Favorite Tropical plants for Temperate Areas

CityGreenjeans(z7bAL Bham)September 29, 2004

Hi all, I just wanted to ask everyone what their favorite tropical plant was for growing in temperate areas. I live in zone 7 (b) and have recently become slightly more interested in plants that look like they are from the tropics but will survive the winters here in zone 7. I presently have no interest in trying to overwinter anything in a garage or the house so they will have to fend for themselves out in the cold.

I presently have elephant ears, ginger lilies, cannas, and curcumas but would like to hear about others I might be missing out on.

Thought I would check with the experts?

Thanks in advance,

Doug

Birmingham, AL

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kbmtholly(7b/NC)

Nothing says tropical like palms. I also like voodoo and cobra lilies, Ligularia, Fatsia. Bannanas definately do the trick. Some of my favorite cannas are the large, small flowered red stripe and bannana cannas. Although my favorite tropicals are the Hedychium gingers.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2004 at 12:09AM
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CityGreenjeans(z7bAL Bham)

Thanks for the tips - I wrote down your suggestions and am still doing my research. Next year I might post any good results.

Doug

    Bookmark   October 2, 2004 at 9:09PM
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john_trussville(z7b AL)

Hey Doug,

Let me add a few suggestions for you.

Phillodendron selloum, hardy oleander & chinese fan palms (livestonia chinensis). I bought all of these last summer at H.D. for $5.99 each & left them in the ground last winter. They all looked fine through our first frosts & didn't show damage until we had overnite temps below 25F. This spring they all came back with a vengeance & had regained their original size by midsummer. The oleanders have been blooming for the past two months.

If you want your yard to retain a tropical look through the winter, there are several cold hardy palms that do quite well here in B'ham. I currently have eight different species in my yard out here in Trussville. You should maybe give some a try.

john

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 10:29PM
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danbo(8b MS Coast)

I also like gingers (hedychiums, curcumas, costus and globbas), banana, palms. And though I treat them as anuals slip in some heliconia, coleous, and persiam shield.

I'm not sure which will survive winters up ther. I've been exploring the cycads. sago palm does well here. Am trying my luck with mexican sago, prince sago and coontie. Got them through a few winters so far. Young plants. Will try mexican cycad as soon as it matures a little more. And bring posts of cardboard palm in an out in spring and fall.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 7:15AM
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CityGreenjeans(z7bAL Bham)

Thanks John and danbo, will definitely look into those. Quite a few houses in my neighborhood have banana type trees but I don't know where they got them or what their scientific name is. Gingers Lilies and Cannas are very popular around here. A lot of gardening books in general list a lot of these plants as zone 9 and 10 when in fact I know that a lot of them thrive in my area. Sometime you have to look for authors from your part of the country to know for sure. Passalong Plants is a great book for cutting through the hype and finding out how well a plant will do for you.

Anyway, research is half the fun so I do appreciate all the suggestions and will enjoy reading about them.

Doug

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 6:54PM
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CityGreenjeans(z7bAL Bham)

Update :

John, I decided to take your advice on the Livestonia Chinensis. I went by Home Depot but they did not have it. Instead, I picked up Fatsia Japonica. Any insight into this one? Hardiness, etc.?

Never fear though, Plant Odyssey has plenty of the Chinese Fan Palms in stock so I can still get some of those. I plan on putting them in with my old fashioned roses for a complementary accent.

Thanks again for the advice,

Doug - Hoover

    Bookmark   October 17, 2004 at 1:38PM
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patsy42

My favorite tropical is streletzia (bird of paradise).This plant gets huge,huge leaves.When I bring it in for winter it is very content to sit in my bedroom with a east exposure and just keeps growing.This is the white streletzia not the one that has onange flowers and narrower leaves.Even though it is so easy to care for I,ve never have been sucessful in getting it to flower.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 3:40PM
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john_trussville(z7b AL)

hey Doug,

I was just at the Galleria H.D. about a week ago & I'm sure I saw some chinensis there. Did you look inside the greenhouse where the indoor tropicals are? Regardless, I wouldn't buy one this late in the year, as you'll have little chance of it surviving planted outdoors unless we have an extremely mild winter. I'd wait till spring & allow the roots to get established before the next winter. And I sure wouldn't buy a common plant like this at Plant Odyssey. While I do believe in supporting the local independently owned nurseries, you'll pay 4 or 5 times more for a chinensis at P.O.. Home Depot usually has huge ones for 5 or 6 dollars all year long. The last time I was at the Galleria H.D. they still had three or four windmill palms in the outdoor nursery for 23.95 each. They would be a much better buy for you in terms of long term survival. But again, I would wait till spring to plant a windmill also. Hope this helps.

john

    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 8:09AM
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CityGreenjeans(z7bAL Bham)

Thanks John, I saw some windmill palms out at PO with the Chinese Fan ones. There was also something different there that was not marked and when I asked, I was told it was a Phoenix Palm. Ever heard of it?

I was told all were winter hardy here in the Magic City. I never knew there was such a variety of palms you could get that would survive the winter. I guess a lot of them are native to the upper elevation tropical areas.

Who knew?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 3:57PM
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john_trussville(z7b AL)

Doug,

I hope you didn't buy the phoenix palm or chinese fan at Plant Odyssey. They are NOT hardy here & will surely die if left outside without a whole lot of protection. i sure wouldn't take the chance. They might come back in the spring, but very doubtful especially if planted this late in the year. If you did buy them I would return them & demand a refund. If they give you any problems ask Libby (the owner) to produce any book on palms that says a phoenix dactylifera or a livestonia chinensis is hardy in our zone 7b location. Believe me, none exist.

If you want, email me at jonginlb1@aol.com & I'll furnish you with links to some websites that will give you a wealth of info about cold hardy palms.

john

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 8:49PM
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CityGreenjeans(z7bAL Bham)

Thanks John, I think I'll take your advice and wait until spring.

Doug

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 2:18PM
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Ron_B

Anything with big leaves will produce an exotic effect.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 7:41PM
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gordonf(z8a/Vancouver I)

Don't forget that some of the bamboos can withstand very cold winters - you'll have to do a bit of research to find them, though. Also, sumach, if you prune it down in spring, grows enormous, tropical-looking leaves. If you plant the tree where it will cast shadows at night, it really looks incredible! I'm in zone 8, so I can't vouch for a colder zone, but last year I accidentally left some Mexican Shell Flower (Tigridia) bulbs in the ground over winter and they bloomed well this summer.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2004 at 9:41PM
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tropicallvr(11)

I agree that bamboo is a great addition to the tropical look. Phyllostachys bissetii, and our native american bamboo(Arundinaria gigantea) does well down to zone 5. Another native plant that really has a tropical look is Rhus glabra(smooth sumac) from the northwest region. Native Darmera peltata is also nice for bogs. Sometimes a tropical look can be gained without spending too much. With a little research into local plants, sometimes you can find COMMON plants and seeds that fit the bill.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2004 at 12:19AM
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