Starting New Tropical Garden and need plant ideas

tikigardenerApril 8, 2009


I am a California Girl wishing she lived in the South Seas with a bikini and sarong but nonetheless am living in Utah. We have a 50's Ranch and we've just dug out all the overgreen evergreens and hedges that have have been there forever. I am so excited to start creating my personal tropical oasis. I could use some ideas of plants that will give the tropical effect and survive winters. I just bought some cannas, elephant ears, hostas, and tigridias. I'm not excited about the idea of digging them all out come fall and thought I'd give a few a try leaving them in. It seems some have had luck. I've got a .30 lot and over the next few years I'd like to create a real paradise. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!!

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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

Hi,I also live in Utah (Layton) and started turning my backyard into my own tropical paradise last year. I too have lots of canna and elephant ears which I have to dig up every year. I did leave some cannas in the ground this winter and just today I see one of them sprouting. They are on the south side up close to the house, so it is probably warmer there. But depending on where you plant them, you may be able to leave them in the ground. My neighbor used to leave his in the ground on the northside of his house and he would cover them with bags of leaves to protect them during the winter. I also purchased a musa basjoo banana plant at Lowes last year and planted it in the ground. It grew about 6 feet tall and when fall came I cut it back to about 2 feet tall and mulched it by placing bags of leaves in circle around it and filling the middle with more leaves and then covered the whole thing with a tarp to keep it dry. A few weeks ago I uncovered it to see how it did and to my suprise it looks great and it has several more pups coming up around it. Can't wait to see how big it gets this summer. Nothing says "tropical" like a banana tree in your yard!You might also consider planting some hardy hibiscus and ornamental grasses. I also have several palms I keep in pots and take outside in the summer. During the winter, I keep some in the house and some in the garage, which does not freeze. I have a lot of tropical houseplants that I also take outside and put on the patio or deck. Linda :)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 7:26PM
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Great to hear!! I just saw some Red Banana Trees that are absolutely gorgeous but they said it can't take the winter. I just planted my elephant ear bulbs and some tigridias last weekend and now we have a snowstorm!! Let me know how your tropicals come up this spring. I'd love to see some pics!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 3:57PM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

I thought of another plant that had last year that I just loved! It was a reddish colored castor bean which grew about 8 feet tall and had giant leaves. It is an annual that you can grow from seed and it will get that big in one season. It does have extremely poisonous seed pods on it so if you have small children around you may not want to plant it. I will post pictures later this summer, first I have a lot of work to do to get things going. I also plant quite a few dahlias as well as the canna's and EE's.

Where did you see the red banana? I had one that I kept in a pot but for some reason it died and I would like to get another one. Thanks, Linda

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 8:34PM
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Cooks Nursery and Greenhouse in Orem. I didn't check the price once I found out it wouldn't last winter but if you kept your banana tree alive I may try it. I have 3 year old twins so I better not chance the Castor Bean but it sounds awesome.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 10:19PM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

I don't know about the red banana, but if you can find Musa Basjoo banana, it will survive the winter in the ground with good mulching as long as it is in a well drained spot in your yard. You wouldn't want to plant anywhere that water accumulates because the excess moisture will rot the corm during the winter. During the summer they love lots of water and fertilizer.

 I have seen them at Lowes the past few years, so you might try looking there.Good luck with your garden!


    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 7:36PM
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tikigardener, welcome to Utah! Linda has given you some great information! I grow over 3,000 cannas and elephant ears, hibiscus, bananas and palms outside. It's worth digging and protecting. I've had 4 palms outside for years (some for over 15 years) and one is 10' tall. I've got several red Abysinnian banana (one is 20' tall) inside that I transplant outside each year. They grow the quickest and do the best in our climate. For maintenance free gardening, hardy hibiscus seem to be the best tropical choice.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 4:25PM
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What kind of Palms can you keep outside over winter?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 3:50AM
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Do you have a protected bed on the SE side of your house?

You may look into needle palm (the hardiest of palms but a shrub-like clump that is slow growing), and the trunk-forming windmill palm. Their botanical names are Rhapidophyllum hystrix and Trachycarpus fortunei, respectively. If you have a very protected spot, I'd perhaps mention Mediterranean Fan Palm, too (Chamaerops humilis).

Both should be in a non-windy area (no cold winter winds) and a well-draining, slightly drier soil in winter, too. Both will love heat and moisture in summer there.

There are other palms that others in the US (zone 5 and 6) have grown outdoors but at such ridiculous winter maintenance (heat lights, wrapping, etc) that it'd be ones you'd not want to bother with. Plus, that just looks strange and you can't protect a 20' palm forever as it grows.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 11:52AM
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Do you do anything with your palms over the winter? I'm going to try them thanks so much for the tips

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 11:37PM
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