A Mandevilla Tradition

A Mandevilla Tradition

Tropical mandevilla grows happily in Midwestern summers, reminding me of home.  
There’s a sweet story about a famous yellow rose, called ‘Harison’s Yellow’, that early pioneers from the East coast traveling West carried with them to plant where they settled; it helped remind them of home.

That’s what mandevilla is for me. My husband, Doug, and I split our year between north Florida and southern Iowa. Pretty much we follow gardening weather. Needless to say, we are in Florida in the winter and Iowa in the summer. The first thing we do after we unpack from our pilgrimage north in June is to plant a little piece of our Florida home on our Iowa deck: a mandevilla.

If you look at the latitude of Iowa on a map, you can see it isn’t the tropics. Not by far. But when July’s heat and humidity crank up, it’s hard to tell the difference between Brazil or Mexico, where mandevillas are native, and southern Iowa, where they happy summer vacationers. 

Mandevilla has been readily available in decidedly non-tropical places for many years. It’s become one of the darlings of summer containers because of how well it excels in hot, humid weather. It comes in bush and climbing forms, but best of all, it blooms nonstop.

This tropical beauty doesn’t blink an eye when we pull it out of the car, repot it into a larger container along with some petunias to spill over the side, and set it on the deck. There’s an instant-gratification reason for planting mandevilla. On our late spring deck, it says Instant Summer. Mandevilla is stunningly beautiful, with glossy green leaves with big trumpet-shape blooms; it’s in flower at the garden centers when you buy them and stays blooming until frost. Colors include red, crimson, pink, and white. We admire how our mandevilla spreads across our deck rail all summer: a little memory of our Florida home.

Mandevilla will over winter outdoors in zone 10. For instant impact on your deck and patio, check out these mandevilla and tropical hisbiscus selections.

PS: ‘Harison’s Yellow’ rose still blooms as a feral reminder of past gardeners who settled along the Oregon Trail.

Written by Karen Weir-Jimerson