The Q&A Archives: Tropical Plants for New Jersey

Question: Could you suggest any tropical (or tropical looking) plants that I can plant in my front yard this spring. I live in NJ but I would like to give my yard a tropical feel if possible. Last spring a friend gave me a bunch of canna bulbs and the plants looked great all summer. I ordered amaranthus seeds for this spring in hope that they would give sort of an exotic look to the gardens. Any advice on flowers, ornamental grasses, and shrubs would be appreciated.

Answer: Many tropical plants will grow just fine in NJ during the summer, so some gardeners plant them in containers and move them indoors each winter (or simply plant them and replace them each year). This would include such favorites as abutilon, hibiscus, lantana and bougainvillea. There are many bulbs and rhizomes in addition to the cannas: calla, caladium, agapanthus, elephant ears, tall dahlias, and the fragrant tuberose are all wonderful plants. Additional effects can be created with annuals such castor bean, moonflower and other exotic vines, brightly leafed-plants such as hypoestes, coleus, the new "African Queen" and "Seashells" impatiens. Some of the large hostas and ferns look quite tropical and should do well in your area along with the hardy ornamental grasses. To be honest I do not have a mental picture of a "tropical" shrub, but you might find that the variegated forms of some of the more common shrubs will fit into your scheme. Good luck with your project!

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