Do you want decorative wilderness in the garden? With lush vegetation reminiscent of fairytale and distant lands? This is possible, but only if you are careful and knowledgeable about the selection of tropical plants for your garden.

Tropical plants for German gardens

Unfortunately, Germany is very far from the tropics. Most of the tropical plants that really come from the tropics cannot do anything with the German climate. The plants from subtropical areas (climatic zone between tropics and temperate zone) are spoiled by annual mean temperatures above 20 degrees. The demarcation from the tropics is that the mean temperatures of the coldest month here remain below 20 degrees. However, this does not mean minus 20 degrees as is meant in Germany.

However, the tropics and subtropics have the advantage of producing an eerie abundance of plants. Including those who have to exist in their home under very unfavorable conditions and have thus become real survivors. Even in Germany, these plants do not give up immediately if they enjoy a better supply in return. Researchers strive to discover and describe even the last unknown plant. As part of an expanded world trade, dealers are specifically looking for plants that grow in the tropics but can also survive under German climatic conditions. And so today you can acquire an abundance of newly discovered plants that are sold as tropical plants.

“Real” tropical plants for the garden

There are some plants that are fairly unproblematic in our gardens and which, given their origin, can be called tropical plants with a clear conscience. First of all, there are a few palm trees (the following lists are all arranged in descending order of winter hardiness):

  • Dwarf palmetto palm, Sabal minor: hardy to minus 17 ° C, comes from the “edge of the tropics” in southern North America. Slow growing palm that needs protection in winter.
  • Chinese hemp palm, Trachycarpus fortunei: hardy to minus 15 ° C, good beginner palm for damp, partially shaded locations, needs winter protection in cold regions.
  • Dwarf palm, Chamaerops humilis: hardy to minus 15 ° C, a robust Mediterranean palm in a mild region on a south wall, but needs winter protection.

Plants from the African, Australian and South American tropics

  • Butterfly gladiolus, Gladiolus papilio: Winter hardy to minus 24 ° C, very decorative and quite undemanding.
  • Magellanic fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica: In the “Alba” variety, hardy to minus 24 ° C, in colder winters root protection (mulching) is recommended, in extreme cold the trunks freeze back, but should sprout again.
  • Snow eucalyptus, Eucalyptus niphophila: The “Mt. Bogong “can withstand temperatures down to minus 23 ° C, and can also handle rainy locations.
  • Argentine rush lily, Sisyrinchium striatum: hardy to minus 21 ° C, grows as a perennial, in cold regions cover is recommended in winter.
  • Argentine verbena, Verbena bonariensis: Hardy to minus 20 ° C, can be kept as a perennial in dry and warm locations.
  • Red cylinder cleaner, Callistemon rigidus: Winter hardy to minus 17 ° C, grows for several years in mild regions in a protected location.

Mostly from the tropical areas of South America there are a number of tropical succulents that can be planted in our gardens:

  • Yucca glauca
    • Winter hardy to minus 35 ° C
    • Always inquire about the variety (botanical name!) and the place of rearing of the yucca varieties
  • Yucca flaccida, Yucca gloriosa, Yucca filamentosa and Yucca recurvifolia are hardy to minus 25 degrees
    • These varieties, like the Yucca glauca, do not need moisture protection in winter
  • Opuntie, Cylindropuntia imbricata
    • Winter hardy to minus 25 ° C
    • nevertheless it can only be planted uncritically in dry locations in warm regions
    • in rough regions only with winter moisture protection
  • Ice plant, Delosperma nubigenum
    • “Thuringia” variety hardy to minus 23 ° C
    • evergreen flower with yellow bloom has been growing outdoors in Thuringia for a long time
  • Wheelers Rauhschopf, Dasylirion wheeleri
    • Winter hardy to minus 21 ° C
    • tolerates some moisture
    • Plant out in milder gardens or sheltered areas
    • in case of doubt winter protection
  • Parry-Agave, Agave parryi
    • “Chihuahua” variety hardy to minus 20 ° C
    • needs a dry location in winter

Not tropical, but with a southern flair

In purely geographical terms, tropical means “at home in a strip to the left and right of the equator”, in the so-called tropical belt. You don’t necessarily have to look that close when buying plants, you are usually more concerned with cultivating beautiful, eye-catching, unusual plants that bring a “touch of the south” to the garden.

From a German point of view, there is a lot of “south” with warmer temperatures and exotic looking plants, which starts behind the Alps. There the Mediterranean climate begins with friendly temperatures, and nobody forces you to omit the Mediterranean areas when choosing your plants. This means that you have a large number of (originally) Mediterranean plants at your disposal that will radiate a magical “tropical” charm in your garden with great pleasure and without a lot of maintenance:

Winter hardy to minus 25 degrees

  • Bay-leaved rockrose, Cistus laurifolius, large pure white flower, hardy even in cold regions with light winter protection.
  • Dotted bellflower, Campanula punctata, a real tropical-looking bellflower with huge flowers, moves in in winter.
  • Coral iris, Iris foetidissima, evergreen iris from southwest Europe, pretty flowers and coral-colored fruits, well hardy.

Winter hardy to minus 23 degrees

  • White forsythia, Abeliophyllum distichum, deciduous exotic that shows its white winter flowers even before the yellow forsythia.
  • Balkan hogweed, Acanthus hungaricus, great robust perennial with up to 40 cm long leaves and an inflorescence up to one meter high.
  • Greek hogweed, Acanthus spinosus, beautiful insensitive perennial with decorative inflorescence in midsummer.
  • Silk acacia, Albizia julibrissin, shedding leaves, umbrella-shaped crown, really tropical-looking red flower clusters.
  • Camellia, Camellia japonica, evergreen shrub with decorative flowers in spring, grows slowly and needs a partially shaded location, preferably with acidic soil.
  • Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, very hardy, deciduous small tree with purple flowers in May / June.
  • Chinese Losbaum, Clerodendrum bungei, deciduous bush with perennial pink-red flowers throughout late summer, possibly mulching.
  • Pink-blooming evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa, not really tropical with its North American origin, but with a tropical-looking blossom and really hardy.
  • Yellow-flowering evening primrose, Oenothera tetragona, see above.
  • Beautiful Leycesteria, Leycesteria formosa, in the “Kalamuni” variety, hardy to minus 23 degrees, deciduous shrub with white-purple flowers, purple berries and new shoots similar to bamboo.
  • Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, yellow-blooming jasmine used to cold, suitable as a ground cover or as a climbing plant.
  • Marsh trefoil, Dorycnium rectum, decorative, deciduous shrub that grows to around 1.5 meters high.
  • Mediterranean pine, Pinus pinea, character tree with pretty, umbrella-shaped growth, only hardy in mild regions.

Winter hardy to minus 22 degrees

  • Hardy chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum arcticum x koreanum, available in different varieties, blooms in autumn and moves in in winter.
  • Red spurflower, Centranthus ruber, the large red umbels appear in early summer and bloom for a very long time, well hardy.
  • Japanese loose tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum, deciduous tree with reddish-white flowers, reaches heights of 3 to 4 meters.
  • Byzantium Ziest, Stachys byzantina, woolly Ziest that is well hardy in mild regions.

Tropical plants suitable for the climate

When shopping for your tropical plants, you should know what climate zone your garden is in. There are special climate maps for Germany on the Internet in which you can find your climate zone.

It also depends on the microclimate (microclimate) in your garden. In the city, the temperatures are on average a little higher than in the countryside. And it also depends on whether your house is in a densely built-up inner-city location or is located on the outskirts within a generously spaced collection of homes in which the individual buildings do not receive any heat radiation from their neighbors.

The exact location of a tropical plant within the garden can then help it thrive. In a location in front of a protective and heat-radiating wall, even a very cold-sensitive plant can withstand a long time.

Other factors that influence frost tolerance are the origin of the plants (in this case the individual plant where it was raised) and the age of the plants. Young plants are always a lot more sensitive to the cold than strong, fully grown plants. Every tropical plant should be given the chance to take root well in their garden from spring through fall, before winter comes.

Grow tropical plants yourself

Many tropical plants are better known to us for their delicious fruits. Often, however, you can only buy plants imported from afar, which we will soon weaken. If you would rather follow the above recommendation to obtain your tropical plants from a cultivation area that is as close as possible to the German climate, the global trade in tropical fruits gives you an interesting opportunity to get your own tropical plants.

In particular, the tropical plants that provide us with their edible fruits can often be grown from seeds yourself at home. This own rearing brings you a good deal closer to the “satisfied exotic” in your own home. Because every plant is also shaped by the conditions under which it was raised. Every plant has a certain potential to adapt to its environment. Not only in the long term, that would be evolution, but also on a small scale related to the individual plant. Without such a potential for adaptation in the individual plants, no evolutionary change would be able to begin.

If you grow your tropical plants yourself from the seeds of your fruit, they will be confronted with the environment in which they will develop later from the beginning. If the cultivation is successful, the chances are good that you will enjoy this plant for longer. If you want to get to new tropical plants, we recommend extensive shopping in the fruit department of the nearest large supermarket. You can then lard many pots with the seeds obtained. In this way, you can gain a lot of experience with the cultivation of tropical plants without having to spend a lot of money on purchasing the seeds.

Tropical plants in the German garden are basically not a problem! Many popular tropical plants have long since proven that they can withstand it quite well in Germany, and new plants are always being added.

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