DIY Network

Winter-Hardy Tropical Plants

Many of the plants that project the tropical look aren't winter hardy below 15 to 20 degrees (USDA Zone 8). But many of these plants make excellent houseplants and can be overwintered in the home, spending summers in your garden.

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Photo 4 of 4Elephant's ear can grow up to six feet tall and tolerates sun or shade.

Elephant's Ear(4 of 4)

Elephant's ear is a tuber-based plant with a very tropical look. It grows to six feet tall (and some varieties top eight feet or more), adding a dramatic look to the garden with massive leaves up to two feet wide and three feet long. All elephant's ear are tolerant of a wide range of conditions--sun or shade and a well-drained site, but especially loving damp, aquatic conditions. Use in containers with mixed plantings or as an accent plant in the garden. Hardy to USDA Zone 7.

Selected cultivars:

There are many cultivars on the market, ranging from those with green leaves to purple stems to those with variegated foliage.

'Black Magic' has showy, purplish-black leaves. Hardy to 0 degrees F.

'Nancy's Revenge' has a creamy-white mid-stripe.

Susan Hamilton is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Systems and director of the UT Gardens at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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