For a Wall of Flowers, Use Mandevilla Tropical Plants in Container Gardens

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Mandevillas are amazing flowering tropical plants for full sun locations in the summer in container gardens and planters, and I always enjoyed looking at them, but for some reason, I didn’t plant them very much at my own home location, until a couple years ago, when a clients’ needs to cover a wall with flowers lead me to paying attention more to mandevillas.

Perfect for walls, trellises, arbors and more…

If you have an area to grow a beautiful flowering plant upwards, such as a wall, trellis, lamp post, arbor, stair railing, fence, mailbox, or in a pot with a support trellis, these plants are perfect candidates. In Connecticut, mandevillas will bloom profusely on upward growing vines with big dark greens leaves when provided enough sun and heat, and appropriate growing conditions. They work very well in containers, planters, patio pots, and don’t even require super huge pots to thrive.

Mandevilla at a Client’s Home

Above is an example of a wall located below an upper deck. The white blooming mandevilla vines were very lush and full, growing from a planter about 24″ diameter and just as deep. It was facing the sun most of the day, and it looked absolutely fabulous, reaching the top of their deck that year. These plants will twine fairly quickly onto supports with many funnel formed flowers opening over the course of the summer to fall season in Connecticut. They must be taken in before fall frosts or overwintered immediately after being touched by frost. See my “Overwintering” posts for more information on that aspect.

Cathy Testa with two Mandevillas at her home in Broad Brook

In the next photo, here I am in between two plants in blue pots at my home. The base plants (serving as fillers) are Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Queen’ (annuals in CT). I put really tall trellises in each pot along this wrought iron fence, which is on the driveway where the plants got full sun all day and my watering hose was easily accessed. You will see they were growing taller than me and if the trellises were higher, they would keep growing up and up and up.

In a Pot Growing Up a Staircase Railing

And I wanted to grow one up my stair case railing to reach the overhead arch, it almost made it to the top. It helps to use garden twine to guide it along and give the vines something to reach and attach to as it twines up. The purple pot below used for it is probably about 2 feet deep, but you may grow these plants in even smaller pots. More on that later.

Side View on the Driveway
Cathy Testa standing in front of a Wall Planted with Mandevilla Plants

And here is a photo of me with the mask on, primarily because I wanted to show the timing of this photo, of a wall I just planted. It wouldn’t be long for the plants to produce more blooms. It does help if you start with taller plants if you are looking to gain the affect of covering up something like the wall in this city photo. They will grow as high as the support system they can attach to. If I had a higher wall here, it would keep growing up all summer. They don’t grow as fast as morning glories, as an example. The growing pace is moderate, so if you want to get one to really show off, get the taller specimens to start with. They may be a pricy but so worth the display and enjoyment you will get by using one or more in your outdoors spaces.

Reaching for the Heavens
Gorgeous Pink Blooms against dense foliage
Stunning Against Blue Skies!

Moderate climbers that keep on growing up…

Mandevilla vines will reach to the heavens, if you allow them to – they seem to never stop wanting to reach up into the skies. If you are able to acquire taller specimens to begin with, it is worth it in my book. They come in white, pinks, and reds for bloom colors. I haven’t grown the red ones yet, maybe this year will be the year.

Funnel Shaped Flowers
Masses of Pink Blooms

Inspecting the leaves

Some of the varieties have glossier leaves than others. The leaves on the white blooming one, in my photos, were about 4-6″ long. A good tip is to inspect the foliage when you are looking for one during out Connecticut container gardening growing season, and although you might experienced a stressed leaf or two based on when they arrived in Connecticut (cause most of them are shipped here from warmer states), they usually bounce back quickly when potted up and provided the right soil environment and sunny conditions in your planters. It is not to say they don’t suffer some minor issues, but a good tip, again, is to inspect your plants. See a healthy tall one – don’t hesitate to grab it.

Now that is a HEALTHY A** LEAF!

Sometimes I admire foliage of plants more than flowers, especially when they look almost perfect. Not always achievable because we are not plant Gods, but the leaves on this plant that year, wow, so shiny and healthy. To achieve good results, be sure to have well draining soil, use pots with drain holes (see my 5-Must Do’s for Container Gardening), and inspect the plant from time to time. Sometimes, during inspections, I may discover nice insect visitors, like bees, lady bugs, butterflies, and moths.

A very WELCOMED visitor – Lady Bugs are great for eating any bad bugs!
Bumble Bee Heading in for a Landing
Bee Deep in the Tunnel Funnel

Moth – Awakening from His Night Visit

Not damaged by serious pests, but bothered if conditions are not right…

So far, I have not encountered serious pest (bag bug) problems on mandevilla plants, but I do think they don’t like “inappropriate environmental stress” and things like too cold of temps, or too much wind, or neglect from not watering regularly. Those aspects will weaken them, and you should also avoid areas with high salt (maybe road side). Do not plant them in containers or your patio pots in Connecticut outdoors till well after all chances of spring frosts. So, you would plant them around the same time as you put out your warm season vegetables, like tomato plants.

Heat, sun, and well-draining soils…

The plants want heat and sun, well-draining soils, and appropriate watering. These are tropical vining plants and they don’t like the cold, so remember that on your timing in spring time. They want warmer temps at night so even if the an early spring day feels okay, the cold temps at night are not good for them in early spring before frosts. Also, for more blooms, get some bloom booster liquid or water soluble fertilizer and fertilize a couple times a month in the summer after the plants are established if you feel there are not enough blooms being produced on your plant. It is a good idea, like most tropical plants or plants indoors over the winter, to acclimate them to outdoor summer conditions.

Acclimating a Stock on My Driveway
The In and Out Year

One year, I had to pick up my mandevillas orders earlier than normal, so I literally moved them in and out of my greenhouse during the later part of April into mid-May before planting them at a location. I didn’t want to subject the plants to cold temperatures of the evenings, but I also wanted to give them natural sunlight during the days (on good early spring days). It was a “Mandevilla Workout!” As noted above, do not plant them until around Memorial Day in our area of Connecticut (Zone 6b). They are from areas of warmth, sunshine, and moisture – so remember these 3 environmental conditions for your mandevilla plants. If temperatures drop or if you put them out too early, your plant will experience stress, leaf drop, and potential diseases later, so be sure to protect them from the cold in early spring before frosts if you pick any up early in the container gardening season in Connecticut. An occasional drop in temps in the summer is fine however if we get some freak cold (like we did last year in 2021 on Memorial Day weekend!), they should bounce back from the heat of summer, which mine did that year.

Pretty with the Ornamental Grass nearby

Of course, you may plant them into the ground but I typically do not do that. In this photo above, the pink mandevilla is in a pot below my driveway climbing up and an ornamental grass is in the background, which I thought looked lovely together as a combination.

Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

As you can see, mandevillas make me happy. I love planting them and watching them grow all summer long. They turned into a plant I barely gave a second glance to, to one I can’t stop admiring now. I hope you will admire them too.

Pots don’t have to be really big…

And I noted you really don’t need big pots. Sources will say keeping them in smaller pots will force the plant into growing the top part of the plant more rather than focusing on growing roots for Mandevilla. In my experiences, I’ve done both, repotting into a 22″-24″ diameter planter or inserted the nursery pots into a larger planter, but be sure to allow draining in either scenario from the base of the pots. And the soil is best on a organic side. I have amended the soil with aged compost in pots with potting mix. I tend to space them right next to each other when creating walls in big planters. However, in gardens, it is recommended to space them apart by 8″. Probably the best maintenance tip is to water them regularly and not let them dry out too much. They have thick chunky root systems, so if the pots is smaller, you may see the nursery growing pot expand as the roots are trying to move around, pushing against the sides. In those cases, I’ve used a razor knife to cut the pot off the root base before planting them.

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6b
All photos are taken by Cathy Testa
See also:
www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
P.S. I plan to get more mandevillas this year, if local, e-me!

My Aqua Blue Planter

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When I saw a planter box with a trellis advertised as homemade by a nearby carpenter, I ordered one up for delivery right away. The carpenter goes by the name of Harold’s Woodworking. They are on Facebook under that name and their logo is an owl. If you are local to my area (Broad Brook, CT) and decide to contact them, please tell them Cathy T sent ya’s. Ask for Jen. She was very helpful throughout the process of building it and delivering right to my driveway.

Because my husband said it is best to let pressure treated wood dry out before staining, I planted it first, and stained it later.

Staining it turned out to be tricky, of course, with plants in there, but I managed to get the job done by using light weight plastic over the plants while I stained. At times, I also used a large piece of poster board to protect plants. It was a messy job but I got it done!

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Here it is with the plants identified. And this photo was taken about 3 weeks ago so the Canna Lily plants (#1) are much taller at this time, and the moon flower vine (#8) is growing much more and clinging onto the trellis now.

Moon Flower (#8)

The moon flower is one I grew from seed. It will produce fragrant, huge white blooms. The flowers open from dusk to dawn in late summer to early fall. The vine can grow up to 8 to 12 feet tall. Planting it near my bedroom entrance door will give me a show later this season. By the way, moon flowers have hard coated seeds so you must soak or nick them with a nail file or other tool before sowing them. I direct sowed 3 seeds in this planter along the back wall. This plant also requires a long growing season so hopefully I did not sow them too late as I can’t wait to see blooms at the end of our summer season.

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Gomphrena pulchella (#5)

The #5 plant with round pom-pom like flowers is one I am very happy I picked up from a local nursery. It has very sturdy stems and stays upright. I have not seen any damage or flower drop from these. As noted, they do not require deadheading. I cut a few to put in a vase and they hold up very nicely in vases too. So far, I have only seen small white butterflies visiting these blooms as well as tiny flying insects visiting the blooms to get their nectar. It is giving it a wonderful display of color at just the right height.

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#6 Salvia ‘Rockin Fuchsia’

I purposely selected this annual because of their fluted flowers to attract hummingbirds and because of their purple color. They have not disappointed in either. The hummingbirds swing by to visit them from time to time and the plant is as sturdy as the other annual in the planter. It is hard to see them in the first photo, but they are tucked to the right and left of #5. I love how the dark purple flowers look with the lighter pink colors of the Gomphrena annual next to it.

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#3 Upright Jumbo Alocasia

I planted two of these on the left and right sides of the planter. Because this bulb was a bit smaller than my others, they are on the small side but I am sure by the end of summer, these will be dramatic. I’m in love with the upright type of elephant ears now. The foliage is almost rubbery and shiny. They just seem to stay beautiful all summer long. A new leaf pushes out every few weeks or so and it is like they are performing a dance for me to witness over time. They will be half the height of the Canna Lily plants in a few weeks and add a dramatic shape to the arrangement.

Slide5

Comanche Moon Art

The hanging art, referred to as Comanche Moon, by its creator was an item I purchased many years ago. I had it hanging in my greenhouse and now I realize I wasn’t capitalizing on it’s beauty in the greenhouse. The sun glimmers thru it at times on the lattice part of this planter, and it makes it glow. It is so pretty against the blue aqua color as well because of its orange colors. I selected orange because it reminded me of the mountains of Sedona, Arizona from when we visited there. The artist had many colors to choose from and it was a difficult choice at that time. His website is noted above in the photo. Upon contacting him recently, he said he no longer makes these but check out his other wonderful art pieces. Really stunning and of high quality.

Other Plants

And, I have Portulaca annual tucked in the far left and right corners in the front as well as some tiny petunias in the center. I wanted color and I achieved it! Because I’m a huge fan of foliage over flowers, I thought this year, you know, I really need some color in my containers. This prompted the whole scene of the aqua blue stain to the colorful purple, pinks, soft lavenders in this planter. And ironically, the ruby darker foliage color of the Canna Lily plants picks up the dark tones of the Comanche moon hanging art in the center.

Prior Planting Set-up

As far as the setup prior to planting, we put some blocks of wood below the planter so it would be elevated a bit to allow for drainage and air circulation below and to help protect the wood of our deck floor.

Additionally, I inserted two large fabric grow bags (40 gallon sizes) in the planter to serve as a liner and put foam below the grow bags. Quality potting mix and some compost was added along with slow release fertilizer.

The planter is on the east end of my deck so as the sun rises, it hits the Comanche Moon just right in the mornings. I can see the planter also from the far west end of my deck. I am enjoying is so much. It gave me the color I was looking for.

I will post more photos later in the season to show the progress of the plants. At least that is my game plan.

Have a great day,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
“I plant all in patio pots, container gardens, and planters of all sizes!”

Other websites:

http://www.WORKSHOPCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT. com