Just because you live in a cold climate, doesn't put the brakes on growing tropical plants. While tropicals thrive in the heat of summer, there's a selection of plants that can survive cold weather. The zones found on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map give the average yearly winter temperatures for North America. Each cold-hardy tropical plant can survive the cold temperatures listed for many of the zones with little to no damage. The plants grow back in the spring, and continue to flower as well as they did the year before.
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Spice up the garden with cold-hardy camellia japonica shrubs. The tropical flowers bloom from late winter to early spring in colours such as white, dark-pink, red and pale pink. The camellia cultivars, "Spring's Promise" and "April Remembered," thrive in zones 6 to 10, withstanding temperatures as low as --12.2 degrees Celsius. Camellias are slow-growing and can reach a height of 20 feet. They need a rich, acidic, moist soil and regular watering. In cold climates, the petals are less prone to sun scorching, allowing you to plant then in full sun.
Rose of Sharon
A hardy tropical shrub, the rose of Sharon, also called shrub Althea or Althea, reaches a height of up to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The shiny, dark-green leaves are a contrasting background for the rainbow of flower colours that include shades of purples, blues and pinks. From July to September there's an almost continuous bloom on the shrub. Rose of Sharon prefers full sun and fertile, well-drained soil, but tolerates light dappled shade. The cold hardiness of the shrub helps it survive in colder climates, such as zone 5, where temperatures can reach --6.67 degrees Celsius.
Maypop, also called purple passion vine or purple passionflower, is a climbing vine that can creep up to a height of up to 25 feet. It gets the name maypop from the sound the yellow fruits make when they're crushed. The lavender to purple, wavy, fringed flowers bloom from the oldest to newest part of the vine. From April to September, the warm, tropical climates aren't the only ones who get to enjoy the blooming vine. It's also cold-hardy to --12.2 degrees Celsius in zones 6 to 9. Maypop prefers full sun or partial shade and a moist to slightly dry soil. Maypop is an unusual deciduous vine, because it can survive freezing weather in winter, according to Floridata, and recovers swiftly in the spring.
Crepe ginger got its name from the snow white, paper-thin, crinkly flowers that look like they're made of crepe paper. Three or more flowers bloom in the late summer or early fall and emerge from a dark-red cone-like structure rising from the middle of the plant. The flowers are surrounded by long, arching green leaves. Crepe ginger dies back to the ground in cold climates, but reappears in the spring. It reaches a height of about 6 feet when it's grown in a well-drained, moist, fertile soil and gets at least three to five hours of sun every day. Crepe ginger tolerates temperatures down to -17.8 degrees Celsius in hardiness zones 7 to 12 and is the most cold-hardy ginger plant in the spiral ginger family, according to Floridata.
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- The United State National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
- Alabama Cooperative Extension: The Culture of Camellias-The State Flower of Alabama
- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension: Passion Vine
- Iowa State University Extension: Hibiscus for Iowa Gardens
- LSU AgCenter Research & Extension: Cold Protection Tips in the Landscape