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Monday, July 17, 2017

Exploring a Backyard Tropical Garden in Arkansas


What started as a love for palm trees has turned into a garden filled with lush foliage and colorful flowers. I was not sure how to pull off a tropical feel with plants that were cold hardy, but I had a vision in mind and set out to accomplish it. I have experimented with different plants and trees over the last few years and have finally found some that work. I wanted to share some of the plants that have been growing for me in zone 7b - 8a (Arkansas in the United States)  Hope you enjoy a photo tour of my garden! 😊

The Windmill Palm is the only palm tree that I found to actually be cold hardy. They stay green year around, even covered in snow. I have tried the Mexican Fan, Pindo, and others that clam on the label to live in my zone, but they don't! The Needle Palm is a bush type tree that thrives here. The only bad thing is that it has very long needles around the bottom!

There are three varieties of cold hardy banana tress that I grow are: Musa basjoo, Musella lasiocarpa or dwarf banana, and Musa velutina. All will die completely back to the ground in the winter, but will sprout back up in the spring.

Musa basjoo is the largest and least hardy of the three. The roots need to be mulched through a hard winter. I usually do not do anything to them if the winter is mild. The tree will grow 5 -10' tall in one season. Sometimes, small bananas develop right before the frost gets them. This particular tree is used in pots around the house as well as in the ground.

Musella lasiocarpa typically grows to 3-5' in one  growing season and has yellow blooms. I have yet to see a bloom on mine!😞

Musa velutina has white flowers that are quickly followed by very small,hairy, pink bananas. I have heard that they are edible and sweet, though full of seeds. They are so small that I have never thought of trying one! They will reach 4 - 6' tall in one growing season. They are very hardy and multiply quickly.

This is my first year with the red banana. I'm not sure if it will survive outside all year, but I am going to give it a try. I have it in a protected area near the house where I hope to leave it all winter. I will mulch it and maybe ever add some kind of extra protection. It is a very fast growing with very large leaves.

Crape Myrtles add a brilliant pop of color in the summer!

 I love my two sun tolerant hostas! The largest one is Afterglow. It dies back in the winter, but is early to pop back up in the spring. It typically grows 24 inches tall by 48 inches wide

 The hosta "Sun Power" has a standout lime green color.

Cannas are one of my favorite plants! I love the large leaves and beautiful large flowers. I have about ten different varieties in the garden. All of them will die back in the winter.

Tropicanna Black foliage is a combination of purple and black and has a red flower. It grows about six feet tall. It is definitely a show stopper!

Hardy hibiscus are a great way to add tropical flair. White, pink, and red varieties are my favorites.

Pink Oleander bush

Hardy ginger plants are easy to grow, cold hardy, and the blooms smell amazing! The variegated and solid with white blooms both are thriving.

Elephant Ears

Aucuba japonica, commonly called spotted laurel is an evergreen bush. It grows to about six foot tall and prefers the shade.

There were several Lily Turf plants growing around the yard when we bought the house about 12 years ago. I was not too crazy about them at the time, but saved them over the years. I am so glad that I did. I absolutely love them mixed in with the tropical plants!

I discovered by accident that Dusty Miller 'Silverdust' will live outside.. This plant is three years old and is huge!

The Cyperus Alternifolius Plant  (Umbrella Palm) reaches a height of around 4 foot.  It is claimed to be hardy here and able to reach heights of 13- 16 feet, but I have not seen this. It dies back in the winter and the growing season is not long enough to obtain much height.

Aechmea blanchetiana ‘Orange’ is one of my favorite plants. I fell in love with this plant on my first trip to the Florida Keys. I searched forever to find one to purchase. The only places they could be found  were wholesale sites and landscape businesses. I was finally able to locate a lady living in Florida that was selling them on eBay. It is very low maintenance and needs full sun for best coloring. It turns completely green when brought inside for the winter, but will quickly return to a beautiful orange when put back outside in the spring.

Bougainvillea and sun coleuses are in large cobalt blue pots throughout the garden and around the house for an extra pop of color.

Sun Tolerant Coleus come in so many beautiful rich colors and are able to tolerate full sun.

The black elephant ear is new for me this year. It is in a large pot that will be wintered indoors. I think they are supposed to be cold hardy in this zone, but my mother has not had any luck leaving them out through the winter.

 I hope you have enjoyed the quick walk through of my garden! 😊 It has been a battle with storms and insects lately, but I think I am beginning to get ahead!

The banana trees, gingers, and cannas are just starting to grow and fill in the area. August - October is usually when the garden is at it's peak!

*Updated Garden Tours

2019 Garden Tour here

2020 Garden Tour here

2021 Garden tour here

Thanks for taking my garden tour!