How to Grow An Obscure Tropical Houseplant In Your Backyard

How to Grow An Obscure Tropical Houseplant In Your Backyard

How to Grow An Obscure Tropical Houseplant In Your Backyard

Growing an obscure tropical houseplant in my backyard has been a rewarding hobby. With some research and preparation, I’ve been able to successfully grow unusual plants that aren’t commonly found in local nurseries. Here’s what I’ve learned about selecting, caring for, and overwintering tropical plants in a temperate backyard garden:

Choosing the Right Obscure Tropical Plant

Selecting the right tropical plant is key. Here are some factors I consider when picking obscures species to grow:

Climate and Hardiness Zone

  • First, I research what tropical plants can survive outdoors seasonally in my hardiness zone. I live in zone 6b, so I look for tropicals that are hardy to at least zone 7. This gives them a better chance of surviving winters.

Sun and Soil Needs

  • I check for light and soil requirements. Some tropicals need full sun while others do better in partial shade. And some prefer acidic soil while others need more alkaline conditions. Matching the plant to my backyard’s environment is important.

Growth Habit

  • Will the plant be a small bushy shrub or grow into a tall, tree-like species? Growth habit determines how much space I need to allow for its maturity size.


  • To find truly unique tropicals, I search specialty nurseries and reputable online sellers. Common big box store plants won’t have the obscurity I’m looking for.

Caring for Tropical Plants Outdoors

Once I’ve selected tropical plants well-suited for my backyard, proper care is crucial. Here’s how I make sure my tropical houseplants thrive outside:


  • Tropicals usually need more frequent watering than typical backyard plants. I monitor soil moisture closely and water thoroughly when the top few inches become dry.


  • I use a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the active growing season to nourish my tropical plants. This helps them stay lush and vigorous.


  • Removal of dead leaves, flowers, and branches through regular pruning keeps my tropicals looking neat and encourages new growth.

Pest Management

  • Tropicals can be susceptible to pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids. I inspect plants frequently and take control measures like hosing off pests, applying insecticidal soap, or releasing beneficial insects. Catching infestations early helps prevent major damage.

Winter Protection

  • Depending on the plant, I may need to overwinter tropicals indoors or protect them from frost by wrapping plants or moving pots close together. Hardier tropicals can remain outside with added winter mulch.

Overwintering Techniques for Tropical Houseplants

The main challenge with tropicals is getting them through cold winters. With the right overwintering strategy, I can ensure my treasured plants survive:

Moving Indoors

  • The most cold-sensitive tropicals like hibiscus and bougainvillea come inside to warmer indoor temperatures before frost arrives. I place them by sunny windows and grow lights to supplement natural light.

Winter Mulching

  • Hardier tropicals that can tolerate some cold, like plumbago and mandevilla, benefit from mounding organic mulch like bark or leaves around their base for insulation. I wait until after a few light frosts before applying winter mulch.

Closer Pot Grouping

  • For marginal tropicals, I cluster pots close together and surround with protective barriers to trap heat on cold nights. This microclimate helps buffer freezing winds and low temperatures.

Covering Plants

  • Old sheets or garden fabric make useful covers for small tropical shrubs when frosts are predicted. I secure coverings to create a protective tent, then remove them during the day.

With the right selection, care, and overwintering methods, growing obscure tropical houseplants in a backyard garden is very achievable. It allows me to expand my plant palette beyond typical hardy species. I enjoy having a taste of the tropics despite my cold winter climate.