How to Plant and Care for Obscure Tropical Plants in Your Backyard

How to Plant and Care for Obscure Tropical Plants in Your Backyard

Growing obscure tropical plants in your own backyard can seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and preparation it can be an extremely rewarding endeavor. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you successfully plant and care for more unique tropical species in a home garden environment.

Choosing the Right Obscure Tropical Plants

The first step is selecting appropriate tropical plants that will thrive in your specific backyard conditions. Here are some key factors to consider:

Climate and Hardiness Zone

  • Make sure to choose tropical plants suited to your hardiness zone and overall climate. Select varieties that can withstand your minimum winter temperatures.

  • Many obscurer tropicals require warmer zones (10 and above) to survive winters. Zone 9 can work with proper care and positioning.

  • Check average rainfall and humidity levels in your area. Some tropicals need high moisture while others require good drainage.

Sunlight Requirements

  • Most tropical plants thrive in full sun to partial shade conditions. Make sure your yard provides enough sunlight.

  • Pay attention to the specific sun requirements of each plant variety you choose. Some do well in full blazing sun while others prefer partial shade.

Mature Size

  • Consider the mature size of each plant, both height and width. Make sure your yard has space as tropicals can grow quite large.

  • Give plenty of room between plants to prevent overcrowding when they reach full size. This improves air circulation and growth.

Growth Habit

  • Factor in the growth habit of the plant, such as vine, shrub, tree, etc. This affects placements and support needs.

  • Review how large of a container or planting area required for healthy growth based on habit.

Preparing Your Backyard Site

Once you’ve selected appropriate tropical plants, the next key step is preparing your backyard site for planting.

Choose Planting Sites

  • Pick locations that offer full sun to partial shade as needed by each variety.

  • Ensure the site has well-draining soil – amend if needed. Tropicals are susceptible to root rot.

  • Leave enough space for plants to reach mature sizes without crowding.

Improve Soil Quality

  • Test soil pH and improve acidity with lime if needed – most tropicals like neutral to slightly acidic soil.

  • Add compost or manure to enrich nutrition and improve drainage. Incorporate up to 25% into existing soil.

  • Many tropicals thrive in organically rich soil. Mix in composted manure annually.

Add Support Structures

  • Install sturdy supports ahead of time for climbing vines or heavy fruiting plants like passionfruit or papaya.

  • Use trellises, pergolas, cages etc to suit growth needs and maximize yields.

Adjust Microclimates

  • Position plants in warmer south facing sites protected from wind or cold.

  • Create windbreaks with fences, hedges or trellises to shield tropicals.

  • Consider using greenhouses, cold frames or cloches to extend the growing season.

Planting Obscure Tropicals

Once your yard is prepped, it’s time for planting! Follow these tips to get your new exotics off to a good start:


  • If starting with potted plants, transplant to the yard after last frost date has safely passed.

  • For seeds, check germination times and plant accordingly so seedlings are ready for outdoor transplanting.


  • Water new transplants thoroughly at planting and every few days until established.

  • Pay attention to specific water requirements for each plant. Some tropicals need more frequent irrigation.


  • Apply 2-4 inches of organic mulch around new plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

  • Leave small gap between stem and mulch to prevent rot. Reapply mulch annually.


  • Use slow release organic fertilizer at time of planting to encourage root growth and establishment.

  • Follow label instructions carefully to avoid burning new plants with over-fertilizing.

Hardening Off

  • When planting seedlings started indoors, be sure to properly harden off plants first.

  • Gradually acclimate to outdoor conditions over 7-10 days before final transplant.

Caring for Tropicals Long-Term

Regular ongoing care is crucial for exotic tropical plants to survive and thrive as perennials.


  • Provide regular irrigation, especially during hot and dry periods. Check soil – don’t water on schedule.

  • Increase water for fruiting/flowering plants like banana, papaya, hibiscus etc.

  • Allow soil to partially dry between waterings to prevent fungal root diseases.


  • Fertilize actively growing plants every 4-6 weeks during season using slow release formulas.

  • Discontinue feeding by late summer to allow dormancy before cooler weather.

  • Boost potassium and phosphorous for fruiting plants like pineapple, citrus, passionfruit etc.


  • Remove dead or damaged growth as needed for health and shaping.

  • Keep climbing vines like bougainvillea controlled to supports.

  • Limit pruning of shrubs/trees to preserve their natural form.

Pest/Disease Control

  • Inspect regularly for common tropical pests like scales, mealybugs and spider mites.

  • Remove pests with targeted organic sprays like horticultural oil, neem oil or insecticidal soap.

  • Apply fungicides for disease prevention when conditions favor development.

  • Disinfect pruning tools between plants to limit spread of infections.

Winter Protection

  • Move container plants to protected areas away from windows. Insulate or heat greenhouse spaces.

  • Wrap or insulate cold-sensitive plants left in ground like ginger, hibiscus, lemon trees.

  • Leave healthy tops in place for insulation, cut back once spring arrives.

By selecting appropriate varieties, preparing planting sites, following proper planting technique and providing attentive ongoing care, you can enjoy a stunning tropical oasis right in your own backyard! Just be sure to research each plant fully before acquiring and consult local resources. With diligence and commitment, you can create a uniquely exotic tropical garden.