Tropical plants zone 9

Zone 9 Tropical Plants: Tips On Growing Tropical Gardens In Zone 9

During summer in zone 9 it may certainly feel like the tropics; however, in winter when temperatures dip in to the 20s or 30s, you may worry about one of your tender tropical plants. Because zone 9 is mostly a subtropical climate, it’s necessary to select tropical plants that are hardy in zone 9 and grow non-hardy tropical plants as annuals. Continue reading to learn about growing tropical gardens in zone 9.

Caring For Tropical Plants in Zone 9 Gardens

When you think of the tropics, you probably visualize brightly colored, exotic-looking flowers; large, interesting shaped foliage in various shades of green, gold, red and orange; and, of course, palm trees.

Palm trees play an important role in zone 9 tropical gardens; they are used as specimen plants, backdrops, windbreaks and privacy screens. However, not all palms are hardy in zone 9. For zone 9 hardy palms, try these varieties:

  • Sago palm
  • Macaw palm
  • Pindo palm
  • Cabbage palm
  • Chinese fan palm
  • Saw palmetto

Since cold temperatures and frost can happen in zone 9, it is important to take precautions and cover tropical plants when frost is in the forecast. Zone 9 tropical plants will also benefit from mulching their root zones before the coldest winter months in your area. Non-hardy tropical plants can be grown in pots to easily take indoors before cold can damage them.

Tropical Plants for Zone 9

Palms are not the only plants that provide dramatic foliage and texture to zone 9 tropical gardens. For example, you can add tropical-looking, colorful foliage such as:

  • Caladiums
  • Cannas
  • Agave
  • Voodoo lilies
  • Ferns
  • Crotons
  • Figs
  • Bananas
  • Elephant ears
  • Bromeliads
  • Dracaenas

Large, tropical trees can provide a shady oasis in hot, humid zone 9 tropical gardens. Some good choice might include:

  • Live oak
  • Bald cypress
  • Chinese elm
  • Sweetgum
  • Mahogany
  • Pigeon plum
  • Southern magnolia

Below are some bold, bright flowering tropical plants for zone 9:

  • African iris
  • Agapanthus
  • Amaryllis
  • Amazon lily
  • Angel’s trumpet
  • Begonia
  • Bird of paradise
  • Blood lily
  • Bottlebrush
  • Bougainvillea
  • Butterfly ginger lily
  • Calla lily
  • Clivia
  • Gardenia
  • Gloriosa lily
  • Hibiscus
  • Indonesia wax ginger
  • Jatropha
  • Night-blooming cereus
  • Oleander
  • Paphiopedilum orchids
  • Passion flower
  • Pride of Burma
  • Strophanthus
  • Zephyr lily

  • February List of Palms Available – Steve in N Alabama z7b Today, 3:52 am 0 responses
  • mid-winter update – PJ Lake Nona FL 1/26/2020, 1:44 am View thread; 4 responses, latest posted 1/27/2020, 5:37 pm, View last;
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  • Other forum was taken down. – Stan Hayward CA 1/14/2020, 2:49 pm 0 responses
  • More Washy growth : – WSimpson NC 1/14/2020, 12:37 pm View thread; 8 responses, latest posted 1/27/2020, 2:46 pm, View last;
  • Meteorological Winter Midpoint – My 7a Location Enjoying an 8b Winter – Jim Wilmington DE 7a 1/13/2020, 12:44 pm View thread; 6 responses, latest posted 1/26/2020, 1:49 am, View last;
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  • Some more of Positano, Italy – Jane Vero Beach FL 1/5/2020, 9:12 pm 0 responses
  • Positano, Italy – Jane Vero Beach FL 1/3/2020, 9:45 pm View thread; 5 responses, latest posted 1/6/2020, 12:51 pm, View last;
  • January List of Palms Available – Steve in N Alabama z7b 1/1/2020, 6:35 am 0 responses
  • Citrumelo & Meyer Lemon – George GA 12/26/2019, 4:33 pm View thread; 2 responses, latest posted 1/4/2020, 2:16 am, View last;
  • Washy spear still growing : – WSimpson NC 12/23/2019, 1:14 pm 0 responses
  • Rooted mango cutting – Dave in NoVA z7a 12/18/2019, 7:57 am View thread; 2 responses, latest posted 12/18/2019, 2:55 pm, View last;
  • My Citrumelo around Xmas : – WSimpson NC 12/17/2019, 1:30 pm View thread; 7 responses, latest posted 12/20/2019, 10:28 am, View last;
  • Sad news – Sam TN 12/16/2019, 10:14 am View thread; 14 responses, latest posted 12/30/2019, 9:02 am, View last;
  • Aloe in bloom.. – Stan Hayward CA 12/14/2019, 11:51 pm View thread; 7 responses, latest posted 12/16/2019, 11:48 pm, View last;
  • Utah Desert (July, 2019) – Jane Vero Beach FL 12/11/2019, 10:26 am View thread; 1 response, posted 12/12/2019, 9:12 pm
  • Nov 25, Vero Beach – Jane Vero Beach FL 11/26/2019, 3:58 am View thread; 2 responses, latest posted 11/27/2019, 11:15 pm, View last;
  • Quasi-Seeds on a Trachycarpus Wagnerianus – Ken-Charlotte 11/20/2019, 4:19 pm View thread; 1 response, posted 11/21/2019, 10:59 am
  • Beach House – Jane Vero Beach FL 11/3/2019, 6:47 am View thread; 1 response, posted 11/5/2019, 6:38 am
  • Pawpaw seeds for trade – AdamNiagara7a 10/28/2019, 4:23 pm 0 responses
  • SE Tennessee palms – Sam TN 10/19/2019, 10:12 am View thread; 6 responses, latest posted 10/23/2019, 1:32 am, View last;
  • Tall Trachys – WSimpson NC 10/17/2019, 4:48 pm View thread; 4 responses, latest posted 10/20/2019, 2:12 pm, View last;
  • Introduction to Cold Hardy Palms

    (Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 28. 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

    Cold hardiness is not a very easy adjective to define. I do not know if this is true with all plant groups, but it most certainly is the case with palms. And of course it is a relative term. Since most palms are from the tropics, any palm that can survive outside a tropical environment is considered cold hardy. But a cold hardy palm is a wimp compared to many plants that live where it freezes every winter. The cold-hardiest palm can survive in zone 6 and not really any lower than that outdoors. For a discussion on the factors that influence cold hardiness in palms and more about what cold hardiness means, please see the related article coming out soon after this one.

    Below is basically a list of SOME of the cold hardy palms of significance, both well known and newly realized. It is not by any means an exhaustive list of all the cold hardy palms or even a large fraction them. It would simply be impossible to cover them all in a ‘small’ article here in Davesgarden. This is only meant as an introduction to get the reader aquainted with what palms they might be able to grow, and some place to start. For further information, see recommendations at the bottom of the article and the plantfiles on this site.

    Acoelorrhaphe wrightii (Silver Saw Palm or Everglades Palm):

    This is a native of Florida and the Caribbean. Acoelorrhaphe is a suckering fan palm with hardiness to about 22F-24F (-5.5C to -4C). It is not a very commonly grown palm in private gardens since it can end up taking up a lot of room. But if keep pruned of lower leaves and excessive canes, it can be a highly ornamental and easy palm. It is very slow-growing though, and it may take over ten years in cooler climates to get large enough for one to appreciate this as a palm.

    Acoelorrhaphes in California

    Acrocomia aculeata/totai is a moderately hardy species that looks like a Queen Palm, only very spiny, can handle cold to about 26F (-3C)

    Allagoptera arenaria (Seaside palm):

    Probably one of the most “user-friendly” (i.e., no spines or sharp leaves) palms, this is another relatively rare species in cultivation, again primarily due to its very slow growth. Five-year-old palms often still have their strap leaves. It is a slowly offsetting trunkless pinnate species with curly leaflets. Allagoptera arenaria has pretty good cold hardiness to about 25F, and it is a good palm in both sun and shade. It also has remarkable salt tolerance and can be grown along the shoreline. Other Allagopteras may be similarly hardy, but they are much rarer and some even impossible to find.

    Allogoptera arenaria in California

    Archntophoenix cunninghammiana (King Palms) and Archontophoenix purpurea, California

    Not one of the most cold hardy genera, Archontophoenix (aka the King Palms) do well in Southern California rarely dying from periodic freezes, but do show damage between 25F and 28F (-3.8 to -2C)

    Arenga engleri (Dwarf Sugar Palm):

    With hardiness about 22F-23F (-5.5C to -5C), this is a relatively popular species thanks to widespread availability and a moderate growth rate. This pinnate, suckering species is not only cold hardy but can tolerate deep shade as well as full, hot desert sun, and cares little about winds. It also has another perk in having incredibly good smelling flowers. Though it can get fairly large and wide, it is easy to prune offshoots off and keep it neat and ornamental.

    Arenga engleri in California

    Beccariophoenix madagascariensis and ‘no windows’ in California

    Beccariophoenix is a mildly cold hardy genus of at least 2, possibly three species, from Madagascar, tolerating temps down to about 27F (2.7C)

    Bismarckia nobilis:

    This palm was already discussed in the article on Blue Palms, but it is one often forgotten by those who make lists of cold hardy palms. The mature blue form of this species can survive temps in the low 20s (-6.6C to -5C) thought leaf damage is extremely variable depending on climate and type of freeze (sometimes severe leaf damage will occur at temps in the high 20s). It is a magnificent palm and should be tried by anyone with enough room in a marginal climate. This palm grows well ONLY in full sun, but does great on both US coasts (though tends to look far more impressive on the east coast). It is a relatively fast grower and has a high tolerance to wind and heat.

    Bismarckias in Thailand and CA

    Borassus aethiopium in Florida

    Though NOT a good palm for Southern California, this palm is considered cold hardy in Florida where it grows well in zone 9b getting minimal damage at temps down to about 24F (-4.4C)

    Braheas:

    Since all the Braheas are cold hardy, they will be discussed as a group here. These are Central American fan palms that prefer arid, low-rainfall climates over the more humid, muggy climates favored by the majority of palms. The most commonly grown species of this genus are Brahea edulis (Guadalupe Palm) and Brahea armata (Mexican Fan Palm). Both are fairly common landscape palms, and Brahea edulis can be seen grown all over southern California as a street tree. Eventually the same may be said about Brahea armata as its use is increasing yearly. Most Braheas are hardy from 20F-25F (-6.6C to -3.8C), but Brahea armata is remarkably tolerant of freezes handling cold snaps down to nearly 10F (-12C). All the Braheas are highly ornamental and excellent garden palms, but some are very rare and/or incredibly slow and will never catch on as public landscaping palms.

    Brahea armatas Brahea decumbens Brahea aculeata

    Brahea nitida Brahea pimo Brahea eudulis pair

    Brahea edulis

    Brahea armata

    Butia capitata (Jelly Palm):

    Butia is another South American palm genus that has a number of cold tolerant members. Perhaps all are cold tolerant, but many species are so rare they have not been tested yet. Butia capitata is the most common species in this genus and it is easily the most cold hardy and versatile feather palm in cultivation, tolerating lows as cold as 15F (-9.5C) or lower, and growing equally well on the east U.S. coast as it does on the west coast. It does tolerate some shade, but is ideally a sun plant. This is also a moderately fast grower so it, too, has become a popular landscaping palm throughout the world including the marginal climate zones. This is one of the easiest palms to grow. And it has the additional perk of having tasty, edible fruits.

    Butia capiata Butia capitata Butia paraguayensis

    Butia x Syagrus Butia X Syagrus Butia x Jubaeas

    Butia hybrids are also very useful and cold hardy landscape palms, usually showing cold hardiness to about the same as Butia capitata

    Caryota urens (Toddy Palm or Fishtail Wine Palm):

    Though several other Caryotas have pretty good cold tolerance, this is the most commonly grown Caryota species with notable cold hardiness (about 25F or -3.8C). Caryota ochlandra may be more cold hardy, but it is a rarer palm, and looks a lot like Caryota urens. Caryota gigas is rapidly overtaking Caryota urens in popularity thanks to its massive size and highly ornamental leaves, but it is less cold tolerant with significant damage at around 27F (-2.7C). Caryotas are called the Fishtail palms because the leaflet shape is similar to that of a fish’s tail. These are the only bipinnate palms (their fronds branch again). And they are monocarpic (die after flowering). Though one of the fastest growing palms in cultivation, Caryota urens have not become too popular thanks to their short lived nature (many only live 15-25 years), toxic fruits and unnerving tendency to blow over with little warning.

    Caryota urens Caryota gigas

    Ceroxylon quindiuense in southern California

    Ceroxylons have some cold hardiness, growing naturally at very high elevations in northern South America, handling temperatures 3 or 4 degrees below freezing

    Chamaedorea microspadix and C. radicalis:

    These two Chamaedoreas are unusual members of their genus as most of the rest are only very marginally cold hardy. The Chamaedoreas are Central American palms and are pinnate single to suckering, mostly understory species. The two species listed here are not only unusually cold hardy (both down to around 20F) but tolerate far more sun than do most other Chamaedoreas. Chamaedorea microspadix is a suckering, slow-growing palm with skinny stems and bright red seeds. Chamaedorea radicalis is a solitary species that either forms a tall trunk, or none at all, and has long, leathery deep green leaves. These two species grow a bit better in California than in the hot, humid climates of the eastern U.S. coast. They both perform well as potted plants, too, but need a lot of light to do well indoors.

    Chamaedorea microspadix in full sun Chamaedorea radicalis group with a few tree forms mixed in Chamaedorea radicalis tree form

    Chamaedorea costaricana, Chamaedorea elegans and Chamaedorea ernestii-augustii also have some cold tolerance

    Chamaedorea oreophila, Chamaedorea adcendens and Chamaedorea plumosa have slightly more cold hardiness than the average Chamaedorea

    Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean Fan Palm):

    Probably one of the most commonly grown specimen landscape palms throughout the subtropical and warm temperate world, Chamaerops have cold hardiness to nearly 15F (-9.4C). This suckering fan palm grows moderately fast but, still, large specimens are worth a lot of money. Though native to a European temperate climate it is also an excellent plant for desert climates, having very high heat, sun, wind and drought tolerance. And it can be grown in the shade, even indoors, but is happier in full sun. The blue form of this (variety cerifera) is probably as hardy, but it has not been fully tested yet.

    Two large Chamaerops humilis and a potted Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera in southern California

    Chuniophoenix nana in California

    Chuniophoenix is a surprisingly hardy genus, tolerating temps into the mid 20s (-4.4C to -3.3C) with little or no damage

    Copernicia alba (Caranday Palm):

    This South American palm is the hardiest of the genus, of which most others are anything but cold hardy. Copernicia alba is a slow growing, solitary fan palm- a dangerously sharp species (very sharp spines on the petioles) that tolerates lows to about 25F (-3.8C), perhaps lower. The closely related Copernicia prunifera (Carnuba Wax Palm) may have similar tolerance but seems to even more slow growing (a characteristic consistent throughout the genus). Copernicia glabrescens and baileyana also have some cold hardiness though are grown far less commonly. The latter palm, Copernicia baileyana, is a massive and highly ornamental fan palm with a huge, concrete-like trunk and nearly perfectly symmetrical, stiff circular leaves. Sadly it is an agonizingly slow growing palm and most planters of this species won’t live long enough to see it grow into a mature palm.

    Copernicia alba in California

    Copernicia baileyana seedling in California and adults in Thailand Copernicia prunifera in Thailand

    Cyphophoenix elegans is one of the most cold tolerant of the New Caledonian palms, handling temps to about 26F (-3.3C) without damage

    Dypsis decpiens (Manambe Palm):

    Though this is another incredibly slow growing species, it is worth waiting for. And if planted large enough, and if the planter is young enough, it might be worth planting- a mature specimen is one of the most amazing and ornamental palms one can grow. This Madagascan species is probably one of the two hardiest species from this island (Bismarckia being the other) and is a suckering, massive pinnate palm with a swollen and ornamentally ringed trunk. This is a very rare species commercially for the obvious reason of it’s being so slow. But it also is a difficult palm when young, so it is recommended to obtain the largest specimen possible for multiple reasons. It is hardy to about 24F (-4.4C) and is one of the few palms that grow much better on the west coast than on the east coast (not sure why- may be a soil problem).

    Dypsis decipiens adult and maturing juvenile Dypsis saint lucei is one of the few other cold hardy Dypsis sp. tolerating temps into the mid 20s

    Guihaia argyrata in California

    Guihaia argyrata is a low and slow growing suckering fan palm hardy to about 20F (-6.6C)

    Hedyscepe canterburyana in California

    Hedyscepe is a monotypic genus from Lord Howe Island (where Kentia palms come from) that has mild cold hardiness to about 28F (-2.2C)

    Howea forsteriana (Kentia Palm):

    Most anyone who grows palms, or has visited a mall, is familiar with this species as it is one of the most commonly grown palms in cultivation. The reason for that is it is the premiere house palm. But it is also a good landscape palm having hardiness to about 26F (-1.6C) (gets some burn at temps under 29F if significant frost, though). Considered a moderately growing species, this solitary feather palm prefers situations with mostly morning sun, or coastal sun, and not too much wind. It is not a great palm for inland desert sun. It has a wonderfully ringed, green trunk with ornamentally drooping leaflets unlike most other palms, and that creates a unique tropical effect. The related Howea belmoreana is less hardy still and only barely fits the definition of a cold hardy palm.

    Howea forsteriana in garden, and colony in park, California Howeas of both species (belmoreana on left and forsteriana on right)

    Jubaea chilensis (Chilean Wine Palm):

    Considered the largest palm in the world, at least in terms of girth, this giant from Chile has a remarkable degree of cold hardiness, surviving freezes down to about 15F (-9.5C). It is a solitary, pinnate palm with a smooth trunk. Though not a fast grower, it tends to pick up speed once a trunk is formed… but it can take up to 15 years for it to get to that point. This is another one of those exceptional palms that grows far better on the US west coast than the east coast (in fact, it seems nearly impossible to grow there). It is also a highly drought and wind tolerant plant, but seems to resent intense year round heat.

    Jubaeas in California showing several variations in crown shape younger palm in private garden

    Jubaeaopsis caffras

    Jubaeopsis is a monotypic South African genus cold tolerant down to about 24F (-4.5C)

    Licuala spinosa

    Most Licualas are fairly tropical in their needs, but Licuala spinosa stands out as being the cold hardiest in the group on both the east and west coast, tolerating temps into the mid 20s (-4.4C to -3.3C) with minimal damage

    Livistonas:

    This is another genus that has a number of cold hardy palms in it, though not all Livistonas are very cold hardy. Probably the most well known species is Livistona chinensis, the Chinese Fan Palm, a very commonly grown palm on both US coasts and hardy to about 20F (-6.6C) or close. Livistona australis, decorum, nitida, mariae and saribus are probably nearly as cold hardy and all except saribus are much faster growers. These are all solitary droopy-leaved fan palms with very sharp petiolar teeth. Most cold hardy Livistonas are from Australia, but L chinensis is from China and Japan, and Livistona saribus is also from China, and nearby Asian islands. And not every Livistona from Australia is cold hardy (the ‘miniature species are not). Most cold hardy Livistonas grow well on both coasts. And Livistona chinensis performs tolerably as a house plant.

    Livistona australis young plants adult Livistona australis pair pair of adult Livistona decorums (aka decipiens)

    Livistona chinensis young Livistona mariae maturing Livistona saribus

    Livistona chinensis

    Nannorrhops ritchiana (Mazari Palm):

    This is about the only plant that can survive the brutal extremes of the mideastern environment and it has a very large climate range in which it performs well. It is cold tolerant down to about 10-15F (-12C to -9.5C), but it is also very drought tolerant, sun and heat tolerant as well as tolerant of humid, tropical climates. Still, it can be a tricky palm when young and is pretty slow growing. It is a suckering fan palm with blue-green to pale green leaves and relatively harmless petioles. It is a rare palm in cultivation primarily due to its slow growth and finicky nature as a seedling.

    adult Nannorrhops green form young Nannorrhops blue form

    Oraniopsis appendiculata in California

    Oraniopsis is a monotypic Australian species with cold hardiness similar to Ceroxylons (related genus)

    Parajubaeas:

    These South American solitary pinnate palms are one of the ‘newer’ landscape palms for the U.S. west coast (don’t tolerate warm, humid climates well) and have some cold tolerance to about 25F (-3.8C). These are still pretty rare in cultivation mostly due to their irregular and unpredictable germination. But once this barrier is overcome, they tend to be pretty fast and easy palms only suffering from excessive cold and overhead watering (easily get but rot from this practice). Though Parajubaea cocoides is the most commonly grown species, it is the slowest and least tolerant of high winds and blasting inland heat. The other two species, torralyi and sunkha are much faster growers and have more tolerance of climate variations.

    Parajubaea cocoides grouping Parajubaea sunkha

    Parajubaea torallyi

    Phoenix species:

    All of the Phoenix species are considered cold hardy, though some are much more cold-hardy than others. Most growers and landscapers are very familiar with this genus as they are relatively fast growing and versatile palms, tolerating a wide range of climates and soils. Most are some of the easiest palms there are to grow, and many are quite available. The most commonly grown include Phoenix canariensis, a massive, solitary species from the Canary Islands and probably the fastest growing of the genus, and also one of the fastest of all palms in cultivation. It is cold hardy to around 22F-24F though it seems hardier on the west coast than the east coast. Phoenix dactylifera, the true date palm, from Northern Africa, is cold hardy to about 20F (-6.6C) and also a fast grower. This is probably the second most commonly grown palm on earth and one of best Phoenix palms for desert climates. Phoenix reclinata, the Senegal Date Palm, a suckering moderately fast growing palm from Africa, is hardy to about 22F-24F (-5.5C to – 4.4C), but this information is based on the palms currently in cultivation, most which are hybrids of this species, not the ‘pure’ thing (hybrid Phoenix are extremely common). And Phoenix roebellenii, probably the most commonly grown landscape Phoenix palm in the US, is cold hardy to about 26F (-3.3C), which isn’t too shabby considering it originates from tropical Asia.

    Phoenix canariensis miles of Phoenix canariensis along Pacific coast Phoenix dactyliferas in California

    Phoenix loureieri Phoenix reclinata Phoenix rupicola

    Phoenix sylvestris Phoenix theophrastii Phoenix roebelleniis

    Phoenix canariensis

    Phoenix roebelenii

    Phoenix dactylifera

    Plectocomia himalayana in California

    Plectocomia is a rattan genus with several tropical species, but Plectocomia himalayana is remarkably cold tolerant to at least 25F (-3.8C) and possibly lower

    Ravenea rivularis in Hawaii and in California Ravenea xerophila in California

    Ravenea is a genus of Madagascan palms, some which qualify as cold tolerant, but barely. The most well known is the Majesty Palm, Ravenea rivularis, cold tolerant to about 28F (-2.2C). Ravenea xerophila is a surprisingly cold tolerant slow heat-loving plant handling temps to about 25F (-3.8C) with only slight leaf damage

    Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Needle Palm):

    This native U.S. palm tolerates cold better than any other palm and can grow in climates as ‘inhospitable’ as Washington, DC. It tolerates temps down to around -10F (-23C), though probably not for an extended period of time. It is a suckering, slow-growing fan palm with a wide range of climate tolerances. Though not ideal as a desert palm, it does grow well in southern California where it gets pretty hot, and I have seen it growing happily in tropical Thailand. Still, it is too slow to be a popular landscape plant, and some find its scrubbiness less than ornamental.

    Rhapidophyllum hystrix Rhapidophyllum next to a Chamaerops in botanical garden

    Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm):

    Commonly seen as an indoor palm, this species also performs well as an outdoor landscape understory species, tolerating temps down into the low 20s ( around -5C to -4C). It is a slow growing palm, but this one looks ornamental even at a small size. It is possible native to China, but is actually unknown in the wild. This suckering palmate species is one of the easiest palms to grow, tolerating mild drought, lots of water, very dark, shady gardens and is very resistant to most diseases. There are several other Rhapis species, all considered at least somewhat cold hardy, and Rhapis humilis and multifida are probably nearly as hardy.

    Rhapis excelsa Rhapis humilis Rhapis multifida

    Rhopalostylis species in California

    Rhopalostylis is a genus from New Zealand and some surrounding islands that has mild cold hardiness to the upper 20s (around -2.2C)

    Roystoneas regia and borenquinia

    Roystoneas have mild cold tolerance that improves with age, with adults of some species tolerating temps into the high 20s (around -2C)

    Sabals:

    These palms are some of the hardiest and adaptable known in cultivation. All are considered cold hardy, though the range is broad with some only tolerating temps into the high 20s (around -2.4C) (Sabal mauritiiformis and Sabal yapa) while others tolerate temps down below 10F (-12C) (Sabal minor). Most of the rest do OK with temps down into the teens. These are all solitary costapalmate species from North to South America. Most are slow growing, though they grow much faster on the east coast than on the west coast. They are also relatively drought, heat and wind tolerant (except the two least cold hardy above). To me, most Sabal species tend to look alike, with only subtle differences notable. Some Sabals are common in cultivation, though most are only commercially available in the eastern U.S.

    Sabal bermudana Sabal domingensis immature Sabal domingensis

    Sabal etonia on left and Sabal minors on right Sabal mauritiiformis in California &nbs

    • Various herbs in pots, including parsely, rosemary and chives
    • Bougainvillea – Bougainvillea spp.
    • Purple petunias
    • Red geraniums – Geranium pelargonium
    • Mexican orange blossom – Choisya ternata
    • Chinese wisteria – Wisteria sinensis
    • New Zealand flax – Phormium tenax
    • ‘Hen and Chicks’ succulent – Sempervivum
    • Potted cumquat – Kumquat fortunella
    • Ixora – Ixora chinensis
    • Clivia – Clivia miniata
    • White/pink daphne – Daphne odora
    • White Camellia japonica
    • Pink azaleas – Azalea magnifica
    • Ponytail palm – Beaucarnea stricta
    • Red begonia
    • Rhapis palm – Raphis excelsa
    • Potted fern
    • Dark pink Cymbidium orchids
    • China doll – Radermachera sinica

    Many people love growing plants in pots, but potted gardens can be a lot of work.

    Choosing the right plants is half the battle. Some plants (such as roses, most Australian natives, most fruit trees and most vegetables) hate growing in pots. They will always struggle and they will never look good. Others love having their roots contained, so they thrive and flower well in pots.

    Here is the Burke’s Backyard list of the 10 best pot plants for full sun, and the 10 best pot plants for shade. Don has chosen plants to suit a range of climates. To find out which ones grow best in your area, check with your local nursery.

    10 best pot plants for full sun

    Herbs: try basil, coriander, parsley and chives. Herbs are readily available from nurseries and garden centres. Expect to pay about $4.75 for 150mm (6″) pots.

    Annuals/ bedding plants: try petunias for summer, and pansies from winter to spring. Petunias (Petunia x hybrida) are available for planting now. They cost from $4.25 a punnet.

    Pelargoniums and geraniums: try regal pelargonium, zonal geraniums and ivy geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum). Pelargoniums are very hardy and they love hot, dry positions. They will grow in all areas of Australia except for the tropics. You’ll pay around $10 for 200mm (8″) pots.

    Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) is similar in appearance to murraya (Murraya paniculata) but is a better choice for cooler areas. It has glossy green foliage and perfumed white flowers. Plants in 200mm (8″) pots cost about $19.

    Bougainvilleas love full sun and some varieties (particularly the dwarf Bambino range) do very well in pots. ‘Raspberry Ice’ is also a good one to try. Expect to pay from $12-20 for bougainvilleas. Bougainvilleas are very hardy and grow in all but the coldest areas of Australia.

    New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) is an excellent accent plant for a container. Dwarf varieties are available, and there are new varieties in a wide range of foliage colours. Ask at your local nursery for advice on the best ones for your climate. You’ll pay around $18 for a 200mm (8″) pot.

    Succulents are the most fashionable plants in Australia today. Try agave, echeveria and bromeliads. As well as having interesting form and foliage colour, some succulents produce attractive flowers. Prices range from about $7 to $15.

    Wisteria does well grown as a potted standard, and potted wisterias are not as rampant as wisterias planted in the ground. Try Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) or Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda). Expect to pay from $12 to $95.

    Citrus trees have glossy green foliage, fragrant white flowers and delicious fruit. Cumquats and ‘Meyer’ lemons are well suited to pot cultivation. Expect to pay about $30 for plants in 250mm (10″) pots. Citrus grows in all but the coldest areas of Australia.

    Ixora (Ixora chinensis ‘Prince of Orange’) flowers during spring and summer, and needs a frost-free area. New varieties are available with improved flower colour and size. 200mm (8″) pots cost about $18.95.

    10 best pot plants for shade

    Clivia (Clivia miniata) has dark green, strap-like foliage and orange flowers. New varieties are available with red, cream and yellow flowers. Prices vary depending on the variety, but the new varieties are the most sought after and the most expensive. Clivias grow everywhere in Australia except for the mountains.

    Daphne (Daphne odora) actually does better planted in pots than in the ground, because it is susceptible to root rot and pots provide the perfect drainage it needs. It is grown mainly for its fabulous perfumed flowers. Daphne grows best in the cooler areas of Australia. Expect to pay around $18.95 for a 200mm (8″) pot.

    Camellias will flower and grow happily in pots for many years. Sasanquas grow well in part-shade to full sun, while japonicas prefer a shaded position.

    Azaleas, particularly the smaller varieties, are well suited to pot culture. Your local nursery can suggest the best varieties for your area.

    Ponytail (Nolina recurvata) has a curious swollen base. It makes an attractive pot plant and will also take full sun. 150mm (6″) pots cost around $12.95. The ponytail plant will grow everywhere in Australia, except for the mountains.

    Begonia varieties will grow in all areas of Australia. They have beautiful flowers and they often have interesting foliage. They do best in a shady position.

    Palms including rhapis palm (Rhapis excelsa) and kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) can be grown in pots in a shady position. They are readily available from most nurseries and cost from $18.95 for 200mm (8″) pots.

    Ferns of all kinds do well in pots. They thrive in shady, moist, humid conditions.

    Orchids need an open, free-draining potting mix and a sheltered position. The most popular orchid grown is the cymbidium, but many other kinds are available including cattleyas, dendrobiums, slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis). Orchids in pots can be brought inside the house when in flower for a beautiful, long lasting display.

    China doll (Radermachera sinica) is a Chinese native with glossy, dark green leaves and an elegant growth habit. It does best as a garden plant in the warmer areas of Australia, but also makes an attractive pot plant. China doll is readily available in 200mm (8″) pots for around $18.95.

    Other tips

    When you buy a new plant, always repot it into a larger sized pot than it was growing in. Most potted plants grow best in good quality potting mix (orchids require orchid mix). Most potted plants need to be kept very well watered but should have excellent drainage. For best results check that drainage holes in pots are adequate and install a micro-irrigation system for potted plants. To improve drainage and to keep plants well contained, always elevate potted plants slightly using chocks or pot feet.

    Further information

    Staff at your local nursery or garden centre will be able to advise you on the best pot plants for your climate and particular situation.



    A. There are several varieties of palm trees that thrive in our neo-tropical climate. It is important to note that in Zone 9 the average annual minimum temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, consideration should be given to the cold tolerance of a palm tree. Most of the new commercial and entertainment developments in Galveston County are incorporating large numbers of palm trees in their landscapes. However, a new resident to the area could easily make a mistake by duplicating some of the palm trees that are being commercially installed. Local nurseries and garden centers are stocking lush, exotic species seen in pamphlets of tropical resort destinations, many of which are wholly inappropriate for our climate. A general rule for hardy palm selection is: palms with the bluest foliage are the most cold tolerant. This is due to a waxy coating on the fronds.

    The Sabal texana is one of the hardiest choices. Native to Zone 9, the Texas Sabal is a very cold tolerant, slow growing palm. It is characterized by its broad, cross-hatched trunk and slightly curved fan shaped fronds. Sabal minor, or Palmetto palm, is the hardiest species in the genus. This palm rarely forms an above ground stem and remains very short. It is more commonly used as a large shrub. The versatility of Sabal palms is in their ability to adapt to boggy soil conditions. The Palmetto palm even does well in shady, low light areas. The historic Kemper House in Galveston has many mature examples of both of these palms.

    The Sabal palmetto is also known as the Cabbage or Florida Palm. It is reported to be the most widely planted Sabal species in the U.S. Although it is well suited for our winter climate, it’s towering height and narrow ringed trunk gives it a giant toothpick-like appearance within a small residential setting. Interestingly, this palm transplants better as a mature tree than a smaller one. Fine specimens of this palm line the esplanade into South Shore Harbor Marina.

    The Washingtonia is commonly known in these parts as the Mexican fan palm. A fast grower, this palm is beautiful at any height which makes it an easy landscaping choice. This tree is distinguished by its bright green fronds and thin brown cross-hatched bark. The bark eventually falls away to reveal a smooth ringed trunk. The Washingtonia does well in our clay soil. Significant numbers of these palms have been planted along State Highway 146 heading North into Kemah.

    For a more feather-like appearance, Butia capitata or Pindo palm, is an excellent choice for the upper Texas coast. Its graceful blue-green fronds arch dramatically from its trunk to nearly sweeping the ground. This palm is also a slow grower and maintains a lush compact shape for many years. Although it can reach 25 feet in height, most remain shorter. A beautiful example of the Pindo palm is next to Larry’s Shoes in the Baybrook Commons Shopping Center.

    The Phoenix canariensis and Phoenix dactylifera are two additional choices for Zone 9. Commonly referred to as Canary Island date palm and Phoenix date palm, respectively, both specimens are quite large at maturity. The Canary Island variety has a large pineapple shaped trunk which can measure several feet in diameter. These palms can be seen along the banks of Clear Creek Channel as it curves toward the Kemah bridge from Clear Lake. Phoenix date palms make a dramatic statement at the entrances to South Shore Harbor on FM 2094.

    Trachycarpus fortunei is one of the hardiest palm varieties in the world. Mature specimens can be found in Canada, Scotland and Ireland. Also known as Windmill palms, this very distinctive variety is recognized by its hairy, narrow, brown trunk. Windmill palms will do best in Zone 9 if they are planted in a partially shaded location. The Baycliff Jack-in-the-Box on the corner of FM 146 at FM 646 is landscaped with these palms.

    The Chamaerops humilis is a dramatic choice as a container plant or in a landscape bed. Familiarly known as the Mediterranean fan palm, this variety commonly consists of clusters of small trunks projecting out from one larger trunk. Its small, compact shape make it easy to maintain. This palm winters well in our area and does best in well drained soil.

    Lastly, I am including a selection that is not a palm at all, it is just confused with one. Cycas revoluta is the scientific name for the hardiest species of the Sago palm. The Sago is a member of the Cycad family which shares many of the graceful, sweeping frond characteristic of palm trees. These exotic plants with stiff, dark green fronds are complimented most when placed in a landscape with palm trees of varying heights. A very large, old cluster of Sago palms graces the entrance to the Moody Mansion in Galveston.

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