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Foolproof Winter-Hardy Tropical Plants

These tropical and temperature beauties can thrive in areas as low as zone 6. 
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Though not a true tropical plant (the yucca hails from the Southwest and Mexico), this hardy evergreen can add striking interest to tropical-style gardens. With proper care and protection, some varieties can survive in areas as low as zone 4.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Tony Baggett

Japanese Fiber Banana

Banana is one of the first plants most of us conjure to mind when we envision the tropical look. With its long and broad, leafy foliage, it is a great plant to create a tropical feel in the garden. Treated strictly as ornamentals, these types of bananas are grown for their foliage, not for fruit. Bananas can grow to 15 feet tall and be quite dramatic with their large leaves. Use bananas in large containers or as specimen plants in landscape beds. The most cold-hardy variety is Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo) which doesn't have the beautiful coloration of the more tropical ornamental bananas but, if well mulched, has even come back from -20 degrees F.

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Hardy Sugar Cane

The handsome gray-green foliage provides a wonderful tropical feel and vertical accent to the garden. The effect is heightened in fall when flower panicles are produced in large numbers and tower to as much as 15 feet. The plumes begin as soft pink, open to silver and look great through the winter. Hardy sugar cane performs well down to zone 6.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Nadezhda Kharitonova

Soft Shield Fern

Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) has feathery, dark green, narrow fronds that are evergreen and the perfect contrast to bold-leaved plants. They look tropical, but are actually hardy. It's outstanding for shade gardens and naturalizes well in woodland settings.

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