5 Cold-hardy Plants with Tropical Flair

5 Cold-hardy Plants with Tropical Flair

(2-Minute Read)

Tropical plants are all about being bold. Large leaves, bright colors, and strong textures can’t be overlooked in the home landscape. Most of the plants that meet the tropical description hail from warm climates like rainforests and jungles, so it’s no surprise most of them can’t survive our freezing winter temperatures. However, there are some cold-hardy and easy-care choices for our North Florida gardens that will have your backyard looking like the Amazon in no time!   

Remember the word BOLD when you are designing with tropicals. Tropical plants will draw attention wherever they are planted. What is your favorite feature in your home landscape? Maybe you love the back deck where friends and family meet up to share fun and food. You can draw visual attention to that area by planting bold tropicals around it. The large leaves with deep textures will naturally draw the eye. You can do the same thing at your front door, or a lovely fountain, or even next to other plants you want to highlight.

Tropical plants are useful in solving tons of garden problems:

  1. Many tropical plants are low-maintenance, and we can all use that in our busy lives. Most require very little pruning or specialized care.
  2. The large leaves are great at covering up the soil so weeds aren’t able to sprout and grow around them. No weeds means no weeding, hooray!
  3. Tropicals usually benefit from moist soil so they are a great place to get rid of all those leaves you rake up in the fall. Spread out whatever leaves you rake off the lawn around your tropical plants to help keep the soil moist come summer time. You can save yourself the cost of bags, the headache of putting the leaves in the bags, and save the city from hauling them to the dump. Win, win, win!
  4. Areas that are both wet and shady can be very hard to find appropriate plants for, but tropicals can help us out here too. Certain tropical plants just love wet soils and will thrive in these trouble spots.

Presenting, Your List of 5:

Split-Leaf Philodendron

These massive green leaves look like they belong in a lush and lively jungle. Leaves up to 3 feet across have deep cuts in the leaves that add great interest. The sprawling plants grow up to 6 feet wide and thrive on neglect in the shade of mature oak trees. These plants are able to grow in average or wet soil.

Needle Palm

This compact native plant Grows into a beautiful mound of delicate palm fronds no more than 4-6 feet tall and wide. Low-growing palms are a great way to get the Florida feel without taking up so much space. Palm fronds look good in showy cut flower arrangements or just hanging out in the yard. Needle Palms grow in average to wet soil.

Variegated Aucuba

This is a Vintage southern garden plant whose time to shine has come again. Lustrous shiny green leaves are splashed with beautiful golden yellow color. Compact and slow-growing plants can be maintained with just one prune a year. There are a variety of cultivars but Gold Dust and Hosaba Hoshifu are the most common. These guys do well in average garden soil but also thrive in containers.

Cast Iron

This may be the most durable landscape plants you can find. Masses of large green leaves float above the soil and form full beds that can live for decades. Cast Iron thrives in average to poor soil. Plant this tough tropical as a border around your deck or along a garden pathway.


This low-growing native evergreen is a favorite of the City of Tallahassee, and you have likely seen big plantings of it on South Monroe or around the I-10 Thomasville Road exit. Beautiful when planted in mass under the soft shade of large pine trees. The leaf texture makes me think of ferns on steroids! A real bullet-proof plant in sandier soils.