Illustration / Gina Osorno

The Collí family of Valladolid has worked for over 25 years selling endemic flowering, fruit and ornamental plants. They also offer landscaping and design services for home-gardens and businesses such as hotels. 

Vivero Colli sits outside of Valladolid on the highway from Kantunil. Marlene Collí — daughter of greenhouse proprietors Leidy Díaz and Guadalupe Collí — shares some tips about gardening and growing herbs, fruits and vegetables. According to Marlene, having a “green thumb” really comes down to choosing the right plants to grow, having good soil and understanding how much water and light each plant needs — just like anywhere. 

But Marlene also shared some local knowledge that gardeners here will find helpful. 

There are several different types of soil in Yucatán, but most of the time when you are buying soil at a greenhouse or hardware store, what you are getting is peat or silt soil. Peat is reddish in color and high in organic matter, while silt is light, compact  and black. For most uses, including potting plants, black peat soil is usually best. However, regardless of what kind of soil you choose, it is always a good idea to add compost to ensure your plants are getting the nutrients they need to thrive. 

Many plant species grow particularly well in Yucatán. Some of these include buganvilias, mangos and the famous ceiba. Yucatecos who do not have gardens large enough to accommodate more than one or two medium-sized trees usually choose to grow naranja agria (sour orange) or lemon. These trees are large enough to provide some shade and have the added benefit of producing fruit essential to the region’s cuisine. 

For the home cook who likes to grab fresh herbs, rosemary, basil, parsley and cilantro can be grown quite easily. They can be planted in small pots, but remember that they need to be watered regularly and require a good amount of indirect sunlight. If you want to keep your herbs outside and are having a hard time finding a good spot for them, it is often a good idea to install a mesh cover, called malla sombra. 

Some popular low-maintenance indoor plants include a wide variety of cacti, sansevieria (lengua de vaca), monstera (costilla de adan) and adeniums (corona de cristo). Another great option — especially if you do not have much room — is to consider hanging plants indoors in spaces such as terraces and balconies, or starting a garden on your roof.  For this last option just make sure you choose plants which are well suited to intense heat and sunlight. 

Aside from ornamental plans, fruits and vegetables, many people in Yucatán grow plants for medicinal use. One of the most common is aloe vera (sábila), which is used to treat burns. The chaya is shrub widely used to treat diabetes and kidney failure, but it is also becoming increasingly  popular in Yucatecan cuisine. Tradition in the region dictates that one must ask permission from the chaya before taking its leaves to avoid being pricked by the tiny thorns on its stem. 

According to Marlene, with so many people spending more time at home, gardening has really taken off. People love to share their photos of plants on social media platforms and feel it’s trendy, but they forget that home gardening is a practice as old as civilization itself. For millennia, the Maya in Yucatán have been keeping compact home gardens called canche. 

“We may not all be farmers like in ancient times, but bringing plants into our home and growing our favorites like habanero serve to connect us with nature and our roots,” Marlene says.

The entire Collí family is extremely knowledgeable about the flora of Yucatán and a visit through their enormous greenhouse is a fantastic way to spend an hour or so on your way to Valladolid. In recent years the family has begun to share videos about gardening on Facebook and YouTube, which have made Don Guadalupe Collí a bit of a local celebrity. 

Plan the space

Large / Grandes

  • mango
  • avocado
  • mamey
  • zapote (chicle)
  • ceiba
  • jacaranda
  • lluvia de oro
  • flmaboyan
  • acacia
  • balsa wood tree
  • chaka
  • royal palm

Medium / Medianas

  • citrus
  • flor de mayo
  • bugambilia
  • copa de oro
  • jazmin
  • galan de noche
  • clavel de la india
  • kerpis palm

Small / Chicas 

  • hibiscus
  • crown of thorns
  • cactai
  • palmera xiataloha
  • meremelindo
  • mañanitas
  • marigolds