Tierra Fria Gardens

In Latin America higher elevation areas are often call tierra fria or cold country. Our finca is located at the about the lower edge of this zone. The climate there is cool but hardly cold.


On the bus ride back to Medellin today I made a quick list of familiar plants in peoples gardens. The plants recorded were all from an elevation range of about 2400 meters to about 2600 meters. Being from Southern California many are old friends from home. Some of these like Thunbergia alata are almost weedy in this habitat. Several of the names in the list are linked to the Google Image search for the plant.  What I wrote down follows:


Acanthus mollis



Azaleas, Sun



  • Tuberous Root
  • Red Dragon



Calla Lily

Calla lilies are one of the most frequently seen flowers in the area. They are grown both in gardens and in commercial floriculture. Many small farmers include beds of callas as a cash crop. It is common to see a person walking along the road with large bunches of perfect callas on their way to market them. The most usual type is the standard white form but yellow callas also are fairly common. People here are just starting to grow the newer varieties.

Cobaea scandens

I have seen this vine in a couple of gardens along the main roads and I suspect that it is widely planted. It does well in this cool climate.


  • Shasta
  • Yellow


Daylilies are frequently planted but very few of the newer improved strains are available. Most of those seen are the old fashioned orange type and a few of the older orange and maroon varieties. These plants do fairly well here and it is possible that some of the more modern improved types would prosper. I would love to import some and test grow them.  Daylilies seem to bloom more in the lower elevation gardens of Medellin.

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry or Sauco)

This is a native shrub which is used both as an ornamental and for medicinal purposes. Its white flower clusters are attractive. As medicine it is used as an expectorant and for coughs. It is common in gardens here.

Fuchsia (Bailarinas)

  • boliviana
  • Hybrids
  • unidentified looks like a species

Fuchsia is very well adapted to the cool damp conditions prevailing around Santa Elena. Locally they are called bailarinas or dancing girls. It seems that they were out-of-fashion for many years but are making a come back. In this area there is no reason to shun these plants as they will grow and flower even in very poor soils. Of course a good bed with plenty of humus and regular feeding brings out their best qualities. It is obvious that some folks in the area understand this and handle these plants to near their maximum potential.


Impatiens (almost bushy with large lavender-pink flower)


  • Florists
  • Ivy


Sedum morganianum (Burro Tail)

Streptosolen jamesonii (Marmalade Bush)

Marmalade bush is used a lot for hedges and on occasion as an accent plant. It is very well adapted to the local climate but does not appear to be invasive.

Platycerium Staghorn Ferns

Thunbergia alata (Black-eyed Susan Vine)

Thunbergia alata is a vigorous grower in the Santa Elena area. It becomes naturalized or invasive in some situations. The bright orange flowers are seen everywhere and their warmth is welcome in this often cloudy, cool climate.



  1. pbunch said,

    September 4, 2009 at 04:59

    Very true. Few of the strictly lowland species will even grow at the finca. Some will survive for a long time but they just sit there and eventually parish.

  2. islaverde said,

    September 4, 2009 at 02:37

    2000m is nice but may be a tad too cold for some ultra tropicals. For me, I would love to live at an elevation of between 1200-1600m which would have a temp range of 15-27C.

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