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Tropical Foliage

Plants Grown for Their Tropical Leaves

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Picture of a palm tree

Picture of a palm tree with the palmate leaf type.

Henry Orozco

Use tropical foliage as a background of lush vegetation for your flowers. The green leaves of tropical foliage plants quickly add a lushness to any garden. The following are examples of popular plants grown for their tropical leaves:

Palm Trees:

You can't hear "tropical foliage" without thinking of palm trees. The palm tree selections in this article were made with the intention of giving beginners some idea of the diversity of palm trees in terms of the following critical factors: cold hardiness, height and sunlight requirements.

Read article: Palm Trees

Bamboo Plants:

Like palm trees, bamboo is practically synonymous with "tropical foliage." But while some palm trees are relatively cold-tolerant, bamboo promises a wider range of options for gardeners in cold climates. The tropical foliage of bamboo looks wonderful in a hedge, but consult this article to learn about selections that "behave themselves" and don't become a nuisance.

Read article: Bamboo

Elephant Ear:

Because of the large tropical leaves that give them their common name, Elephant ears (Colocasia) are another choice plant for tropical foliage displays. I grow mine around a garden fountain to jazz up the area with lush vegetation; their mammoth tropical leaves fill up quite a bit of space. Like canna lilies (see Page 1), elephant ear grows from a bulb that can be brought inside in cold climates for winter storage.

Read article: Elephant Ear

Just as I recommended (on Page 1) mixing in some common annuals with your tropical flowers to inject extra color at minimal cost, so you can supplement your tropical foliage plants with green plants more commonly grown outside of the tropics and subtropics, such as hosta. Also keep in mind plants that, while perhaps not popularly associated with "points South" nonetheless hail from hot climates. For example, although their Christmas connections may make you think more of snow than of sunshine, poinsettia plants hail from Mexico. So don't throw them away after the holiday is over: make use of their foliage in the landscape -- after all danger of frost has passed.

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