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Mandevilla Yields Top Summerlong Color
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Many gardeners shop for plants that will bloom all summer right up until fall. That's a pretty tall order to fill considering our extreme summer climate, but there are several that will fill the bill.
Tropical plants offer us some of our best options for plants with five or six months of continuous bloom. At the top of that list has to be the hybrid Mandevilla Alice du Pont.
The Mandevilla is from Brazil, but at the garden center you will get the feeling it is one of the locals. It is related to the Allamanda vine with yellow, bell-shaped flowers and to plumeria, the flowers that leis are made out of in Hawaii.
Alice du Pont has large, pink, bell-shaped flowers produced on a vigorous vine. The dark, glossy leaves have a leathery feeling.
If you have seen a big, pink-flowered vine growing up a neighbor's mailbox, this was probably the plant. As with almost every other plant I write about, it needs well-drained soil or it will die. For best flowering, you will want your Mandevilla to receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Full sunlight is better.
Since it is such a vigorous vine and flower producer, it needs small doses of fertilizer every two to three weeks. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Be sure a maintain moisture during the hot, dry times of the summer. A prolonged period without water may prove fatal to the plant.
Last year, I saw two different plantings of Mandevilla that made me want to cry because they weren't at my house. The first really made me slap my head and ask why I didn't of that.
One gardener had a Mandevilla planted in a large basket hanging on a long chain at least two stories high. The Mandevilla was growing up the six or seven foot long chain, and you really couldn't see the chain for the leaves and the flowers. A tri-color ornamental sweet potato flowing out of the basket in all directions helped set off the Mandevilla. One of the three colors was the same pink as the Mandevilla.
The other planting I saw was growing in the landscape. The gardener had a cottage-style garden with a white picket fence. The Mandevilla was climbing and intertwining nicely with dozens of blooms, but like the last scenario, it was the combination plant that really set the stage.
The gardener was growing a giant, iridescent blue-flowered clematis right next to the Mandevilla. This mixture of southern perennial and Brazilian tropical was not only bold but spectacular.
If you have lattice structures around the house, the Mandevilla is one plant that is a must. Its ability to climb and bloom until fall makes it a winner. Being a tropical from Brazil means that gardeners on the Coast probably south of I-10 can get it to establish permanently. The rest of us will have to either treat it as an annual or give it winter protection.
Before bringing it indoors, cut off all growth to make it the desired shape. It will not bloom indoors unless it is in a sunroom. Our goal is simply to hold the plant until the next planting season.
Another method, and probably the easiest for most of us, is to cut it back to about 6 inches and provide as bright a light as possible with just minimal water. Do not fertilize during this time. As the plant grows, we can keep it pinched back to leaf axis, and the plant will develop a bushy habit.
In the spring, we can repot or plant in the landscape and resume our fertilization program. Mandevillas are hot buys right now, so take advantage of the season.