Minnesota will never be mistaken for a tropical paradise, but potted tropical plants can turn your deck or patio into a mini-paradise -- at least for the summer. Mandevilla, an exotic flowering vine, is a perfect choice to get that tropical look.
A vigorous twining vine, mandevilla sends up many long stems covered in leathery, deep-green leaves. While the foliage is handsome, it's the profusion of large, colorful flowers that steal the show. Trumpet-shaped with a broad flare of petals, the open flowers can reach at least 3 inches across. Shades of pink and rosy red are the most common flower colors available, but you may also find pure white or yellow. ('Alice du Pont' is a popular pink-flowered cultivar.)
If grown in large hanging baskets, mandevilla's vines will dangle down. Mandevilla also can make a quick summer screening when trained on trellises or deck railings. But the best way to display its showy flowers is to train it up a fan trellis or decorative structure that is anchored in a large container.
Mandevilla likes warm temperatures and evenly moist soil. (Containers may need to be watered daily in hot weather.) Fertilize monthly, or use a dilute fertilizer solution weekly. This tropical plant is often treated as an annual here. It is possible to overwinter mandevilla by cutting the plant back a bit in early fall, then moving it indoors and placing it in a warm, bright spot. It's likely to limp along through the winter, but should resume growth with spring's longer days. Move mandevilla back outdoors only when warm weather arrives.
Plant type: Annual flowering vine.
Season: Blooms all summer.
Site: Full sun, well-drained soil or container.
Height: May grow 4 to 8 feet in a summer.
Available as: Plants at garden centers in spring. Plants can also be ordered from some garden catalogs including Park's Seeds.
Fun fact: Mandevilla is in the same plant family as the common ground cover vinca (Vinca minor).