If you have ever stopped to admire the gardens at Royal Resorts, you’ll have noticed the variety of flowering shrubs that seem to vie for attention wherever you look. Many species are native to the Yucatan Peninsula and others were introduced to the area from different parts of Mexico or the wider world. Regardless of their origin, they all share one thing, the constant and loving care of the Royal Resorts team of gardeners who raise or propagate most of them in the resort nurseries.
Here are some of the species you’ll see in different parts of the grounds at the Royal Resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Whispering its message of sea breezes and beach life, the palm tree provides welcome shade from the sun throughout the Mexican Caribbean. Although you may only recognize the coconut palm, the variety of species is bewildering. Some are native to the Yucatan and others have been transplanted from elsewhere in Mexico, such as the states of Guerrero, Campeche and Veracruz.
There are around 200 genus and 3,000 species of palms in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, the majority of which originated in the Americas, Malaysia and Africa. Slender and elegant, palms can reach heights of 15 to 20 meters.
Examples of the palms you can see on the grounds at Royal Resorts, include the Caribbean and Royal varieties, and from the Yucatan, the xiat, chit and wild palm. Most palms are slow-growing, do well in sun or shade and belong to the Espadicifloras (Principes) and the Palmae or Arecaceae family.
Soskil or Henequen (Agave fourcroydes
It is often said that the agave could be Mexico’s plant emissary to the world, it is so widespread and there are so many different varieties. One such agave, henequen or ki is native to the Yucatan and yields a resistant fiber known as sisal or soskil. Its grey-green lance-like leaves are rigid and tipped with a brown spine.
The ancient Maya believed that Itzamná, the god of learning and healing discovered henequen. He called it a divine gift and ordered his followers to grow it. For centuries the Maya used the fiber to make rope, baskets, mats and sandals and for medicinal purposes. Henequen later became a lucrative cash crop for wealthy Yucatan hacienda owners in the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century when it was grown to make rope and sacking and was known as “green gold.” See our article on Henequen and Haciendas
Other agaves of note are the blue agave of tequila fame, maguey and century plant.
Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Known as adelfa or rosa laurel in Spanish, the oleander is a shrub that can grow to heights of three meters, although a dwarf variety is also available. It flowers all year round, does well in any kind of soil and doesn’t require much water. There are varieties with white, pink, red, pale yellow and peach-colored blooms.
Also known as Golden Trumpet Vine, allamanda is originally from Brazil but is now a favorite in tropical gardens throughout the world. The bright yellow flowers bloom all year round and this sun-loving shrub thrives in borders, as a climber and in pots.
A common species in the Mexican Caribbean, this tree is also known as ciricote or Geiger tree. A native of tropical America, cordia has brilliant orange blossoms that are popular with hummingbirds. The tree bears an edible white fruit with a pleasant aroma but not much taste.
Area craftsmen prize ciricote wood for its rich color and texture.
Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
Purple, pink and white flowering peas are found in the Royal Resorts gardens. If sown in March or April and watered frequently, this kind of sweet pea is a fast-growing vine.
Ixoras (Ixora coccinea)
A tropical shrub much admired for its ball-shaped clusters of flowers in pink, red, orange, salmon, coral, yellow and white. A dwarf variety with smaller leaves and coral or pale pink flowers is also grown at Royal Resorts.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus Rosa-sinenses)
Originally from China and Japan, this fast-growing shrub does well in coastal areas and sub-tropical and tropical climates. In temperate latitudes, it must be brought in during the winter or the frost will kill it.
Frequent pruning encourages flowering and the single and double flowers come in a show-stopping variety of colors including salmon, coral, pink, peach, yellow, white and red. The single blooms usually have a red or purple heart.
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)
Aralia is another fast-growing plant that can reach heights of one meter indoors and two as a shrub outdoors. There are around 20 different varieties of this shade plant, hailing from Asia, Australia and the Americas.
Spider Lily (Crinum zeylanicum)
This fragrant tropical lily is native to the Americas and is widespread in coastal areas. Its flowers may be white, striped or rose-purple.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra)
Originally from Brazil, this sturdy climber is a favorite in warm climates for its profuse flowers that bloom year-round. The flower tracts come in white, pale pink, peach, orange, crimson and purple and have medicinal properties. They are used in infusions to cure stomach bugs, coughs and bronchitis.
A tip from the Royal Resorts gardeners: bougainvilleas should be pruned in spring and summer.
Flor de mayo (Pericallis hadrosoma)
Also known as nicté or plumeria, this beautiful flowering tree is a native of southern Mexico and Central America. It spread south to Peru and Brazil and was introduced to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Asia. In India, another variety of plumeria is known as frangipani or the temple flower because the fragrant cream or pink blossoms are given as offerings in Hindu temples. Not just a pretty flower, flor de mayo also has medicinal properties.
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
Originally from South Africa and East Asia, the gardenia has fleshy dark green leaves and different varieties of this shrub have fragrant white or cream flowers. It can reach heights of two meters.
Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispida)
You will have seen this plant at The Royal Caribbean. Also known as Monkey or Pussy Tail, its striking red flower bracts can measure up to 50 centimeters and the leaves range from yellow or pink to bronze and green with white edges. Botanists point to Malaysia as its possible point of origin.
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
A favorite for its showy foliage in a palette of colors from cream to red, crotons are originally from the Pacific Islands and belong to the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. They grow well in sunny spots and tropical climates.
Pothus or Devil’s Ivy (Scindapsus aureus)
Known here in Mexico as teléfono, this plant spreads rapidly sending out runners and taking root in the ground or climbing walls or other trees. Its leaves are heart-shaped and as a vine it can reach heights of between 10 and 20 meters.
Tropical fig (Ficus benjamina)
Originally from India and Malaysia, figs are sturdy and long-lived trees that are now found throughout the tropics – there are more than 800 species. Elegant and showy, they do well indoors or outdoors, tolerate high temperatures, shade and excessive humidity.
This colorful drought-resistant ground creeper with succulent leaves does well in coastal areas and comes in a variety of bright colors ranging from pale, bright and fuschia pink to white, yellow and orange. The single or double flowers open with the sun and close at night. Originally from South America, portulaca or moss rose is used to edge the borders at The Royal Sands.
Also known as rainflower, rain lily or fairy lily, these are perennial bulbs with small bright pink, white, yellow or purple star-shaped flowers and dark green foliage. A member of the Amaryllis family, bruijtas are native to the Americas and here in the Yucatán Peninsula they often bloom in large numbers after periods of wet weather. You can see them in the garden between Phase I and Phase II in The Royal Sands.
Riñonina (Ipomoea pes-caprae)
This salt-loving dune plant also known as the railroad vine is a member of the morning glory family and has a beautiful bright pink flower. The leaves have medicinal properties and are used by the Maya for mild kidney complaints and to reduce swelling.