If you are a Southern old lady then being coarse is comparable to being crude or, another favorite adjective, vulgar. I happen to like coarse plants, while I can say I have seen some plants I would consider vulgar, it is always fun to actually see one...the Sausage tree, anyone?  Click.  My husband and I saw a Sausage Tree in full fruit in Maui and couldn’t stop laughing. It is actually an interesting tree. Albeit, a bit vulgar.

A nurseryman I knew used to like to sell Dutchman’s Pipes Click and then he had to have some  Blue Pea Vine Click  to sell to counteract the Dutchman’s Pipes. These are all real plants, please follow the links and see what they are. I see Dutchman’s Pipe here and there in South Florida, but I have never seen a Blue Pea Vine around here. Too crude, I suppose.

The reason I came up with all of this is I was thinking the tropics must hold the lion’s share of the world’s coarsest textured plants.

Maybe I should back up, if you go to school and take a planting design class, one of the basic sources of creating interest in landscaping is contrasting different textures of plants. For example, if you are a South Floridian, you would plant Artillery Fern (small leaves/fine texture) to contrast with your Bromeliad (big leaves/coarse texture). If you are from further north, think Autumn Fern next to the Hosta. Contrast in texture and color of plants is what makes gardens interesting to look at.  The English call this contrasting ” plant combinations”; I have heard Americans use this term as well but I think the English coined it. 

Here in Florida there is a wealth of coarse textured plants. Not only coarse texture plants, but different colors of coarse as well.  It is difficult to find anything comparable to a Split Leaf Philodendron further north of well, here.

In South Florida we have our Bromeliads with orangey foliage and the Blue Agave and Burgundy Crinums as well. Then the uber coarse plant, the Heliconia with 4 foot long foliage. Can’t get much more tropical than that.

When I first started living here I noticed people combining different colors of these large leafed plants in shrub beds. And I thought it was weird. Where was the fine texture plant material for contrast.? My esoteric design sense was freaking out. I think I should say I have finally embraced this concept. I would love to know what the English gardeners think.

I have just recently planted a bed with Sun Bromeliads, a Screw Pine and a Blue Agave. There is also some Aloe used as groundcover. A fiesta of coarseness! I am finally getting into that South Florida landscape vibe. Maybe it is a little vulgar, but that is OK. People in South Florida have Pink Flamingos instead of Reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh at Christmas..

Sun Bromeliad

Sun Bromeliad

Blue Agave

Blue Agave





Split Leaf Philodendron


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