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Tropical Plants Hardy Enough to Grow at Home

Discovering the Secrets of Tropical Oases in Cold Climates

I’ll never forget the day I first laid eyes on Sherri’s tropical garden in Arkansas. As a fellow zone 7b gardener from Virginia, I was equal parts amazed and intimidated. How on earth had she managed to create such a lush, vibrant oasis of banana trees, elephant ears, and cannas in a region known for its snowy winters?

After exchanging a few messages, Sherri graciously shared her secrets. Turns out, with a bit of creativity and the right plant selection, you can absolutely bring a touch of the tropics to your own backyard – no matter where you live. So let’s dive in and uncover the tropical plants hardy enough to thrive at home.

Choosing the Right Tropical Plants for Your Zone

When it comes to growing tropical plants in a non-tropical climate, the key is focusing on semi-hardy and cold-tolerant varieties. These are the plants that can hunker down and survive the winter in your garden, rather than having to be brought indoors.

One of Sherri’s go-to tropical stunners is the elephant ear. “My elephant ears did great,” she told me, “but my Canna Lilies got eaten by leaf rollers – then possibly Japanese beetles.” Good to know! Elephant ears seem to be a hardier choice in her zone.

Another reliable tropical that can tolerate cooler temps is the hardy hibiscus. Sadly, Sherri’s plants fell victim to the dreaded Japanese beetles. But with the right care and protection, hardy hibiscus can thrive even in northern gardens.

Looking beyond Sherri’s experience, other tropical stars that I’ve had success with in my own Virginia garden include:

  • Palms: Specifically the Windmill palm and Chinese fan palm, which can survive down to around 10°F.
  • Bananas: The ‘Basjoo’ banana is one of the hardiest, reliable to about 20°F.
  • Cordylines: Also known as ‘Ti plants,’ these colorful, sword-shaped foliage plants can tolerate light frosts.
  • Agaves: Several agave species, like the blue agave, are surprisingly cold-hardy.

The key is to research which varieties in the tropical plant world are adapted to handle the winter conditions in your specific USDA hardiness zone. Start there, and you’ll be on your way to creating your own lush oasis.

Outsmarting Old Man Winter

Of course, even the most cold-hardy tropical plants need a little extra TLC to make it through the winter in northern gardens. Sherri shared that she’s “trying several things in containers this year to see how they do” in her area. Smart move!

Container gardening is one of the best ways to grow tropicals in colder climates. The ability to move potted plants indoors or into a sheltered spot during the winter months is a game-changer. Just be sure to select suitably large containers – the bigger the pot, the more insulation for the roots.

Another clever tactic Sherri mentioned is to “lay out a true garden plan for the next year and will attempt to plant some in the ground if they do well in my yard this year.” This gradual, trial-and-error approach is perfect for finding the right tropical varieties for your specific microclimate.

And let’s not forget the power of strategic placement. Sherri shared that she’s “in the Ozarks” region, which means she likely has some excellent microclimates to take advantage of on her property. Planting tropicals against a south-facing wall or near a heat-absorbing structure can provide crucial extra degrees of winter protection.

Channeling Your Inner Tropical Oasis Designer

Of course, once you’ve mastered the art of growing tropicals in your non-tropical garden, the real fun begins – designing that lush, exotic escape you’ve been dreaming of. Sherri’s got some great ideas, like “staining the pergola, hanging curtains, adding about 30 new perennial plants and putting up a tiki umbrella” to help capture that Balinese vibe.

Personally, I’m a big fan of incorporating elements like stone pathways, water features, and tropical-inspired pottery to really sell the fantasy. And don’t forget the power of vertical structures – trellises, arches, and pergolas can instantly add that quintessential tropical feel.

The team at Today’s Gardens can also help you bring your tropical vision to life with custom garden design services. They’ve got a knack for blending unexpected elements to craft truly unique outdoor spaces.

Overcoming Challenges and Setbacks

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the challenges that come with growing tropicals outside their natural habitat. As Sherri lamented, “Between the extremely hot temperatures, insects, and lack of rain, it has been a rough summer on my plants.”

Yep, that about sums it up. Tropical plants that thrive in humid, consistently warm climates can really struggle when exposed to the wild temperature swings, pests, and drought conditions common in many parts of the US.

But don’t let that discourage you! With a little adaptability and creative problem-solving, you can overcome those obstacles. For example, Sherri mentioned having issues with leaf rollers and Japanese beetles. A few strategic applications of organic pest control or handpicking those invaders can go a long way.

And when it comes to the heat and drought, well-timed irrigation, shade structures, and mulch can work wonders. The team at Today’s Gardens can provide expert advice on tackling those tricky environmental conditions.

Bringing it All Together

At the end of the day, creating a thriving tropical oasis in a non-tropical climate takes a bit of trial and error. But with the right plant selection, smart growing strategies, and a dash of creativity, you can absolutely transform your backyard into a lush, inviting escape.

Just look at what Sherri has accomplished in her Arkansas garden. By embracing semi-hardy tropicals, container gardening, and clever design elements, she’s crafted a verdant paradise that would make even the most seasoned islander green with envy.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your own tropical haven today. With a little guidance from experts like Sherri and the team at Today’s Gardens, the possibilities are endless.

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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