- Zone 6 Tropical Plants – Tips On Growing Tropical Plants In Zone 6
- Growing Tropical Plants in Zone 6
- Tropical Plants for Zone 6
- Tropical plants; Cold and frost hardy tropical plants
- Cold Hardy Lilies: Tips On Growing Lilies In Zone 5
- Best Zone 5 Lily Plants
- Additional Hardy Lily Options
- Tropical plants for any climate
- These tropical-like plants are not limited to just the warmer parts of Australian gardens, their hardiness makes them a viable option for cooler zone gardens to obtain a tropical paradise.
- 12 Cold Hardy Tropical Plants to Grow Now
- Best Cold Hardy Tropical Plants for Cooler Climates
- Tips on Growing Cold Hardy Tropical Plants
- 1. Read the Label
- 2. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
- 3. Water Properly
- 4. Winterize
- Related posts:
Zone 6 Tropical Plants – Tips On Growing Tropical Plants In Zone 6
Tropical climates typically retain temperatures of at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 C.) year round. Zone 6 temperatures may drop to between 0 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -23 C.). Finding tropical plant specimens that can survive such cold temperatures can be a challenge. Luckily, there are many hardy tropical looking plants that will thrive in zone 6, and a few actual tropical denizens that will survive with some protection. Tropical plants in zone 6 aren’t just a pipedream, but some careful selection and site considerations are important for success with these heat-loving plants.
Growing Tropical Plants in Zone 6
Who doesn’t love the look of a tropical island, with its echoes of softly whispering surf and verdant green forests? Bringing these notes into the zone 6 garden is not as impossible as it once was due to hardier cultivars and hardy tropical looking plants. Another way to utilize zone 6 tropical plants is by taking advantage of microclimates. These vary depending upon elevation, topography, sun and wind exposure, humidity and proximate shelters.
Tropical plants for zone 6 need to withstand temperatures that can dip below -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 C.). Most warm region plants are not hardy when freezing comes into play
and will simply die, but there are some plants that are hardy tropical looking plants with durable winter hardiness.
There are a great many ferns and hosta that have the foliage and lush characteristics of tropical rainforest foliage combined with winter hardiness. Hardy hibiscus flowering shrubs are North American natives and have extreme cold tolerance along with tropical looking flowers. Many ornamental grasses, especially the smaller ones, have tropical appeal but are native to the region. These offer foolproof success in the tropical look garden.
Tropical Plants for Zone 6
If you ever wanted to grow a banana tree in zone 6 but didn’t think you could, think again. The hardy Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) can survive and thrive in USDA zones 5 to 11. It will even develop fruit, unlike some of the other hardy banana trees.
More food options that bring tropical flair to the zone 6 garden might be:
- Hardy kiwi
- Hardy fig
- Passion flower
- Eastern prickly pear
Canna and Agapanthus can add jewel tones to the northern tropical garden. If you are willing to install sensitive specimens in containers and move them in for winter, there are many more zone 6 tropical plants to try. Suggestions include:
- Ficus tree
The 20-foot tall Chinese needle palm is one of the most cold tolerant palms in existence. The needle palm is the most hardy palm in the world and reaches a useful 8 feet with huge, broad fronds.
There are many forms of the big leaved Colocasia with winter hardiness to zone 6, especially if they are planted against a protective structure.
Hardy eucalyptus, rice paper plant, and Yucca rostrata are all wonderful tropical options for a 6 climate. Don’t forget the clumping or Mexican bamboos which are excellent in cold regions and provide tropical foliage.
Some varieties of crape myrtle thrive in zone 6. Many lovely flower tones are represented and trees have a steamy 6- to 20-foot tall presence.
When in doubt in zone 6, use large containers on casters and introduce plant specimens to the patio in spring. By fall, roll any sensitive plants indoors to overwinter and start the process all over again. That way your garden has tropical tones during the season in which you most use it but you don’t have to consider sensitive plants disposable.
If you live in a cold climate, that should not stop you from having a beautiful tropical garden. There are some tropical plants that can tolerate cold climates. These plants are beautiful, decorative and most of all easy to grow. You can even grow some of them in containers. Go ahead scroll down and check out these amazing cold-tolerant tropical plants.
Bamboos love warmth and heat. It usually grows in tropical regions. Bamboos are extremely tough plants. They are so strong that they can even grow in cold climates. However, not all varieties of Bamboos are cold-tolerant. Therefore, make sure to choose the right variety.
2. Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise is one of the best cold-tolerant tropical plants. They are extremely large and dramatic. Growing them in your garden will give it a fabulous tropical look. Although you can find them naturally in tropical climates, you can also grow them basically in any kind of climate. However, you will be able to grow it only in containers so you can move it around to meet with her sunlight needs.
Colocasia is also known as Pink China is one of the toughest cold-tolerant tropical plants. You can easily grow it in cold climates as long as you provide it with a lot of mulch and organic matter. Pink China does not need much watering. It is not a problem to forget about watering it for a while.
Palms are one of the most recommended cold-tolerant tropical plants. They are very beautiful. They are a perfect choice to decorate your garden, yard, or even pool. There are many varieties of palms to grow in cold climates. We recommend the following varieties:
- Needle palm
- windmill palm
- sago palm
Hibiscus is one of the most popular cold-tolerant tropical plants. The reason why hibiscus is popular and coveted is that these plants are extremely ornamental and low maintenance. They are easy to grow and they will make your garden colorful. You will enjoy a delightful view every time you step into your garden.
Canna is another easy to grow cold-tolerant tropical plants. You can grow it in containers or in gardens. It is a recommended choice for beginner gardeners as it is almost impossible to fail to grow this decorative plant. Canna is distinguished by its great foliage show and gaudy flowers. You can protect this plant from Frost by mulching heavily.
If you want to make your garden look like a tropical garden, then you should definitely grow fern. However, not all fern varieties are cold-tolerant. The most ornamental fern varieties that can tolerate cold are:
- Western maidenhair fern
- Lady fern
- Christmas fern
- Western sword fern
This herbaceous perennial is not only beautiful and decorative but it is also extremely tough. It is almost indestructible. It can basically grow in any climate whether it is tropical, temperate or cold. Agapanthus has a beautiful blue color. It will make your garden looks so peaceful and calm.
Hostas are commonly used as are ground covers. Hostas are distinguished by their huge foliage that comes in a variety of colors. Hostas are very attractive. They have an extremely pleasant look. Besides, they are so big that they will definitely draw attention to your garden.
Bougainvillea is one of the most alluring cold-tolerant tropical plants. This perennial is very tough and it looks like a bouquet of flowers but it is not a flower. It has nice papers that look like flower papers. Bougainvillea is not as cold-tolerant as the rest of the plants on this list, thus, when temperature degrees fall down sharply in winter, you should move it inside.
11. Hardy Banana
These tropical plants will give any garden a hot and attractive tropical look. They are very elegant and eye-grabbing. However, only one variety of these plants can tolerate cold which is Musa basjoo. It is a tough ornamental plant that can be grown in containers too.
There are many varieties of Yucca but not all of them can be grown in cold climates. In fact, there is only one variety that you can grow in cold climates, Beaked Yucca. Beaked Yucca is also known as Yucca Rostrata. It is an exotic plant that will give a unique appearance to your garden. If you want to grow Yucca, you should protect from moisture in winter.
13. Japanese silver grass
These plants are an ideal choice to decorate gardens and pathways. They are low maintenance and easy to grow. Besides, they can tolerate both heat and frost.
Although this is not a cold-tolerant plant, but it can grow in temeprate climates if it is provided with protection in winter. Therefore, you should grow it in containers so you can move it indoors in winter.
These are the best and the most ornamental cold-tolerant tropical plants. These plants are easy to grow and they will definitely beautify your garden.
Tropical plants; Cold and frost hardy tropical plants
buy cold hardy tropical plants online
We get many inquiries regarding growing tropical plants in gardens which are prone to frost. It certainly is possible to grow tropical plants, or tropical-looking plants, in frost prone areas, as proven by many stunning tropical gardens.
Not only are there tropical plants which can actually handle frost, including some palms which can handle temperatures of up to -10 degrees, but there are many things you can do to increase the overall temperature in your garden by creating a ‘micro-climate’, or to increase the temperature in one spot, around a plant which needs it.
Green-, or glass houses, are a great way of growing tropicals in the cold as it keeps humidity high and frost out. Christmas lights can be wrapped around shrubs and trees to increase the air temperature, and brick pavements and walls are known to absorb heat in the sun, and release it when it gets cool, benefitting the plants around it.
Frost often settles from above, so a shade roof can be a great help to keep frost off your plants. Mulch will help keep the ground insulated and warm.
Below are some examples of tropical plants that can handle frost or cold.
Frost Hardy Plants
– Arenga engleri (Dwarf Sugar Palm) -10
– Butia capitata (Wine Palm / Jelly Palm) -10
– Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm) -10
– Sabal minor (Dwarf Palmetto) -10
– Washingtonia robusta (Mexican Fan Palm) -5
– Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm) -5
– Zamia furfuracea (Cardboard Palm) -2
Foliage & flowering plants:
– Bauhinia variegata (Purple Orchid Tree) -5
– Doryanthes excelsa (Gymea Lily) -5
– Dracaena draco (Dragon’s Blood Tree) -10
– Myrciaria cauliflora (Jaboticaba) – 3
– Quisqualis indica (Rangoon Creeper) -1
– Xanthorrhoea johnsonii (Grass Tree) -4
– Agave bracteosa (Squid Agave) -9
– Agave filifera (Thread Agave) – 9
– Agave parryi (Parry’s Agave) -9
– Agave victoria-reginae (Queen’s Agave) -9
– Yucca’s aprox -4
Cold Hardy Plants
– Beccariophoenix madagascariensis (Window Pane Palm) 0ºC
– Caryota mitis (Clustering Fishtail Palm) 0ºC
– Chambeyronia macrocarpa (Flamethrower Palm + Blonde Flamethrower Palm) 0ºC
– Dypsis decaryi (Triangle Palm) 0ºC
– Dypsis fakey (Fakey Palm) 0ºC
– Dypsis leptocheilos (Red Neck Palm / Teddybear Palm) 0ºC
– Dypsis lutescens (Golden Cane) 0ºC
– Dypsis Pink Crown (Pink Crown Palm) 0ºC
– Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (Bottle Palm) 0ºC
– Hyophorbe verschaffeltii (Spindle Palm) 0ºC
– Phoenix roebelenii (Dwarf Date Palm) 0ºC
– Lampranthus (Ice Plant) (0ºC – best protected if for a long period of time)
– Markhamia lutea (Yellow Nile Tulip Tree) 0ºC
– Pandorea Lady Di (White Bower Vine) 0ºC
– Randia fitzalanii (Native Gardenia / Yellow Mangosteen) 0ºC
Basic Canna Information
Cannas are tall, fast-growing, herbaceous, mono-stemmed plants available in many varieties and hybrids with foliage variations from solid to variegated to striated colors which may be any one or a combination of green, yellow, bronze, purplish or maroon, and produces beautiful, brightly colored flowers of yellow, white, red, pink, orange and others, and many with combinations of those.
Some are nearly fluorescent and very vibrant, looking forbidden and in some cases even look delicious. The pastel colors are great where you want soft backlighting (if you will) of other plants that you do not want to detract visual importance from.
Cannas might be of dwarf varieties, growing to only 2 or 3 feet in height, while many others reach heights of 4 to 6 feet or more. The blooms themselves may be sized from almost 2 inches to large 6 inches tall and wide. The usual blooming period for cannas is midsummer to frost. Cannas are quite easy to grow and an enjoyable show.
You should be able to find canna growing stock local to you without problems I suppose, depending upon where in the world you hang your hat. At least here in the midwest section of the United States, they are fairly common almost anywhere you find garden supplies, seeds, or plants; from your favorite large-chain grocery to Ace Hardware to Home Depot and beyond. Of course nurseries, plant and garden stores, seed catalogs, and the internet are also great places to shop for cannas. We have even traded with friends and neighbors. If you can not find a source for them then you aren’t looking very hard. You can contact us, we’ll find some for you!
Sometimes found as growing potted stock, other times as root divisions (called rhizomes) are also commonly found. Look for rhizomes which contain at least 2 or more eyes (points) on each, from which the actual plant stalks will grow. Generally, we have not seen cannas to be widely available in seed form without going through catalogs or large commercial producers, but there seems to be an ample supply on the internet as far as we have tell.
You may safely plant cannas directly in the ground in spring after the soil has warmed thoroughly and the soil can be worked, and obviously after frost dangers have past. Cannas love moist, deep, well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients, and require lots of sunshine for the best results.
Work a good amount of compost into rich soil about 12 inches deep or so. We especially favor composted cow manure but be warned – that stuff makes everything grow like crazy and more often than not provides a not-so-wonderful aroma %mdash; DO NOT USE INDOORS, and unless well composted, you’ll likely get some extra plant seeds in your canna plantings!
Plant rhizomes horizontally (laying on the side) with eyes pointing upwards as much as possible, with about 2 to 4 inches of soil above the rhizome. Dwarf varieties should be about 12 inches apart; for others a minimum of 18 to 24 inches of spacing seems to be sufficient. Lean towards the greater end of the variance; if planted too closely together, stunted growth and intermixing of root clumps may occur, causing competition between roots and plants for available space, sunlight, and food as well as making them more difficult to separate and prepare for overwintering.
Rhizomes may be started indoors 4 to 6 weeks early to obtain earlier blooms. Here in Zone 5, we like have ours in bloom by mid July. We start the rhizomes in late February to mid-March using 4 to 10 inch pots. We then start a hardening-off period outdoors in April taking care to provide with protecion from late season cold snaps.
When the ground has warmed sufficiently to work the soil and hard frosts are not an issue, we plant them to their summer locations. Our zone 5 area allows us to safely do this around Memorial Day (the end of May or beginning of June), not before.
Care and Feeding-
Cannas need as much sunlight as possible with at least a 4 hours being minimum for fair results. Cannas that are grown in shade most likely may not bloom, or grow to decent heights. Also, shade grown specimens do not suplly us with a lot of stock for future propagation in our experience. Here at Dannas, we have grown some plants to over 8 feet tall after feeding twice a month during the growing season, supplement with good, rich compost and planting them in a spot that got full sunlight for the entire day. This was a case of more is better during a couple of rare but excellent growing seasons here.
Water as needed, especially avoid letting the soil dry out, but you should not let cannas stand in wet soil. (*NOTE* more on this at another time- some cannas can be used in water gardening)
In late spring / early summer, feed and mulch the plants with a good rich compost or ask your local garden supply or nursery person for a suitable fertilizer if preferred. We also use general purpose water soluble mixes such as miracle-gro (no commercial affiliation or endorsement intended), Shultz’s, or similar products, to occasionally feed our cannas during the foliage growing and flowering stages. This has sort of backfired once or twice as we think we may have actually delayed flowering by using high nitrogen content feedings that did give very good leaf and stem growth. But hey- we’re not scientists here, we want the best results using the safest and easiest methods and materials we HAVE ON HAND or can produce ourselves if possible. Higher phosphorous content promotes the blooming (and seed production), nitrogen content helps foliage, and potassium aids strength and hardiness.
Some of us are lucky enough to live in agricultural zones that actually get what is commonly referred to as COLD WEATHER; not only frost, but freezing and sub-zero temperatures, and even (I can’t bear to say it…) S N O W – ouch! In those instances, cannas also provide us with another of Mother Nature’s complimentary duties – preparing the garden for overwintering.
For cannas (which for the most past are not very cold hardy at all), we must cut, dig and store them in preparation for next year’s enjoyment. Although not difficult (albeit a bit time intensive) and in some zones not absolutely necessary, we do the following for overwintering:
- Just before the first anticipated frost, cut the stalks above ground level to somehwere around 12-14 inches high. If you had a good growing season and kept them well watered, provided plenty of food and sunlight, you’ll be amazed at what you’re going to find in the next step. Remember that small carrot-sized rhizome you originally planted in the spring? Carefully start to dig at least 6 or 8 inches away from the stalks, and down about 6 or 8 inches, slicing into the earth in a circle around the stalk to create a pseudo-root ball – ideally you want a soccer or football sized clump of roots and soil. Using your shovel, push down and under the standing stalk and lift each root clump from the ground – do not worry about removing soil from the clump at this time. Also, DO NOT CLEAN OR DIVIDE at this time. Place the clumps in a warm dry location in a box or something for 1 or 2 weeks to let them ‘cure’ before winter storage preparation.
- After the curing period, you may shake, loosen or otherwise remove excess dirt and soil but thorough cleaning is not necessary, and dividing still is not yet recommended. Place the rhizomes in a box or non-airtight container and cover with sand, peat moss, vermiculite, or a combination of both. This container should then be stored in an area where temperatures will consistently be in a range between 40 degrees (above freezing) but below 60 or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They should remain mostly dry until spring planting time arrives. Extended low (freezing) temps or damp conditions will promote rotting and decay of the now dormant growing stock, while temperatures higher than 65 degrees will dry the rhizomes out and render them poor producers at best or even useless for the next season.
- In late winter, early spring before planting time, take each clump and cut, break, or otherwise carefully detach individual ‘fingers’ of the clump, these should come apart with some ease; simply grab one of the fingers, gently bend and pull or move it away from the main clump. They usually give way easily, after you do a few of them, you’ll have a feel for how they are joined to the clump. Try to make sure there are at least two or three eyes or points on each piece you remove. Now repeat the the planting process and get ready for the show. Having done this cycle a couple of times, you’ll see how easy, enjoyable, and reqrding Cannas really are!
Cannas are hardy in zones 7 to 10, you should be able to leave the rhizomes in the ground in lower zone 6 if you mulch heavily in the fall. We have done this in zone 5 too, but there are several plants (not just cannas) that don’t survive our unpredictable and often harsh zone 5 winters, so in hardiness areas below Zone 7 it is best to raise them from the earth and overwinter in a proper manner.
During the storage period you might also check the root clumps every 3 or 4 weeks for any that may be spoiled and remove those. If desired, a fungicide may be applied at the time they are ‘packed’ away for storage, although we don’t use it here on our cannas at Dansville.
Here we overwinter as above with a minor variation though – on the day after the first heavy frost the canna’s stalk and foliage will be cut down to about 2 inches above the soil line, and then we let them remain in the ground for 1 or 2 days. When we lift them from the ground we remove most of the soil but not to any great extreme. It is not known what difference it makes, but that is the way it was taught to us and we haven’t lost any healthy rhizomes yet doing it that way.
It apparently has to do with letting the buried rootstock ‘healing over’. When done this way, you’ll notice that the plants sort of ‘bleed’ from the cut and if you let them set as described above the wounds seem to ‘heal’ a bit. This isn’t a scientific note, just a personal observation and preference from experience.
Comments and Overview-
Cannas are a must here in at Dansville’s Dannas; We use them for background plantings, height features in borders and island areas, and because we just plain like them! Hummingbirds apparently find them to be a great food source, preferring the red and orange colored cannas. And they evidently find the plant a good vantage point to perch upon. We’ve had as many as 10 hummingbirds at once within an 8 by 8 foot area planted with cannas, and it seems Presidents are the most attractive to them.
We vary our canna plantings from year to year, and intermixing them with our banana plants (cousins to cannas) for interest and beauty has worked well, as both types share very similar requirements.
Our cannas also find their way into our container gardens as well; the dwarf varieties are great for this and can really highlight a 5 or 10 gallon pot filled with begonias, marigolds, impatiens, and petunias.
We have wanted to try growing from canna seed for the experience, but just haven’t taken the time as yet to do it. We have also incorporated some varieties in the watergardening at this location which is rewarding in itself.
Special thanks to Chris Holden for assistance in cyber-editing.
Cold Hardy Lilies: Tips On Growing Lilies In Zone 5
Lilies are one of the most spectacular blooming plants. There are many varieties from which to choose, with hybrids a common part of the market. The most cold hardy lilies are the Asiatic species, which easily survive down into USDA zone 3. You are not reduced to using Asiatic lilies in cold regions. Often, growing lilies in zone 5 will require early starting indoors and lifting to store for winter, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a full array of the bulbs.
Best Zone 5 Lily Plants
Lilies are classed as belonging to Lillium, a large genus of herbaceous flowering plants which arise from bulbs. There are nine main divisions of lily hybrids, dividing them by form but mostly by their parent plants. Not all of these are suitable for zone 5 climate conditions, which may range between -10 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 to -29 C.).
Lilies need a period of cool dormant conditions to promote flowering, but a word of caution to northern gardeners – bulbs may be prone to freezing in cold climates, which can ruin the plant and cause bulbs to rot. Choosing the best lilies for zone 5 will contribute to your growing success. Also, growing lilies in zone 5 that are marginally hardy can be achieved by locating them in a warmer “microclimate” in your garden and mulching the bulbs heavily for winter to protect them from cold.
One of the best lilies for zone 5 is the Asiatic lily. These are extremely hardy, need little care and thrive in areas where the tender Oriental lilies cannot. They are also available in many colors, in white, pink, orange, yellow and red. They are the earliest lilies to bloom, generally in early to mid-summer.
A popular hybrid, LA Hybrids, blooms longer into the season and with a mild, delicious scent. Other hybrids to try might be Red Alert, Nashville and Eyeliner. Neither the true Asiatics nor their hybrids require staking and have long-lasting upturned faces with gently curved petals.
The University of Minnesota states that a few of the Oriental lilies are suitable for that zone 5a and 5b climate. Oriental hybrids are hardier than pure Oriental lilies. These bloom later than the Asiatic and bear a heady fragrance. These cold hardy lilies will still benefit from mulch over the site in winter and well prepared soil that drains readily.
The Oriental hybrids range from 3 to 6 feet in height with large, often frilled, blooms and heavy scents. Some of the hardier Oriental hybrids are:
- Casa Blanca
- Black Beauty
- Journey’s End
- Yellow Ribbons
Additional Hardy Lily Options
If you want to try something different than the Asiatic or Oriental varieties, there are a few other types of lily that will be hardy to USDA zone 5.
Turk’s Cap lilies grow 3 to 4 feet tall and are also known as Martagons. The blooms are small and dainty, with recurved petals. These are very hardy little plants and may produce up to 20 flowers per stem.
Trumpet lily is another class of Lillium. Most commonly known are the Easter lilies, but there are also Aurelian hybrids.
Tiger lilies are probably familiar to most gardeners. Their freckled flowers increase over the years and colors range from gold to orange and some hues of reds.
Rubrum lilies are marginally hardy in zone 5. Growing lilies in zone 5 from this group may require extra mulch or even lifting if in the colder parts of the region. Colors in this group are among the pinks and whites.
Zone 5 lily plants are not only possible but there are many hardy plants from which to choose.
Tropical plants for any climate
These tropical-like plants are not limited to just the warmer parts of Australian gardens, their hardiness makes them a viable option for cooler zone gardens to obtain a tropical paradise.
For many people, the allure of a tropical garden bursting at the seams with lush foliage plants is something that easily captures the imagination from the avid long-term gardeners to beginners.
There is something about tropical gardens that evokes intrigue and mystery and what we commonly view as potted (indoor) plants become the main focus of the garden as they provide structure and colour and a feeling of coolness on those hot summer days. This style of garden can provide a sense of tranquillity and peacefulness throughout the year as the demand for flowers is somewhat reduced and a stronger emphasis is placed on their individual form and sometimes delicate leaf patterning.
Although many of the foliage plants that we visually connect to this style of garden originate from the steamy jungles in South America or Asia or the rainforests of Northern Australia, most rely on high levels of humidity and rainfall to sustain their lush appearance. Yet there are still many worthy plant choices that can equally provide a similar look and form and whose water consumption is considerably less allowing them to be a little more easily sustainable in today’s water conscience world.
You don’t always need a large garden to capture this look in your garden. In fact creating a tropical atmosphere can be done on any sized block and can extend to patios, verandas and also balconies.
One key element when trying to recreate a tropical garden at home is to plant a little closer together than what would normally be considered. Filling up dark corners and garden edges will instantly provide a feeling of fullness to your garden space.
It’s always helpful if you happen to have a few medium sized trees in your garden that can provide some light protection from their canopy from the intense summer sun or even light frost during the winter depending on your location. In nature, most of the tropical plants we associate with this style of garden play the strongest role as part of the understorey plantings. The dappled light helps to bring out their best features and a certain “gloss” to their leaves.
>> Giant white bird of paradise
If you don’t have trees, then a great option could be the use of the Giant white bird of Paradise, (Strelitzia nicolai). This large growing species produces broad banana-like foliage that can act as a good shade provider and background plant. Due to its full size of around six metres, these are best if planted directly into the garden if you have room, as they underperform with the restrictions of pots. Strelitzia Nicolai can also be used to great effect if planted as a privacy screen around pools or to soften hard surfaces such as high walls and fences. As they mature, large deep blue to black buds are formed from within the leaf axils where white and blue flowers attract nectar loving birdlife. The giant white bird of paradise is easily grown all along the east coast of Australia and has great tolerance for drought once fully established.
One of the easiest of all plants would be members of the Philodendron family. There are so many members of this genus on the market these days and most are highly adaptable to varied climatic conditions. Their natural ability for drought tolerance accompanied with their lush foliage appearance makes them number one on the list for an addition for a tropical style garden. One of the best forms would be Philodendron selloum x ‘Hope’. This is a more compact version of the older and much larger style Philodendron selloum (bipinnatifidum) yet has smaller, less deeply-lobed leaves than its larger sibling. This is a medium sized grower to around 1.5 metres x 1.5 metres with wavy foliage and is very dependable even in cold climates where it can tolerate near freezing temperatures. Another is the old faithful, Philodendron ‘Xanadu’. In frost fee zones, ‘Xanadu’ can be adapted to grow out in the full sun if required, but in most areas its best to keep them slightly undercover and away from intense afternoon sun. Xanadu is also highly adaptable to cooler growing conditions but is a little less frost tolerant that Philodendron ‘Hope’.
>> Shell ginger
The ginger family is wide and entire gardens can be created simply by using this one genus alone. One of the easiest and hardiest of all is Shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘variegata’). This reliable species of (ornamental) ginger still graces many older style homes in sub-tropical areas, yet is well adapted to grow in cooler regions where its golden splashed foliage can bring a spark of excitement to a lightly shaded space. Both the large and dwarf forms of this old timer can produce gentle clusters of intricately patterned apricot and white flowers at the end of its arching branches. Removal of the entire branch after flowering to ground level is the easiest way of ensuring that a lush well-formed plant is maintained.
>> hostas or caladiums
Although not generally suited for warm or sub-tropical zones, the herbaceous Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana) or Plantain lily is something extra special for the cool climate gardener. This cold loving genus has an enormous following in many temperate parts of the world with many hundreds of hybrid cultivars displaying varied forms of colourful foliage from golden, steel blue, variegated, miniature and giant leaf forms. Dormant through the winter months, Hosta emerge from the ground with the warmth of spring and summer as they unfurl their beautiful foliage to take their place in the garden for yet another growing season. Gardeners in the subtropics shouldn’t lose hope as an even brighter (warm climate) equivalent can be used in the way of Caladiums (Caladium bicolour). Better known as ‘Bleeding hearts’, this gorgeous group of deciduous tropical bulbs also emerge with the warmth of spring and summer and bring intense colour to any tropical inspired garden. Apart from different climatic temperatures, Hosta and Caladiums both require similar growing conditions with dappled light to shady corners in well-drained soil. As the new leaves are pushed through at the beginning of the growing season, both require adequate protection from slugs and snails as it is at this point in their growth cycle that they are at their most vulnerable for attack. As both are fully herbaceous and disappear completely over winter to an underground bulb, it is sometimes a clever option to grow these in their own display pots where gardeners will always know where the bulbs are and not view an empty spot in the garden as an opportunity to (mistakenly) plant another plant over them. The pots in themselves can be utilized as part of the tropical garden theme, so take the time to pick something that can still remain a visual feature while the plants are dormant.
The old fashioned Aspidistra or Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) ticks many boxes when it comes to garden design and the tropics are no exception. Viewed as one of the hardiest of all garden plants, aspidistras can bring lush foliage year round to any sized garden space. The deep green form is most easily recognised and found, but the variegated form brings with it a little extra charm albeit being a little slower to develop. Another lesser known cultivar of aspidistra from Japan is ‘Hoshi Zora’ commonly sold under the name of ‘Starry Sky’. This form has more slender foliage with each leaf speckled with small cream to soft lemon spots. It is smaller growing than the regular form and interestingly looks great when planted alongside each other. Aspidistra enjoy a shady, well-drained position and are highly adapted to growing within or close by to more dominant roots systems from larger plants. They have a minimal water requirement while still maintaining a lush appearance.
To fill in a few spaces at the base of other taller species and to bring some extra seasonal colour into your “tropical” garden, consider using Clivia (Clivia miniata). While these evergreen clumping perennials can make a bold foliage statement at any time of year, it is their eye-catching large heads of brightly coloured blooms in all shades of orange, lemon and near red that seem to draw most of the attention from onlookers each spring. Tropical in origin, Clivia are capable of living in both cool and warm climates where they are perfect choices for filling out unused spaces that are prone to being slightly on the drier side. They are hardier than what most give them credit for and can be very long-term additions to gardens, patios, balconies and verandas. Provide them with bright, indirect light and a well-drained location. Avoid the impulse to continually split up clumps as they form as they flower best when the clump is mature. The addition of a well-balanced granular fertiliser such as Searles Rose & Flower Plant Food for flowering plants in summer and autumn will encourage healthy colourful blooms each spring.
>> tiger grass
Tiger grass (Thysanolaena maxima) has often been confused as a bamboo, yet is a perennial clump forming grass up to three metres high and two metres wide. It makes a most desirable backdrop to the rest of the garden where it can quickly disguise ugly fences, walls or outbuildings and can really help showcase many other foliage plants. Tiger grass is quick to grow through the spring and summer seasons with a little extra irrigation, but when established, is very drought tolerant. It’s happiest in most parts of (frost fee) Australia, yet struggles in cold mountainous zones and Tasmania.
About The Author
Noel Burdette is a highly respected Local horticulturist and plantsman in Se Qld and is well known for his love of naturalistic and softer style gardens . Apart from having his own Private garden consultancy service , Noel can be regularly heard on 1116 4bc talking gardening each Saturday morning and is a contributor to many local garden magazines such as Subtropical gardening , About the Garden and Queensland Smart Farmer (Rural Press) . He is also a regular presenter on the locally produced television programme Blooming in Brisbane” which airs each week on Digital 31. Noel holds a flag highly for healthy backyard ecologies and is often heard at many garden events, clubs and Societies throughout south East Queensland. On request, Noel also offers a private garden consultation and design service. Whenever Noel has the opportunity, he can be found eagerly tending to his own garden “Wildside” which is highly focused on healthy ecology and plant diversity. Visit Noel’s blog http://noel-burdette.com
12 Cold Hardy Tropical Plants to Grow Now
Everyone loves the feel of the tropics. Palm trees swaying in the breeze. Exotic flowers with intoxicating aromas. The fragrant fruit that seems to melt in your mouth. But did you know you can grow cold hardy tropical plants as far north as New York State?
By incorporating some of these cold hardy tropical plants in your garden, you can enjoy your own tropical stay-cation without leaving your backyard!
Best Cold Hardy Tropical Plants for Cooler Climates
You can’t get much more tropical than a banana tree. And luckily for most gardeners, there are a few varieties of this cold hardy tropical plant that can survive as far north as New England (USDA Zone 5). Sadly, these banana plants won’t produce edible bananas. But they will delight you with their broad tropical leaves and vigorous growth.
Cold hardy tropical banana plants can grow up to 13 feet tall. Cut your hardy banana tree to the ground after the first frost and mulch heavily over the stumps. This will protect the tough “tropical” plant so it can survive temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
You can find hardy banana plants at Logees.com.
With its stunningly pretty flowers and beautiful vining habit– not to mention its tasty fruit– the maypop is the perfect fit for cold climate gardeners looking for a tropical vibe. This vigorous vine is the hardiest of the passion flowers (Passiflora spp.). Like its tropical cousins, the maypop dazzles with exotic, unique flowers that last from mid-summer through fall.
In warmer climates, this vine can get very aggressive. So, make sure you give it plenty of space. Maypops can survive temperatures below -20 F, and these topical-looking hardy plants can even thrive in a container. Just make sure to give them plenty of sunlight and water.
Maypops are tough to find at local garden centers, so buy them online from Logee’s.
Elephant ears (Colocasia spp.) can’t survive year-round in climates below USDA Zone 7, but they still deserve a special mention in this list of cold hardy tropical plants. The enormous leaves that give elephant ears their name simply scream “tropical.” And the giant leaves will give your garden a serious “Wow!” factor.
Elephant ears make a wonderful tropical accent, whether you can grow them in the ground year-round or need to bring them inside during the winter. If you live in Zone 6 or below, you can grow them in a pot or in the ground. But before the first frost, bring your potted elephant ears plant indoors and dig up the corms (bulbs) in the ground and store them in a cool, dry place until spring.
You can find a selection of elephant ears online at Burpee.com.
The paw paw seems tropical—even though it’s not. Paw paw is actually native to temperate North America. Its closest relative is the soursop—a broadleaf flowering evergreen tree that grows in the tropical regions of the Americas. In fact, the paw paw is the only temperate member of a very tropical family of trees.
The large, abundant fruit it produces (up to 30 pounds per paw paw tree!) is said to taste like banana custard. And because this tree originates in America, it is cold hardy, pest resistant and virtually maintenance free. Grow these bountiful trees for a tropical look and tropical taste! Just make sure you grow more than one tree for cross-pollination.
Available at Logees.com.
The canna lily is one of those special plants whose foliage is easily as gorgeous as its flowers. These summer-blooming bulbs are much hardier than they look. Plus, they are very easy to grow.
Canna lillies are available in a wide variety of foliage and flower colors, from bright yellow to pink and red. Check out ‘Tropicanna’ or ‘Yara’ to see just how gorgeous these cold hardy tropical plants can be.
You can find canna lilies seasonally—in spring and fall—at Wayside Gardens.
When most people imagine ferns, they think of the popular (but delicate) houseplants such as Boston ferns. Hardy fern species, however, are about as tough as they come. And several of them are native to North America.
Hardy ferns are ideal for shady areas of the garden. They come in a wide variety of textures and colors, from the classic evergreen Cyrtomium fortunei (Zones 5-9), to the stunning silver-plated Japanese Painted Fern (Zones 4-9).
If you want a cool, tropical feel in your garden, check out the selection of hardy ferns at Wayside Gardens.
The Jelly palm, also known as the Pindo palm, is one of the toughest palm trees around. In fact, a Jelly palm can withstand winters down to 10 degrees F. This tough, cold hardy tropical plant is one of very few palm trees able to handle freezing temperatures.
Jelly palms stay nice and compact, especially in cooler climates, only growing to about 10-20 feet tall. They also produce tasty palm fruits in the summer that are popular in jams and jellies (hence the name of the plant). For the more adventurous, the fruits can be fermented into wine. These palms can grow in containers, so gardeners in Zones 6 and colder can still enjoy them.
Jelly palms are available at Nature Hills Nursery.
With its tropical flair and showstopping flowers the size of dinner plates, what’s not to love about hardy hibiscus?? These shrubby perennials look very similar to their tender tropical relatives.
But the cold hardy tropical plants can withstand winter temperatures down to USDA Zone 4. Hardy hibiscus such as “Lord Baltimore” and “Plum Crazy” (pictured above) are the result of many decades of careful breeding. They are easy to grow and widely adaptable. Plus, they give an unparalleled flower show from summer through fall.
Learn more about the hardy hibiscus’s fascinating history, and purchase one for yourself at AmericanMeadows.com.
Bamboo is the world’s tallest member of the grass family. These wonderful plants can make a delightful addition to any garden that’s inspired by the tropics. Bamboo is a fast-growing plant, and some mature bamboo plants can grow up to 12 inches a day.
In addition, bamboo is an aggressive grower, and many species can be invasive. However, clumping varieties such as ‘Sunset Glow’ are hardy, low maintenance plants that are a delight in any garden in Zones 5-9.
Learn more about growing clumping bamboo at Monrovia.com.
For a nice cold hardy tropical plant that gives fruit as a bonus, you can’t go wrong with a fig tree. These trees are widely adaptable to different soils and climates, and their fruits are delicious when cooked, dried or picked right off the tree.
Most fig trees are only hardy to USDA Zone 7, but a select few, like ‘Chicago Hardy’ (pictured here) and ‘Violette de Bordeaux,’ can handle winters down to Zone 5.
You can find fig trees easily online at reputable retailers such as NatureHills.com.
Learn more about growing fig trees in containers in our story on growing Perfect Patio Fruit Trees.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the intoxicating smell of a jasmine in full bloom, you’ll be delighted to learn that there is a hardy species.
This beautiful tropical-looking vine can handle winters down to Zone 6 with some extra protection. In fact, a hardy jasmine needs a cold spell in winter in order to bloom the following spring. Provide your hardy jasmine vine with a trellis to climb on, and plenty of sun and water. It will reward you with many weeks of blooms from late spring through summer.
You can purchase hardy Jasmine at Logees.com.
Toad lilies (Tricyrtis sp.) are not nearly as popular as they deserve to be. These cold hardy tropical plants have a wonderful, exotic flair with their uniquely intricate blooms. As if that wasn’t enough, the plants are surprisingly tough.
Toad lilies are prized for their attractive foliage for most of the year. But starting at the end of every summer, they dazzle as they burst into bloom. These lilies prefer partial shady areas with rich, loamy soil.
Toad lilies are hard to find at most brick-and-mortar nurseries, but you can find them online at retailers such as Wayside Gardens.
Also read Flowers and Flowering Plants Add Color and Pizzazz to Gardens.
Tips on Growing Cold Hardy Tropical Plants
Most of the cold hardy tropical plants featured here do not require much specialized care. But it helps to be prepared and to do your research before buying.
1. Read the Label
Like all plants, cold hardy tropical plants have specific light, water and soil needs. Do your research, beyond just checking your USDA Growing Zones, to make sure you can provide for your new plant’s needs.
Most of the cold hardy tropical plants mentioned here can withstand very cold temperatures. But they require high humidity and consistent moisture to thrive.
(Sorry, desert gardeners. You’ll have the best success growing these plants in a humid indoor environment. So, grow tropical plants in a greenhouse.)
2. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
Mulching is always a good idea. For tender tropical-looking plants, it’s a 100% requirement. Do not skimp on mulch! Mulch will keep weeds down and make your garden beds pretty. It also insulates your plants’ roots against hot and cold temperatures, and it is vital for retaining moisture in the soil.
3. Water Properly
With a few exceptions, such as the Toad Lily, most plants prefer to be watered deeply. After watering, allow them to dry out a bit before you water them again. Rather than taking the “little and often” approach, water thoroughly—but only when your plant needs it.
The success of growing tender plants (like the hardy banana) at the edge of their growing zone comes down to winterizing properly. In Zones 5 and 6, for example, you will need to cut your banana to the ground and mulch it with a pile of straw for extra protection from the cold.
Other plants, such as the fig tree, may also need to be brought into a shed or garage to sit out the winter cold. Do your research on proper winterizing before you bring a cold hardy tropical plant home. This is especially true if your garden is at the colder edge of its growing zone.