En Español

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

Can berries of non-native Fuchsia plant be eaten from Duluth MN
August 09, 2009 - Are the berries of the Fuschia plant edible?
view the full question and answer

Is Hibiscus coccineus still considered native in Dallas, TX?
July 15, 2011 - Is Hibiscus coccineus still considered native?. I recently was told by someone with the Native Texas Plant Society that it was no longer thought to have crossed the Sabine naturally. Thoughts...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Dietes bicolor leaves brown after freeze in Austin
January 31, 2010 - I live in Austin, and my butterfly iris (Dietes bicolor) that I've had for the last 6 years are all turning brown after the most recent freeze. Should I cut them back, with the thought being they wo...
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of non-native crepe myrtle
March 26, 2009 - I have a white crepe myrtle that never bloomed last year..my pink ones were beautiful. What can I fertilize with to promote blooming for the white one? And, yes, it is in the sun!
view the full question and answer

Growing kudzu in Las Vegas NV
April 18, 2013 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question about a known invasive species that I know you advise against, but I feel my situation may be different enough that it's worth asking about. Yes, I'm talk...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center