTropicals and more Cat of the Day stories.

Mr Barcy planning his business day

Don't interrupt my snake-snacking!


Fragrant Gold Leaf Orchid Vine

By Onika Amell, tropical plant specialist

Q: I am absolutely thrilled to see you have this vine. I've tried for years to get this plant! It is so, so rare. It just seemed impossible to find in this country. How do I make it thrive? I am ordering two.

A: We are happy to confirm that indeed we do have this rare vine!
Bauhinia aureifolia - Gold Leaf Orchid Vine - was discovered in Thailand in 1983. It is endemic to Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala in Southern Thailand. Danish botanist Kai Larsen named this plant and hailed it as one of the rarest plant species of the world when it was discovered in the eighties.
The Thai people call this vine Bai Mai Si Thong. It is a beautiful climber with large, bi-loped leaves (7 inches or more!) and good branching.
Young leaves are a stunning burnt orange to terracotta color for about a week and as they reach full size, they turn green over a couple of days. This is a very rare color for Bauhinia. It produces leaves all the time and this means this vine is always full of beautiful color. With its golden leaves, it sure is reminiscent of Autumn.
This vine blooms from May to November. It bears bunches of small flowers that are delicately fragrant in the evenings. The cultivated plants range flower color from pure white to purple and pink, while the wild ones have often white petals with pinkish patches.
Bauhinia aureifolia needs well-drained soil, full light and good humidity to thrive. It will tolerate a light freeze once established and it is very important to protect young plants.
Gold Leaf Orchid Vine also makes a wonderful container plant with staking or support. It is a must for every rare plant collection!

Pink N Good Daily Plant Food - Flower Booster
Tropical Allure - Smart-Release Booster


Meet PeopleCats of TopTropicals. Office Snitch

Snitch is an office employee. He is Kristi's personal assistance and he owns half of her desk (well, the middle half). He is helping answering customer calls and messages.

When you visit our Garden Center, be careful when you open the office door and step in - Snitch might be playing a Doormat!

Snitch dozed off after his office hard work

Inspecting the Grounds and Above with Dobi Duck

Snitch when he was young (2017)


Best tasting white guava

Q: What's your best tasting white guava?

A: Our favorite white Guava is Viet Nam variety that is also very rare and hard to find. The fruit is very large, up to 6" in diameter, the pulp is very sweet and somewhat crunchy. The seeds are small which makes it more pleasurable to eat out of hand.
Another great feature of this variety, it stays compact and branches do not get leggy, unlike most guavas. It can be easily grown in a container, trimmed to the desired size and it will produce fruit under proper care.

Another cool variety is Indonesian, it also has a large round fruit and very few seeds to compare with others.

And last but not least, if you prefer soft fruit to crunchy, the Peruvian variety is a great choice. The fruit is pear-shaped.

Remember to provide plant food for good production, especially if grown in a container.

Fruit Festival Plant Food - Super Crop Booster
Mango-Food - Smart Release Fruit Tree Booster
SUNSHINE C-Cibus - Crop Nutrition Booster


Meet PeopleCats of TopTropicals. Cat, Pet & Plant Community

Marco watching Dobi Duck; King & Marco with their Pet Frog

Barcy, Wesley and Coconuts at sweet liquor tasting

Anyone knows the name of this creature? He feeds on our Jasmines!


Using SUNSHINE Complete Nutrition System

For hydroponics and potted plants

Q: I recently bought both the 5ml of the sunshine epi and the 100 ml advanced nutrition kit. I read on the paper for the Epi not to use any other strong fertilizers along with this but I was wondering if it'd be alright to use both this foliar spray and nutrition watering together?

A: All solutions in SUNSHINE Booster Nutrition System (NPK-macro and micro-boosters) are compatible.
The only exception is Sunshine-Epi - brassinosteroid bio-stimulant. Epi should be mixed with distilled water separately from other boosters. The reason is, it is very bio-active, and if mixed with other compounds, oxidizes quickly which may affect its performance.

Sunshine-Epi solution must be prepared using distilled water and applied as foliar spray only (it only works on contact with leaves and not through the root system). Epi shows extremely impressive results when you apply it before the application of other nutrients because it increases plant metabolism; so all boosters become even more effective if you spray Epi the day before.

When using Micro- and Macro-boosters, you may mix all components in one watering can/tank (except for Epi), using regular tap water. Besides watering root ball, the macro-micro solution can be also used for foliar spray. It is optional, as in some circumstances growers prefer to keep leaves dry at all times: to stay away from mold, fungus and other issues caused by the wet environment.

Here is an example of Sunshine Boosters Nutrition System application:

  1. Daily watering in one can: NPK 25 ml/gal (one of 5, depending on growth stage) + Constanta 5 ml/gal + Ca-Support 5 ml/gal, mixed in tap water
  2. Every 2 weeks: spray Sunshine-Epi 2.5 ml/gal - to boost the immune system and growth rate, mixed in distilled water
  3. From daily to every 2 weeks: Sunshine-Power-Si 25 ml/gal to protect from diseases and keep pH at 5.5-6.5. Can be used as often as daily and mixed with a daily watering solution (1)
  4. As needed: Sunshine SuperFood and GreenLeaf - for correcting deficiencies. Can be also mixed with the daily solution (1)

    Make sure to prepare a solution right before use and do not store solution for more than 1 day. Keep concentrates and solutions protected from bright sunlight.

    Here is also advanced information on Sunshine Boosters compatibility.

    READ MORE >>>


Meet PeopleCats of TopTropicals. Cat of the Day: Ricki

The Smallest Cat

Ricki is a tiny little cat. He is already 3 y.o. but still feels shy because he always has been the smallest one... He arrived to TopTropicals as a little kitten, along with his 3 sisters, Charlie, Purry, and LadyBug, in a box. Ricki was the last kitten in the littler and almost half the size of other kittens! But his ears were the biggest. So he became a very Wise Puuurson who knows how to Listen.

Not only Ricki was the smallest, but he also was pretty sick when we first got him at the age of 4 weeks. He had a bad infection in both eyes and could hardly see anything... His 2 sisters got adopted by employees, but no one wanted to adopt poor Ricki... so he stayed at TopTropicals. Almost 2 weeks of therapy finally helped him to get all better. Now he is one of the cutest Little People!

Ricki has his own spot at the corner of a dinner table. He is not interested in stealing any food (unlike Wesley), he just wants to be involved in a dinner conversation...

Ricki likes treats and remains very shy, staying indoors. If you visit our Garden Center, you may bring him a small treat - his favorite "Temptations".

Wesley and Ricki at Dinner conversation

LadyBug, Purry, and Ricki, 2016.


NEEM - The Free Tree of India

By Onika Amell, tropical plant specialist

Q: What is Neem oil and tree, and and can we grow the Neem tree here in the US?

A: Neem! What an extraordinary, fascinating tree! I'm personally convinced every garden should have one, if your climate allows it. Neem tree - Azadirachta indica - will very quickly become a valuable shade tree in your garden. They can grow up to eight feet per year! Neem trees are also known to grow very well in areas with infertile soil and under very dry conditions, which makes them perfect for xeriscaping. Not only is Neem fast-growing, but it's a beautiful tree with wide-spreading branches and dark green leaves. It will form a dense, round canopy, up to 60 ft wide.

This wonderful tree has been used by humans for thousands of years. Did you know Neem has more than 100 unique bioactive compounds? Surprisingly, a lot of gardeners are still unfamiliar with it!..



Meet PeopleCats of TopTropicals. Cat of the Day: Chief

Shipping Department Supervisor

Chief is one of the oldest PeopleCats at TopTropicals. And of course the most experienced one. So he is in charge of the Shipping Department.
Chief likes to chill out in front of the nursery gate together with Marco, Lil S*t and Dobi Duck.
Chief doesn't like car rides to his vet and when it happens, he is very loud. The sound he makes is "Oy-yo-yo-yooooy!!!"
Chief likes milk. He has a white spot on his black face - from drinking so much milk! No matter how much milk we buy for him, there never seems to be enough. Chief even has a refrigerator for his milk. If you come to visit Chief at TopTropicals Garden Center, you may bring him a small bottle of fresh milk!
Thank you for your purrrrrrchase for Chief!


Fun of growing your own Pepper

By Onika Amell, tropical plant specialist

Q: Can you grow your own black pepper plants in the USA?

A: Who does not love the smell of freshly ground pepper, especially that lovely combination of white, green, black and red peppercorns, which are so much more interesting than just plain black corns. Yes, you can absolutely grow your own pepper! Peppercorns come from the plant Piper nigrum.

Growing Pepper Plant

Black pepper plants are actually vigorous vines, although they are pretty slow growing and can be kept in a pot as a compact plant. But they will need a strong support to climb over. Indoors, you can provide this support by installing a trellis in a large pot. Some gardeners prefer to grow them as a hanging plant instead. In warm climates, you can plant them directly outdoors in a protected location with partial shade. These plants need rich, moist, well-draining soil and warm, humid conditions. Peppers do not like temperatures below sixty degrees, although they can survive some cold spells. It is very important to bring these plants indoors or wrap them in a blanket if colder weather arrives.
If you live in colder parts of the country, you can certainly grow peppercorns in large pots. Grow them outdoors during the summer and move them indoors during the winter, or grow them year-round in your greenhouse. Houseplants will need bright light and consistent moisture. Spray the leaves regularly with a bottle of water to increase humidity. Do not allow room temperatures to fall below sixty degrees.
Besides the benefit of being able to grow your own gourmet pepper corns, the foliage, as well as the flowers on this plant, are beautiful in its own right. Off-white flowers appear from spring through summer, followed by slow fruit production. The berries will appear on spikes, with 50 to 60 berries per spike.

Fertilize this vine in the spring before new vigorous growth emerges. We recommend:
Tropical Greenhouse Plus - Plant Booster
Tropical Allure - Smart-Release Booster

You may be surprised to learn that black, white, green and red peppercorns are all the same seed on the same plant in the various stages of development and processing.

Black peppercorns are the most familiar and come from the corns that have reached their full size but are still green and not quite ripe. They are picked and allowed to dry in the sun. Enzymes in the berries cause the skin to turn black during the drying process. They are the strongest in flavor.

White peppercorns are the mature berries that ripen to a red color before being picked. After harvesting, they are soaked and rubbed free of the outer skin down to the smooth white underlayer, then dried and bleached by the sun. They are slightly milder than black pepper.

Green peppercorns are the unripe peppercorns picked at the same stage of ripeness as black peppercorns, but not allowed to dry. They can be pickled in vinegar or brine. They are the least pungent.

Red peppercorns are the mature, but unshelled version of the peppercorn. One can usually find them in some gourmet and health food stores. They can be quite expensive.

Ground pepper will only stay fresh for about three months, but peppercorns will last indefinitely. To make the most of your pepper harvest, store the peppercorns in an airtight container in a cool, dark location. Grind them immediately before use for the best flavor.
There is nothing like freshly ground black pepper simply combined with a good quality olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. This makes a wonderful dipping sauce for fresh bread. Simple, yet elegant. All the better if the pepper was grown in your very own garden!