Las Penitas (Leon Dept) Plants, Nurseries, and Traditional Nica Landscape Design

Hi Everyone or Hola! I'm new to these forums. I don't live in Nica, but my wife is from there. We frequently visit Nica mainly staying with family in Managua and Leon... really have not had time do much tourist stuff like visit Grenada or any of the other volcanoes other than Masaya. Did visit flea market in Managua - the safe one and of course toured downtown. Recently we developed some family controlled land in Las Penitas. Got a chance to learn about Nica law and indigenous population relations and about Nica construction/contracting.

We built a family beach house in Las Penitas for the family and for us to visit during Holy Week, 15 year parties, etc. The house needs some plant material put in, but as I'm from New England (MA), I'm not that familiar with Nica plants. The brother in laws took me around to a local nursery in Leon and the La Convencion to see what's available and could grow. We also went around the local house to see what they had growing. I was told Zoysia grass would work for a lawn, and they had the vigilante plant two drawf palms.

I have tried to find information about Nica plants and heat zone ratings, but none seems to be available (only looked for english versions), which lead me to this forum. I am very excited to see that this exists and that there are plant people in Nica. I have lots of questions, so I hope everyone has patience and answers.

1) What is the Nica heat zone or equivalent USDA zone for Leon? Zone 11-12- or 13? Many of the plants I saw growing in the Nica are typical USA houseplants or could be planted in S-Florida, but I like to read about plants. I like to read about plants, so this would be helpful.

2) House close can palms be planted to a house or pool without their roots disrupting the structures? I was told by my builder to off-set the palms from the pool, but the vigilante and brother in laws say there is a tap-root only which will not disrupt anything.

3) I will do the landscaping plan soon to have implemented, but I would like to keep it agreeable to the in-laws as well and somewhat traditional in keeping with the region. From what I can gather landscape architecture/design is somewhat formal in nature or based upon planting around the wall perimeter and lining the sidewalk to the house without much regard to any elaborate over-arching design.


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Weather and climatological data for the area of León-Chinandega, could be found here:

There's no on-line weather station for León (that i know of). The weather site, will default to the station in Managua. To change the default to Chinandega's weather station, click on Station (upper right corner of the screen) and select Chinandega.

Note: Chinandega is aprox. 40Km. N. of León and about same elevation.

Good Luck,


Probably for Leon

...fifty-five F would be an all time low. You're circa 13 degrees from the Equator here, with around 30 minutes between day lengths in the summer and winters solstices. Leon has a reputation for being really hot (into the 90s regularly). Crotons do spectacularly well here, but I'm not sure how they do in Leon (or what they're called in Spanish).

On palms, it depends on the palms -- any good reference on various palms will give general heights under pot cultivation. They'll be bigger in the ground. Coconut palms here are huge and generally planted in larger yards (consider coconuts dropping into the pool or onto the roof, or even smaller fruit from other palms).

Probably you need to find out the average humidity for Leon as that's more likely to be a factor in what plants do well and what plants don't. What some people here do is plant a hedge just behind the fence if there's a fence in front of the house. The back yards I've seen have been mixed fruit and ornamentals. Hibiscus is popular; some sort of local variety of impatiens (or something that looks like impatiens) is popular. Design formality is generally in the front -- things can get very spectacular in the patios (here either backyard or central courtyard). Here at least, people don't have planting accessible from the street -- always a fence or wall between the street and the plants.

Various on-line weather information sites should be able to give you annual highs and lows for Leon, but things that people use as houseplants in the US can grow to bush and tree size here. The end of the dry season is generally the hottest time of the year; two months after the end of the rainy season is generally the coolest, but that's relative. Some plants lose their leaves during the dry season (avocado trees, for instance -- one in my back yard). Ask about whether the species of bushes you're planting will go dormant during the dry season and if they'll stay green if you water them.

Wet/dry cycles are more significant here than cool/hot.

Rebecca Brown

Thanks for the advice....

Thanks for the advice.... this is exactly what I was needing to learn about. There's a botanical garden walk in Leon that I will may be going on during my next visit during the gaterera (I can't spell in spanish, but I'm told it's kinda like the halloween except more religious connotations).

The house has a 10 foot walls all around it, so a traditional US curb appeal landscape viewed from the street is out! For food crops... I still learning about some permaculture type of plants... batata that I love, malanga, and plantains, and maybe even some yucca.

My observations around Jinotega (about 10 degrees cooler) that more people plant fruit trees than any other food crop around urban settings. My back yard is shared with neighbors and came pre-planted. It's got guavas, bananas (one clump in back), some citrus fruit that's tasteless, one mango tree, one avocado tree (these get pretty big), and roses and a few other ornamentals, including two orchids. I've got rosemary and some other herbs in two pots. Five chickens convert food scraps and insects into fertilizer and seem to eat a fair amount of sprouting weeds also.

The advantage of fruit trees and bananas/plantains seems to be that tending them is a once or twice a year cleaning up all the weeds (I've been here a year and the neighbor had the hoe and machete guy in once). Otherwise, they take care of themselves (I suspect we'd get more avocados if someone fertilized the tree). If you have something that requires more cultivation, you need to find out how willing your caretakers are at keeping things cultivated. More typical food plants are probably going to be less hassle to buy from the market or street vendors than to grow if you're not there most of the time.

Rebecca Brown

fruit trees

Up here in Ma, I eat batata all the time, and I was surprised that the wife never had it before. I bought some under the name camote (spelling?) at La-Union in Leon. Interestingly enough I looked up yucca and it's sold by some florida nurseries as a variegated ornamental tree/shrub. Dont' want to be digging up the shrubs for a meal, if I can pluck it off a branch.

A mango tree is what I really want!! Gotta see if I can make the mango fit! .... definity a plaintain tree as well! Those are so good when fried. Mango was not in the store last time I was in-country, and I guess Nicas won't pay an import price on a local fruit, but considering what a mango costs in MA... that probably would have still been a bargain.

Mangos tend to be seasonal

It's an early rainy season fruit around here. We had a great crop coming, but someone apparently vaulted the wall, nicked the mangos, and got interrupted coming down on the other side by the patrol guys (I found a bag of mangos on the other side on the wall on the street side, bit too rotten, but very likely our mangos as they were yellow). The mangos in back are a nice smallish sized tree (bigger than a dogwood, though). You might want to also look at papayas (I've seen them around here).

What apparently people do is try to have a range of fruit coming in at different times.

Bananas are something that bear a couple of times a year. If you can, get something other than Gros Michel (the standard commercial banana). My two-doors down neighbor have me a banana with orange flesh -- very different flavor. You plant suckers of these. Plantains and bananas aren't like other thing -- more like a giant herb than a tree, and each growth provides one long bunch of bananas, then dies and the plant roots or rhizomes sucker and you start all over again.

Avocados are coming in at lower elevations -- and bananas and oranges somewhere. My orange guy from last year started selling again a couple of days ago.

On mangos, see if you can get known high quality cultivars. Mangos come in red and yellow colors (that I've seen) and the average fruits tend to be a bit fiberous (I run them through a food mill and make a slushy). Tree is bigger than a dogwood, but not as big as the avocado trees. Check to see if they need pollinators or if you can plant just one tree, also if you can spread the season a bit with different varieties (the pulp can be frozen).

Rebecca Brown

we have a mango

It ends up being a high maintenance tree because of the fly and wasp problems. Having an outhouse in your yard would be cleaner. You have to pick the fruit and pick up any fallen fruit daily during the season. i eat them, but the relatives complain they have pelos early in the season and carne late in the season. I`m under pressure to whack it, but I think next year I think I will try a new strategy of thinning the fruit--by about 80% --as soon as they appear. This might be done, I hope, with one trip up the ladder. This should produce a smaller number of larger fruit. Be advised that mango trees come from dwarf to forest giants and the fruit ripens over a relatively short season. The mango trees in our neighborhood also attract a lot of people from outside the neighborhood to add to our security concerns.

I think citrus trees are a better bet-- inquire whether tangerines (madarinas)grow well in your area--Nica tangerines are far better than any I have had in the states. There are also plants you may no be aware of such as naranja agria that are much used in Nica cooking. Our naranja agria is just coming into production. Pruning of citrus is a fairly easy and infrequent thing and the plants are not messy..

Also keep in mind that city water is very expensive in Nic. and the dry season is very long. You will pay handsomely for irrigating in March and April if city water is your only source. Next year I`m going to install a diverter valve from the washing machine to water the plants.

Bananas and papayas grow quickly

``Vote for me—I`ll set you free`` Anon.