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tropical and exotic plants for texas

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i was hoping to gain some info from fellow tiki gardeners about tropical and exotic plants that will survive in texas(zone 8). willing to trade.
any info would be appreciated.

[ Edited by: diesel tiki on 2003-12-23 09:09 ]

First & foremost, there's nothing more appropriate in a tropical garden than a tiki, of course.

I live in Southern California, which probably has cooler winter nights, but I would recommend Bird of Paradise, both regular (orange) and giant (white blossom).

Tropicanas are also magnificent, although fade to almost nothing in the winter.

Also, the night blooming cactus series (posted on this site) has an incredibly large and fragrant blossoms which bloom 2-3 times a summer, and then have a succulent appearance, appropriate for a background layered look.

I have had good success with my bannana trees, but only mixed success with the red bannanas.

What are you proposing to trade?

On 2003-12-23 18:55, christiki295 wrote:

What are you proposing to trade

i have "disco belle" hardy hibiscus.they have large flowers with alternating pink and white petals and grow 2-3 ft tall and 3 ft wide.three types of cannas,red,coral and orange with a purple stalk.elephant ears and yellow daylilies.also have texas star hibiscus,hollyhocks(black and multiple colors)and red hardy hibiscus.
whatcha think?
have a merry christmas
diesel tiki

[ Edited by: diesel tiki on 2003-12-24 21:08 ]

Musa Bajoo is a great hardy banana that reproduces quickly. It is probably the most common banana tree grown in Texas. Cannas and hardy hibiscus are good choices also. All of these will freeze back in the winter but with proper mulching and cutting back, they should sprout back in the spring. Golden Bamboo is very hardy and prolific but will overtake a garden area very quickly if not contained.


I'm in zone 9 (northern California) but most of these should do well in zone 8 as well. The banana's, Canna's and elephant ears will die back during the first frost, but will come back bigger the next spring. Plant in raised planters with a very loamy soil. Water well in summer and on very hot days, I water during the heat of the day if it's dry heat to create humidity. I also feed frequently and add a nitrogen supplement once a month. For more frost sensitive plants, try and find a spot next to the house or block or stucco wall, preferably with some type of overhang. The overhang can be another tree or eve from the house, this will create a Nano climate in your back yard.

Now, I need to find just the right 5'-6' tiki to go back there. This year Iplan to add a large pond & water fall, a tiki hut and a beach by the pond. :D

[ Edited by: Kava Dan on 2004-01-01 13:51 ]

Kava Dan your garden is fantastic!Truly beautiful and inspiring.

Beatnikfly,thanks for the tips. Its good to see a fellow Texan in these pages. From where in the lone star state do you hail?

Beautiful gardens!

How many frongs do your red bananas grow? Also, how long have you had yours. I cannot get more than about 4 at any time and they are not doing any were near as well as yours - do they get bigger (as well as taller) as they grow older? Do you feed them, too? Thanks.



Thanks! Your Red banana's should do better then mine in So Cal. One of the things I learned from years of growing tropicals and sub tropicals is that soil is critical. Put yourself in the environment of the tropical plant. Be the plant! :wink:

In the tropics, the soil is very fast draining, moist, loamy and rich in nutrients since it's mainly composed of decomposing plant matter and rich volcanic soil. I started having much more success when I started planting in raised beds and borders, I use rock since it's more natural and I like working with it. For soil, I use 50% redwood compost or super soil from home depot, 25% rich top soil (the darker the color the better) and for the last 25% I use equal parts sand, manure and local soil. I also add some milorganite & 10-10-10 fertilizer into the mix. In my case my local soil is mostly clay, clay and tropical do not go together! Try and keep the soil moist, but not wet.

Back to the Bananas, I use a standard 20-20-20 fertilizer once a week, every other week, I use the hose end sprayer with Miracle Gro mix. I do the entire garden with this mix. For the Bananas, Cannas and elephant ears, about every 4-6 weeks I till in straight nitrogen mix followed by a heavy watering.

My red bananas shoot a new leaf about once a week once summer is here and temps are in the 80's and above. I usually have 10-12 leaves that are 10' long on the older mature ones, 3-5 years old. In the top pic, there is a young red banana in the center/right of the pic I had panted in march, the pic was taken in June. It had already grown about a foot by then and by the end of summer it was two feet over the fence or about 7' tall. By next year it should be over 10 feet tall and by the third year full maturity at 15+ feet tall. The other tall ones are 3-5 years old. In the center pic, there is another red banana in the back, it's 2 years old from a 2' tall 1 gal pot.

I prune nearly everyday in the summer, but it's not so bad. I just sit out back with a Mai Tai and when something starts bugging me I go cut it off! :D By the time it's dark enough to light the tiki torches and a few mai tai's latter, I'm done with the pruning, staggering with sharp objects isn't safe!!! :P

I also run a patio type misting system on a timer for the heat of the day, but the red banana's like the heat, it mainly for the other plants that don't like heat or need the humidity.

It's a lot of work, but the Mai Tai's make the time just fly by!

BTW: If you hit the misters or sprinklers around sundown, it also smells just like the tropics!!! :D

[ Edited by: Kava Dan on 2004-01-05 22:25 ]

Kava Dan,
Do you think Plumerias would work here in zone 8? Summer temps in 100's and winter temps in the 20's-30's(although these temps don't really last that long).
I'm having good success with elephant ears,cannas,rose of sharons and hibiscus. I'm not however that successful with my foxtail palms. My soil is black clay"gasp" and the grower told me they do well in any soil.What can i do to improve the soil? Also any tips on how to prevent Bermuda grass from invading my garden? It seems to grow under any borderI install. Any tips on how to properly build a stone retaining wall such as what you have?


diesel tiki,

The Plumeria will do fine in the summer and can handle the heat, they like full sun and the same fast draining soil I described above. They will not handle the winter, at the very least they defoliant if not die altogether. I have two, one is planted in a large pot that comes indoors for the winter, make sure when you over winter them they are in a sunny spot. They do well in pots. The other one, I plant in spring and dig up before the first frost, it's also over wintered in the house. You can also put the Plumeria in a large 15 gal. bucket and plant the entire bucket, this has less shock on the plant when you dig it out for over wintering.

The Foxtail palm is bitchen, one of my favorites. They can handle temp into the high 20's but not for very long. One thing you can do for winter is to hang Christmas lights on them and leave them on all night when temps start getting in the lower 30's. Think of it as a Christmas tree tiki style! :wink: You can also run a mister up a long pole and run it all night, that will also keep the temps up a bit, but if you turn it off during the night, the water could freeze and kill the frowns. When they are young and not to tall, you can also cover them with a sheet during the cold nights. Also, you need to amend the clay you have or replant it in a raised bed. Use the same mixture above, but add more clay, about half the mixture should be clay. Palms have small root balls, if the soil is to loamy, it could fall in high winds.

Another misconception that applies to most palms is sun. When a palm is young, it needs more shade until it's established. This applies to nearly all palms with the exception of the California and Mexican fan palms.

To build a rock boarder 12"-18" high, dig a trench about 6" deep, select a mix of large and smaller rocks. Place the larger rocks first then start building up with the smaller rocks using the large rocks as a sort of key to hold things together. As you start building up the smaller rocks, back fill with your planting mix and lean the upper rows back just a little. Think of it as a large puzzle! :D It will seem unstable at first, but with time, rain and watering, the soil will start to fill in-between the rocks and hold the whole thing together. Don't use mortar, this will defeat the fast drainage of the rock. In the winter, the rock will retain heat from the sun and radiate it at night, this helps protect the roots.

I also forgot to mention, when everything is planted, add some shredded redwood or compost to the top layer. It will help keep the frost off in winter and keep the soil from drying out to fast in summer. I use about 2" here, the colder the winters, the more you should add.


Heliconia are a great tropical. You can find some that are cold hardy- check out http://www.stokestropicals.com for mailordering.

You can easily grow the plumeria- you just need to keep them in pots and "overwinter" them in the garage.

Check out http://www.plumeria101.com for info on how to pull it off in texas

laney posted on Wed, Jan 7, 2004 4:42 PM

On 2004-01-06 09:32, diesel tiki wrote:
Also any tips on how to prevent Bermuda grass from invading my garden? It seems to grow under any borderI install.

I'm with you! That s**t seems to grow out of control. I've tried removing it and covering the area with weed-stop cloth only for the crap to take over in a week! I hate the grass and want to kill the whole lawn! It will even come back after being drenched with Round-up! If you find any info, Please post!!!!


KavaDan, your yard is awsome! I sit here looking out at my dead (dormant) elephant ears, cana lillies and tears are rolling down my face. I have a few hibiscus in pots that I bring indoors for the winter, and I have a plumeria cutting that I started a few months ago. My next yard purchase is for clumping bamboo( just need to make sure it will last here in Ga.) Your pictures have been an inspiration for my spring/summer project.

KavaDan and Fatuhiva:

Thank you for the tips. You have inspired me to rake up the leaves from the Christmas monsoon, buy (and the hard part - actually use) some 20-20-20 & miracle grow and give my plants some much needed TLC.

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