Tapioca and Gaillardia create a terrific
companionship of foliage and flower.
variegated tapioca continues to be one of the hottest
plants in the garden. First and foremost it is an
incredibly showy plant, but the real impetus may have
been that it was chosen as a Texas Superstar Award
Winner and placed extremely high in University of
again this selection demonstrates that a zone 9-10
tropical can thrill as an annual and that almost
everyone can revel in the exotic gold, cream, and green
variegation borne on each and every palmate leaf. Five
years ago I wrote about the plant based on seeing it in
trials and botanical gardens but now after having been a
part of the growing process all I can say is it is
can truthfully say Savannah can dish out summer
temperatures and almost unbearable humidity with the
best of them. The variegated tapioca doesn’t flinch
and if anything, kicks into high gear.
tapioca is known botanically as Manihot esculenta
Variegata, and is also called variegated cassava. It is
native to South America and indeed is cooked and eaten
but carries an extreme warning, only if you know what
you are doing! Believe me you’ll just want to treasure
it for its stunning look in the garden.
the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we’ve grown it
in our Cottage Garden in close proximity to Formosan
Lily, and Black and Blue salvia. They serve as the
thriller plant in blue glazed Vietnamese pottery and
combine with Cora Cascade periwinkles.
frost free areas it can reach over 7 feet tall but in
Savannah ours kept mounded and slightly over 4 feet. The
boldly variegated foliage starts reddish-pink when young
but quickly reaches enormous status with deeply lobed,
even palmate with gold, cream and green leaves reaching
8 inches in width.
well drained soil will give you the best landscape
performance. If you have tight clay soil, incorporate
3-to-4 inches of organic matter like peat, compost or
humus. This will provide the necessary aeration for good
root expansion yet allow for suitable moisture holding
capacity. This is one of those great plants able to
tolerate acidic or alkaline conditions.
those idyllic tropical containers on the porch or patio,
do not skimp on potting soil. Forget the 40lb bargain
brand and purchase a bag that sold by the cubic foot and
is light and fluffy, containing controlled release
fertilizer. This will give you the green thumb.
feeding will play an important role in your success. In
the landscape feed with light monthly applications of a
slow released blend like a12-6-6 or 10-10-10. In
containers you’ll want to feed with a dilute water
soluble liquid every other week or use controlled
release granules per formula recommendation.
attention to supplemental irrigation during prolonged
dry periods and maintain a layer of mulch. Should your
variegated tapioca send up an all green sprout or shoot
prune off immediately as it will become more vigorous
and dominant. So far in three years of growing, this
hasn’t been an issue with ours.
the tropical style landscape the variegated tapioca
looks at home in combination with other foliage like
bananas or elephant ears. Blue flowered salvias like
Mystic Spires a compact Indigo Spires, Cathedral Deep
Blue and intense blue Salvia farinacea, or Black and
Blue Salvia guaranitica, would make for a striking
complementary color scheme.
tropical is not your style have no fear because the
variegated tapioca has the ability to be an eye catcher
no matter the style, grandma’s cottage, golf course
garden or the ultra-modern urban front yard.