Sandwiched between Louisiana to the west and Alabama to the east, Mississippi sits on the Gulf of Mexico and the has a mostly tropical climate. The whole state is in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 7 to 9, where the risk of frost is minimal and summers, particularly in the south, may be hot and humid. Many tropical plants thrive in this climate, including many you might not expect to find a state best known for growing cotton.
There may be nothing that screams tropical more than the large, broad, weeping leaves of a banana plant (Musa). Hardy throughout Mississippi, bananas are perennial plants that may grow to 20 feet tall, depending on the variety. Banana leaves can reach 9 feet long, but are susceptible to being torn by wind and should be planted in a protected spot. Besides the foliage, bananas produces drooping flower stalks with bracts that are red or purple, and some varieties produce edible fruit. The red banana (M. sumatrana) variety has variegated leaves with some red coloring. Bananas will die back in colder climates, but should come back. These plants have a shallow root system, and spread by suckers or underground roots, so they become invasive. Bananas thrive in full sun to partial shade and require ample water.
Fragrant, waxy, colorful flowers are the hallmarks of plumeria (Plumeria), also known as frangipani. The blooms, which may be pink, red, yellow, white or bicolor, are used to make leis in Hawaii. This plant, which is a deciduous shrub or small tree, is a good choice for southern Mississippi, where the climate is more temperate and there is less risk of frost. Besides the sturdy flowers, plumeria has leathery, pointed, green leaves that grow at the tips of thick branches. Plumeria thrives in full sun and requires moderate water.
Snow bush (Breynia disticha) is an evergreen shrub that is among the most popular tropicals in Mississippi, according to a 2004 Mississippi State University paper. Native to South Africa and Asia, snow bush is an open-growing, evergreen shrub that can reach 5 feet and has bicolor leaves, usually green with splashes of white, though the 'roseo-picta' cultivar has both pink and white spots of color. This shrub has wine-colored stems that zig-zag, rather than growing straight. Snow bush thrives in partial shade and requires regular to moderate water.
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