Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - August 10, 2009

From: Syracuse, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native tropicals for Syracuse, NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in upstate New York but am a fanatic about tropical plants, palms and banana trees. They're obviously all in pots that I take indoors, and I lose them from time to time. (Had a coconut palm that lasted 13 months - I don't know how.) Is there any tropical tree that I could actually grow outdoors to impress the neighbors? I think I'm in Zone 5b.

ANSWER:

The expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is exclusively that of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. Your situation proves our case. A plant native to New York would be able to survive outdoors because it has adapted over eons of experience to the climate, rainfall and soils of that area. There are non-native tropicals that can be grown in South Florida, Texas and California, but not Zone 5a to 5b, where Onondaga County is. With average annual minimum temperatures of -20 to -10 deg. F, it is unlikely that a tropical plant could even survive nighttime summer temperatures. Most tropicals are considered adaptable to Zones 10 to 11. You are certainly free to grow and enjoy whatever plants you like, but there is no way to alter the natural requirements of a plant. Continuing to grow those plants indoors is really your only choice.
 

More Non-Natives Questions

Eliminating non-native Asian Jasmine in Austin
December 02, 2010 - I have a large bed in front of the house full of jasmine that was planted by the builder 25 years ago. What suggestions do you have to eliminate it and prepare the bed to plant native flowers and pl...
view the full question and answer

Dying non-native red tip photinias in Lexington NC
June 27, 2009 - Large Red Tip bushes, what can I do to keep them alive? I have a few and they are dying. What can I do to save them?
view the full question and answer

Research on Native vs. Non-Native Plants
October 22, 2009 - I am doing a research project on comparing and analyzing the effects of non-native plants vs. native plants on the environment and surrounding ecosystems. The end result of my project will be to desi...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Japanese privet from Glendale AZ
December 26, 2012 - We have Japanese privet shrub and they seem to be suffering from a disease, need help.
view the full question and answer

Mulching Spring Bulbs in Upstate NY
October 25, 2010 - Just planted tulip bulbs for Spring. The Parks Department then put 4 inches of mulch on top. Will the tulips be able to get through and bloom come Spring? Is mulch a good winterizer for them? Indoor c...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.