Ah summer. By now, the thermostat is flirting with triple digits. The bugs have come out of their winter hiding places to devour large swaths of helpless vegetation before disappearing unseen into the foliage to plot their next nefarious scheme. Plants that were once healthy, green specimens are starting to go brown around the edges despite frustrated gardeners’ best efforts. The flowers in particular have gone from wearing their glorious spring colors to donning hues which leave no question in anyone’s mind that they’re bound for the compost heap. However, those living in warmer environments don’t have to give up their plans for having leafy green plants and colorful blossoms during the hottest months of the year. All they have to do is get a mandevilla for their yard instead of trying to coax the ubiquitous pansies and snapdragons into surviving yet another month.
Although these species are native to parts of Central and South America, mandevillas were named after a British fellow. Fortunately, modern gardeners don’t have to scour the globe for these tropical vines as they are readily available at most garden centers. Mandevilla generally comes in shades of pink or red. White and yellow varieties are also available but are nowhere near as commonly found in garden centers. In fact, I’ve never seen one that was completely yellow in person, only ones with yellow centers, but the almighty Google Image Search assures me that these specimens do actually exist.
Mandevilla prices start at around $4 for a very small one. This option has only been available in recent years and typically there’s not a color choice. Last year, I was stuck with the option of buying a cheap, red flowering plant or paying $9 more for the pink ones. Medium sized plants run about $10 to $15. These often come with a flimsy wooden trellis that will have to be replaced in short order because mandevillas just aren’t the sort of plant that can happily make do with a tomato cage for support. They need a decent trellis from the get-go.
While obviously not all plant species follow the main rules of their genus, my experience with mandevillas is that they do best in partially sunny conditions. A little bit of shade in the morning or evening will keep them from looking fried. They also benefit from regular watering, daily if they’re in containers, but they should be okay if you forget and miss an occasional day here or there. I also have one of those decorative/functional water globe things in the container with my mandevilla and it does a pretty good job of keeping the soil in the container moist if I’ve forgotten to water the plant. After all, a quick perusal of the Dave’s Garden website points out the fact that some mandevilla species don’t particularly care for dry dirt.
Common Pests & Problems
Wikipedia says that these plants may occasionally have mealybug or scale problems. I haven’t observed either pest on any of the specimens I’ve grown throughout the years, but I did manage to accidentally purchase a mandevilla that had a severe aphid infestation one year. Of course, the obvious lesson here is to be sure to check over any plants you want to buy before you take them home, but isolation from the other plants in my yard and repeated applications of organic bug spray eventually cleared up the problem. While mandevillas can naturally suffer from the occasional pest attack like any other plant, they’re definitely not a pest magnet in the way that some plants certainly are. (Lemon verbena, I’m looking at you!)
Other Info on How to Grow Mandevilla
When planted in the ground in warmer areas, these plants will often make a return appearance the following year, provided that the winters don’t get too cold. Container grown specimens should be brought indoors when things start getting chilly outdoors to keep them from being exposed to unhealthy temperatures. If you are growing these plants in containers, you’re typically going to have to clip them free of whatever surface they’re clinging to in order to bring them indoors unless the object in question can also be brought inside for the winter. Mandevillas have a cold tolerance threshold that is right around the freezing point so, if you wait for them to go dormant to extract them from whatever they’re holding onto, you may end up with a dead plant. I know this from sad, personal experience. However, mandevillas tend to come back more often than not, saving gardeners the expense of replacing them on an annual basis. So why not add one of these colorful plants to your own garden this summer?