Tropical plants offer a relaxing feel to your landscaping, much like being on an island, an oasis. However, few of us live in the warm sea-breeze climates that many tropical plants require to flourish into healthy mature palms, ferns and other island flora. Don't give up on your dream of a backyard paradise just yet. There are tropical plants that easily withstand lower temperatures and do just fine.
Chinese Windmill Palm
The Chinese windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortuei) is a native of southeastern Asia's mountainous regions, above 6,500 feet. This plant is used to extended snow and freezing temperatures. It has a top-heavy crown of palm-like leaves, over a slim, long trunk. If you decide on this hardy tropical tree, be prepared that this fast growing palm can extend to a mature height of up to 30 feet. It actually prefers a cooler climate during summer months. If you live in a location with high winter rains, you will need to spray the crown palm leaves with a fungicide/bactericide before the winter wetness can cause bacteria or fungus.
Japanese Fiber Banana
Believed to be the most cold hardy banana tree, the Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo) grows upward to a minimum of 18 feet when mature. It is easily able to withstand light frost. In colder climates, trim the leaves off after they have been damaged by heavy frost. This is the time to spray your banana tree with a fungicide/bactericide to protect it from bacteria and fungus that is brought on by wet conditions. Place mulch around the tree's root area, for protection. This plant flourishes in a nutritious, moist soil during the growing months. Use a balanced (equal) tropical plant fertilizer, starting when you notice new growth, until the first frost of your location, about once a week. Make sure the fertilizer is diluted to the manufacturer's recommendation, so as not to burn the tender root system.
Cold Hardy Camellias
Beautiful white, pink and red camellia flowers are one of the flowers often worn by island hula dancers in their hair. This evergreen bush/tree has dark, shiny leaves, creating a beautiful display even when not blooming. You also think of camellias growing in the southern states of the country, where the climate is warm and mild. However, breeders have created cold hardy camellia plants that can be grown in cooler climates. Select a variety of Camellia japonica ('April Blush,' 'April Kiss' or 'April Dawn'). You guessed it, they bloom in April or in spring. Another choice to consider is the Camellia oleifera (tea-oil camellia). Still, it is necessary to offer protection to these cold, hardy varieties by mulching around the base of the plant and applying an antidesicant spray (preserving moisture) as winter approaches.