Fifteen years ago, the Sun Parasol mandevilla made its debut in the country and those of us who were present knew this tropical climber was here to stay. What we didn't know was that this series giving a tropical magic to the garden would one day feature 21 varieties. We could not have imagined a red and white striped selection, like Stars and Stripes, a soft orange like the Sun Parasol Apricot or a Giant Red Emperor with the ability to climb 10 to 15 feet and produce flowers 3 to 5-inches wide.
Every time we thought they couldn't do it, the breeders from Suntory did. Including creating varieties that produced so many flowers that the only way you could count them would be by pulling them off one at a time. Even that would be considered a laborious task.
Sun Parasols mandevillas are found in three major groups the Pretty Group, Giant Group, and Original Group. Then there is the Designer Group with currently one selection Designer White, and two individual colors, Sun Parasol Apricot and Sun Parasol Garden Crimson. All are simply dazzling and worth every penny for your garden dollar.
At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we used Pretty Pink trained on bamboo poles. They gave a cloud-like bouquet of pink towering above pentas, iresine, and Diamond Frost euphorbia. At Jekyll Island Georgia a top tourist destination, they were in large mixed containers and mesmerized visitors with the abundance of flowers.
Last year when I saw Sun Parasol Apricot at a shopping center in Columbus, Ga., I was stunned by its color and could not take my eyes off the creative combination that featured it with blue scaevola a complementary partnership that before had been impossible. Sun Parasol Red Emperor in the Giant Group made its debut in 2014 with huge 3 to 5-inch deep red flowers produced all summer on a plant that is supercharged.
As with most plants I write about, these Sun Parasol mandevilla hybrids need well-drained soil to survive. This is one of the reasons that these containers and baskets are so healthy and picturesque. If we prepare our landscape soil to make it organic-rich, we can duplicate the results in the containers.
For best blooming, you will want your mandevilla to receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Since it is such a vigorous vine and flower producer, it needs small doses of fertilizer every two to three weeks.
In containers or baskets that get watered every day fertilization is mandatory. Frequently, dilute applications of a water-soluble fertilizer like a 20-20-20 to keep the plants at peak performance. Be sure to maintain moisture during the hot, dry times of the summer. A prolonged period without water may prove fatal to the plant.
The Sun Parasol mandevilla is the perfect plant to get you started growing vertically in the garden. Sure, you can grow it on the street side mailbox, but why not also grow up on a Victorian tower, a lamp post, a lattice trellis, or the classic white picket fence. Can you just imagine the look of a Saba or St. Bart's Caribbean Cottage?
We have a lot of hot growing season to go and if your landscape could use some pizzazz from tropical color then get to the garden center quickly for the Sun Parasol mandevilla.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)