Plant profile: Caricature plant 

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Charictichure plnt

A recent visit to Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach introduced me to a few “new” plants. Because I visited on a Monday (the garden’s Nursery Guild plant sales section are open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Fridays) I was able to buy my one of my favorites seen there, caricature plant (Graptophyllum dictum), often commonly called Jamaican croton. I especially like that this colorful tropical is good for the shade where crotons ordinarily would struggle.

This plant also does well in full sun. In both situations it lends a delicate dance of color and contrast with splashes of pink on green with deeper-colored stems. There are other cultivars with slightly different shades. This tropical specimen is a native of New Guinea and is in the family: AcanthaceaeCaricature plant is recommended for Zones 10-11, although with research I found that roots can survive down to 25 degrees. And it blooms with four-inch long red or purple inflorescences on this evergreen shrub which grows two to eight- feet tall, with a two to five-foot spread. It displays glossy, leathery, elliptic leaves, up to six inches long. Keep soil uniformly moist. As an extra bonus, softwood stem cuttings will root in water. A good thing, because this is another of those plants that you will want to share with your gardening friends.

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Plant profile: Brazilian cloak

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Brazilian cloak

Whenever I invite someone into my garden to take a peek at the Brazilian cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys), their usual response upon spying the brilliant one to two-foot tall spikes of blooms is to drop their jaw in absolute awe. I can’t help but do the same whenever my eyes land on this stunning specimen. Hummingbirds seem to have the same reaction as well.

This showy tropical will remain in bloom, setting new blooms continually and retaining old blooms for months throughout the fall, winter and early spring. Topping out at about 15 to 20 feet, Brazilian cloak cannot be equalled in the tropical garden. Able to withstand temps down to the mid-20s, it could well be considered a good choice for subtropical gardens (Zone 9b) as well. Although I would be prepared to cover it or have it in a container that could be moved to a safe place in the event of a hard freeze.

Adequate moisture and a rich growing medium are a must to keep the big, textured leaves green. Also consider planting something at its “feet” to fill in the area below as Brazilian cloak can be a bit leggy. It can be propagated from cuttings, which is a good thing because once your friends and neighbors see this beauty, they’ll want to grow it too.