Deciduous plants are the backbone of temperate gardens. The dropping of leaves is triggered by day length to ensure the tree’s survival over the harsh winter. There are few truly deciduous plants which perform in the subtropical climate. Most plants are either evergreen or semi-deciduous with leaf drop induced by drought. These semi- deciduous trees usually drop their leaves in July or August and return in October through to December.
In temperate climate deciduous trees and climbers are used to provide winter sun. This is not appropriate in the subtropics as warm days occur through to May or June, and by September or October shade is needed as temperatures climb.
Deciduous plants which do perform in the subtropical climate and provide autumn colour are:
Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Pecan (Carya pecan)
Sweet Gum (Liquidamber styraciflua)
White Ceder (Melia azedarach)
Chinese Tallowwood (Sapium sabiferum)
Mulbery (Morus nigra)
Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
Boston Ivy (Parthenoccisus tricuspidate)
While many people miss the autumn leaves of the temperate zone, flowering trees provide much the same blaze of colour, and with care can be coordinated to flower together on mass.
Deciduous plants can look bare in winter leaving a hole in the landscape. This is not such a problem in a cool climate where the gardener has retired to the comforts of the house. In a subtropical climate the garden is widely used at this time of year and planting must continue to perform.
[Extract from article presented at the ABC Gardening Australia Live QLD, April 2003]
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Arno King is a member of AIH, AILA, HMAQ.
For more information, refer to subTropical Gardening magazine - www.stgmagazine.com.au