Cold-Hardy Tropicals Add Flare

Yearning for a bit of tropical color in your garden, but frigid winters make it impossible? Cold-hardy tropical plants are the answer.

| April 24, 2009

Tropical plants are popping up in botanical gardens with increasing frequency, as garden designers use unusual plants to add dashes of color and flare to otherwise ordinary gardens. That’s fine for the lucky folks in Florida and Southern California, where nighttime temperatures rarely get close to freezing.

But what about the rest of us who deal with frigid winters? Tropical plants are, well, tropical. They do not like cold weather. If left in the ground to overwinter, the typical tropical plant will die a quick and permanent death. And who has time to dig up delicate tropical plants each fall and baby them all winter long so they can be replanted next spring?

That’s where cold-hardy tropical plants can come to the rescue.

It may sound like an oxymoron, but cold-hardy tropicals really do exist. According to Byron Martin, co-owner of Logee’s Tropical Plants (, there are several varieties of plants that are thought of as “tropical” that can easily survive USDA Zone 5 and 6 winters.

“Tropical plants can give a garden a unique look and feel,” Martin says. “Cold-hardy tropical plants offer visual interest and variety with the added benefit of being tolerant of most winter climates. There is nothing quite as wonderful as introducing the large leaves, vibrant flowers and delicious fruits of tropical plants into a North American garden.”

Martin’s list of must-have cold-hardy tropical plants for American gardens includes the seven plants described below. “Don’t be afraid to plant something new,” encourages Martin. “It’s time to go beyond petunias and mums.”

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