February 2018

Tropicals at their peak in the Hoosier Garden

Pineapple lily gets its name because the flower resembles the fruit. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Tropical plants cast just the right spell that gardeners need to weather the dog days of summer.

By August, plants that thrive in the tropics are reaching their seasonal peak — the cannas and pineapple lilies are blooming, banana leaves seem to unfurl daily and then there are the surprises.

This year, the surprise is the orange fruit on Duranta erecta ‘Sapphire Showers’. A local garden center has been carrying this plant for years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen it bear fruit.

Native through the West Indies and into Brazil, this woody shrub is considered a broadleaf evergreen. It reaches 25 feet tall and wide in its natural habitat, where it fruits in fall. I’m guessing the cooler than normal spring and summer temps triggered duranta’s fruiting mechanism.

Sometimes called pigeon berry, golden dewdrop or sky flower, ‘Sapphire Blue’ stays in the 4-foot range in colder climates, where its growing season is cut short by temperatures below 25 degrees. Duranta can be moved indoors to a sunny window for winter.

Sapphire Showers duranta. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

‘Sapphire Showers’ has long, arched branches laden with clusters of white-edged, violet-blue flowers, which attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Grow it in a pot with high quality potting mix and drainage. Use duranta as a focal in the landscape, patio or flower bed in full sun. Allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings.

Certainly as showy as the flowers are the grape-size orange berries, called golden dewdrops. Be cautious. The fruit and foliage is considered poisonous to humans and pets.

The unusual pineapple lily (Eucomis) does well in full sun to part shade. Purchase bulbs at garden centers in spring, or from online or mail order bulb merchants. I grow mine in a container, which I move to the basement to winter over in its dormant phase. The common name comes from the pineapple-like flowers.


Sapphire Showers duranta fruit. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

‘South Pacific Scarlet’ canna, a 2013 All-America Selections, adds striking architecture, form and texture. It goes from seed to 24 inches tall in the growing season. Grow in full sun to part shade. You can see this plant at the Marion County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The garden, which is filled with All-America Selections plants, is on the north end of the fairgrounds near the Department of Natural Resources buildings.

South Pacific Scarlet canna. Photo courtesy


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