In Thailand’s tropical monsoonal climate, the months of March-May are normally the region’s hottest period. These 3 months prior to the onset of the rainy monsoon in late May are usually characterized by hot, dry weather with periods of intense daytime heat. For many gardeners in Thailand, this is typically considered to be a period of minimal gardening activity whereby the soil is too hot and dry. Nevertheless, with several hardy flowering plants this doesn’t have to be the case.
Too keep your gardens lush, colorful and lively with blooms during Thailand’s hot dry season (March-May), there are several hardy plants that I would recommend during this period of drought and intense heat.
1. Bougainvillae (เฟื่องฟ้า) – Perennials native to South America, these flowering creeping and bush plants are now a common sight throughout tropical Southeast Asia, including all regions of Thailand.
In my Bangkok garden, Bougainvilleas flower especially profusely during the dry seasons (November-April), while green leaves usually appear during the wetter monsoonal months (May-October). Bougainvillea blossoms come in a variety of colors, including pink, orange, red, yellow, or shades in between. In my garden, one of the bougainvillea bushes produce blossoms of multiple color!
Based upon my experience, bougainvilleas are very hardy and drought-resistant plants, and grow profusely in warm to hot tropical climates. Bougainvilleas can grow to very large sizes, and so needs a large structure to support it.
2. Thai Cosmos (ดาวกระจาย) – In Thailand, these hardy annuals come in various shades of yellow to orange. Seeds can be sown directly into the soil any time of the year, but needs watering during the dry months. Based upon my experience, cosmos can grow to be quite tall (about 60 to 80 cm) during the rainy months when there is plentiful moisture.
But their sizes seem to diminish (only 15-30 cm) during the dry months, especially during the hot season (March to May).
In Thailand, Cosmos as an annual plant grows so easily that we can simply ‘sprinkle’ the seeds onto the soil, where they will germinate provided that there’s sufficient moisture. I would recommend heirloom or authentic local seeds, as they can be kept for future sowing. (Unlike some modern commercial seeds that self-destruct after a few cycles.)
3. Desert Rose, or Impala Lily (ชวนชม) – Said to be originally from the Middle East, Desert Roses (ชวนชม) seem to have adapted pretty well to Thailand’s tropical monsoonal climate. These beautiful flowering perennials grow to a height of approximately 1 to 1.5 meters, and have thick trunks and branches.
They bloom profusely throughout the year with bright pink to red blossoms, even during Thailand’s hot and dry season.
Desert Roses do not like excessive moisture, and they are prone to rotting if over-watered. In Bangkok, I usually have them watered thoroughly once every 2-3 days. Amazingly, Desert Roses are surprisingly well-adapted to Thailand’s spells of brief, heavy downpours during the May-October rainy monsoon season.
4. Mahalab Bulb Plants (มหาลาภ) – These lovely tropical bulb plants are my favorite, and has been of subject of an earlier blog article. Mahalabs are tropical bulb plants that thrive in Thailand, and have short stems with light green, oval-shaped leaves. Mahalab plants are evergreen when grown in large pots and provided sufficient moisture year-round.
However, Mahalabs tend to shed their leaves if naturalized in the soil. Both those grown in large pots and those naturalized in the soil flower only once a year during Thailand’s hot dry season, whereby flower stems will appear during the months of March to May.
For mahalabs that are naturalized in the soil, flower stems usually appear from mid-March to early May, and oval-shaped leaves appear shortly thereafter. Please visit my previous blog article for additional information on this awesome bulb plant.
5. The ‘Leb Mue Nang’ (เล็บมือนาง) are large creeping tropical flowering vines. These tropical vines thrive in Thailand’s hot and humid tropical climate, and can grow to over 15 meters long. They are very hardy in warm tropical climates and make perfect covers for garden walls with their colorful blooms. The fragrant blossoms of ‘Leb Mue Nang’ vines range from white to pink to red depending upon the age of those blossoms, all in one single plant.
Leb Mue Nang tropical flowering vines are very hardy in Thailand and can tolerate both excessive rains and droughts, provided that they receive ample sunshine. These plants are therefore suitable in locations with full sunshine. Over time, small plantlets grow near the bases of their parent plants (possibly from seeds), which can then be transplanted to new locations.
For more details about these majestic tropical vines, please visit my previous blog on ‘Leb Mue Nang’ tropical vines via the following link:
6. Thai Water Lilies (ดอกบัว) – these tropical aquatic plants thrive in shallow ponds or large water-tight pots, where they will flower year-round when given the right nutrients. Thai water lilies produce very fragrant blooms that appear in colorful shades ranging from yellow to pink to dark purple.
Thai water lilies prefer full sun, and will produce their fragrant blooms even during the height of the hot season in April when temperatures in central Thailand can rise above 40 degrees celsius, provided that their shallow ponds or large containers are full of water at all times. This is because Thai water lilies must be kept in water at ALL times or they will wilt very rapidly in dry conditions.
The fragrant blooms of these colorful Thai water lilies are characterized by a sweet citrus scent, which attracts plenty of local bees, making for a very natural garden scene.
7. Globe Amaranths (บานไม่รู้โรย) – In Thailand these awesome annuals produce bright pinkish-purple globe-shaped blooms year-round. They flower especially profusely during the November-April dry season. Their lively purplish blooms continue to adorn my garden in Bangkok even during the height of the hot dry season running from middle of March to the end of April.
In my Bangkok garden, Globe Amaranths prefer full sun, moderate watering, and are very heat tolerant – which makes them perfect for hot tropical climates. Globe Amaranths are called ‘Baan Mai Roo Roye’ (บานไม่รู้โรย), meaning ‘The Bloom That Lasts Forever’ in Thai, a very fitting name given the long durability of their colorful blooms.
8. Allamandas (บานบุรี) – These are cheerful tropical vines and bushes that produce a plethora of yellow flowers year-round in Thailand’s hot and humid tropical climate. Though Allamanda vines prefer plenty of water and moisture and grow most rapidly during Thailand’s rainy monsoon season (mid-May to October), they produce plenty of flowers year-round even during the hot dry season (March to early May).
The important factors in growing Allamanda bushes and vines are to plant them in a location with plentiful sunshine and provide them with ample moisture. Allamandas are beautiful tropical plants which can be shaped into large bushes, or can be left to grow as very long vines over tall garden walls. For more information on Allamandas, please visit my previous blog on this awesome plant via the following link:
Happy gardening, wherever you are in Thailand, and around the world!
Lat (Ratasit C.)