T is for Tapioca (Manihot grahamii)
Last year we added a Manihot grahamii or Hardy Tapioca to our tropical garden. You can see it here.
In our garden it dies back to the ground each year, but returns in the spring with a lot of vigor. It's already around 10 feet tall and looking back at pictures from last year, we have at least another three month of growing season for to continue to grow. It typically grows to about 10 feet tall, so I don't expect it to get much taller.
This tropical plant is actually hardy to zone 7b. It is related to the cassava plant, or Manihot esculenta, which is where we get the tapioca we eat. Manihot grahamii is much more hardier than Manihot esculenta, making it a great landscape plant in many locations. It can drop it's leaves and re-grow from both old wood and it's roots. It dies back to the ground in our garden and comes back from the roots.
Manihot grahamii is native to South America and a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. Like many members of this family, it produces a sap that makes it unappealing to many animals. However, bees are attracted to it's flowers.
It needs to be in full to part-sun in a well drained soil. We have ours in part-sun along the back border of the Tropical Garden around the pool. It's lacy open leaves can cast some fun shadows around your garden space. The placement of ours, doesn't really allow for this, but it could be fun up closer to a patio of sunny pathway.
This year we already have blooms and seed heads starting to be produced. I've read in some places not to grow it below zone 8 due to it's ability to re-seed and it's seed dispersal potential. Apparently it opens it's seed pods with enough force that seeds can get cast pretty far from the plant. We are right on the edge of this recommendation. Last year our plant didn't produce any flowers, so this was a non-issue. We'll need to watch what happened this year. If we get a lot of seedlings come spring, we will be sure to remove the seed pods/fruits going forward.