Tropical Gardening

Gardening in the tropics at about 1600 meters is a real pleasure. The range of plant material that does well here is extensive. Managing the soils can be tricky but with a lot of organic matter and a little work they provide excellent growth, flowers and produce. As things move along I will expand this area.

Bedding Plants and Ground Covers

There are many bedding plants available in the nurseries. Below you will find an expanding list of those I see. I am linking to sites that have information on some that may be less well known outside of the tropics.

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavendar’

This is a great plant for our climate. It grows vigorously, blooms heavily and is becoming widely available.

23/08/2009 I made some cuttings of this Plectranthus about two weeks ago. They are now rooting out nicely. I used Rootone but I suspect this is not necessary.

Obconica Primroses

These are best at higher elevations. Medellin is a bit warm for them but people can’t resist the plants when in bloom.


Also better at higher elevations.


A fantastic gesneriad that is used mostly in shady borders here although I have seen one planting in full sun.

Red Salvia




These are very popular particularly in better off neighborhoods like Conquistadores.


I have seen Syngonium used as a ground cover in several landscapes. Just be careful to keep it out of the trees or it loses the juvenile foliage characteristics that make it attractive.

Arachis pintoi ‘Golden Glory’

This ground cover is becoming very popular in Medellin. It is tough, tolerant of sun or partial shade and grows rapidly.

Accent Plants

Colocasia Black Magic

This attractive aroid with large strong purple leaves is very popular in Medellin, mostly seen in middle and higher income neighborhoods. It can generally be bought at the Botanical Gardens nursery as well as commercial nurseries around town.  It seems to be tolerant of a wide range of soils and likes plenty of water. It also may be used in wet situations such as bog gardens. We are trying one up in the Santa Elena area (2400 meters) to see how well it grows in a cool climate. Nubia says she has seen it planted there but I’ll believe it when ours grows and prospers 😉 I planted an offset in the parking strip in front of the house here in town. Within a week someone decide they needed it more than we do. There is now a small hole in the planting begging for a replacement.  A neighbor had warned me about such folks…



  1. michael said,

    August 28, 2009 at 20:33

    Phil , the black Colocasia will grow easily up in your highland garden .
    I used to grow it when I lived in the sub-tropics and have a mate who grows and breeds them in Louisville, Kentucky ! A far from tropical place . There are some spectacular endemic Anthurium spp. from the Choco area in Columbia , and no doubt other highland areas ..

    • pbunch said,

      August 28, 2009 at 20:51

      Michael: Thanks for the input. We planted one out a couple of weeks ago. I’m going up tomorrow to take a look and doing some weed whacking.

      I’m going to be doing a project in the Choco and hope to have some time to do some plant hunting.

    • pbunch said,

      October 2, 2009 at 14:19

      That Colocasia I planted out has started to grow although fairly slowly compared to its growth rate in Medellin. I think it will be fine until we get some hail 🙂 No real problem as it can produce fresh leaves rather quickly once it grows a bit more.

  2. islaverde said,

    August 19, 2009 at 21:29

    1600m elevation in the tropics is pretty much the most ideal growing climate for me! Plants are not necessarily stressed by excessive heat nor cold.

    • pbunch said,

      August 20, 2009 at 13:25

      This climate is great both for plants and people. There are a few things like that need either more or less heat to do well but I have not seen a lot so far.

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