Mail Order Gardening

Tropical-Looking Cold Hardy Perennials and Annuals

I am a cheap and lazy gardener. My soilplay consists of planting, watering, minimal pruning and weeding and keeping my fingers crossed. I have ordered plants with varying degrees of success through mail order, so I wanted to document my experiences here.

I have always been interested in cultivating a "faux" tropical garden with perennials that could survive Northern climates. (I live in Zone 5.) Here are some plants to consider...more to come!

If you've discovered a cold hardy tropical looking perennial plant not listed here, email me: tips [at] directgardeningtips [dot] com or visit the Contact Page.

I will be sourcing these plants locally and from They were the least expensive online gardening site (click on the banner above to be taken directly to their site) and they also offer the standard one year guarantee. If your plant doesn't survive they will send you a replacement if you request it within one year from date of purchase.

Please note if you place an order through a link to DirectGardening, I will receive a small commission.

Updated 06/12/2017.

Groundcovers Sun Perennials Shrubs and Trees Shade Perennials Annuals Deer Resistant Cold Hardy Tropical Plants Contact Us
Plant Experience Zone
Hibiscus, Giant Hardy Hibiscus, Giant Hardy. Large flowers, easy to grow. Direct Gardening has several varieties of Hisbiscus.5-10
Hibiscus moscheutos Giant Sub-Zero Hibiscus. Extemely hardy and low maintenance. Pest resistant.5-10
Hibiscus, Lord Baltimore Hibiscus, Lord Baltimore. Stunning red flowers.4-9
Laurel, English Laurel, English. An attractive evergreen shrub with long, glossy, dark green leaves often used in hedges. Reviews are mixed; some people have complained that pruning becomes too labor-intensive. Prefers partial shade. I bought one from Home Depot in 2012 that has struggled over the last two winters. I wouldn't re-purchase.6-9
Fern, Ostrich Fern, Ostrich. One of the tallest ferns available, Ostrich ferns grow from 3-5 feet tall.3-8
Fern, Brilliance Autumn Fern, Brilliance Autumn. Evergreen fern with lustrous orange.5-8
Fern, Tasmanian Tree Fern, Tasmanian Tree. Will grow up to 20’ tall or more with huge fronds measuring 8-10’ in length.6+
dryopteris labordei Golden Mist Fern. Evergreen fern with new growth of golden-yellow that matures to a dark green.6+
Favorite Fern Collection Favorite Fern Collection. A collection of seven different ferns.6+
Silk Tree, Hardy Silk Tree, Hardy. Graceful, lacy foliage and fluffy, bright pink flowers.5-10
Silk Tree, Summer Chocolate Silk Tree, Summer Chocolate. Dramatic, rich burgundy chocolate color on airy, fern-like leaves are complimented by masses of fuzzy, soft pink, fragrant flowers that emerge in late summer.6-10
Hosta, Sum & Substance Hosta, Sum & Substance. What goes better with a giant fern but a giant hosta?3-9
Hosta 'Empress Wu' Empress Wu Hosta. Another enormous hosta.3-9
Hosta sieboldiana Regal Blue Hosta. Another handsome hosta.3-9
Lupinus 'Tutti Frutti' Tutti Fruitti Lupine Mix. These caught my eye at Wal-Mart and I had to bring one home. I couldn't believe Lupine is a perennial hardy to -40°F. Its leaves are shaped like daisies. However, they are SLUG MAGNETS. I lost all my lupines.4-8
Mixed Russell Lupines Mixed Russell Lupines. Lupines are my latest favorite. Biggest drawback so far: slugs love 'em.4-8
Yucca Yucca. Great evergreen plant that resembles a cactus. Drought resistant.5-10
Elephant Ear Caladium Elephant Ear Caladium. A few large leaved annuals add spice to the Tropical Garden. Also check out Black Magic Elephant Ear, Thailand Giant Elephant Ear, Illustris Colocasia, and Maui Gold Colocasia.Annual
Canna 'Pink Sunburst' Pink Sunburst Canna. This compact Canna has reddish variegated foliage. However, I recommend you source Canna locally.Annual
Poker, Orange Creamsicle Poker, Orange Creamsicle. Pokers are so unusual looking, they deserve a spot in the faux tropics.6-9
Musa 'Giant Mekong' Banana, Giant Mekong. The Giant Banana grows up to 6' tall in the northern zones. It has edible fruit.6-11
Musa basjoo Cold Hardy Basjoo Banana. The hardiest of all bananas, the ornamental Basjoo can grow to 12-18' and does not require lifting in the fall.4-10
Trachycarpus fortunei Palm, Hardy Windmill. One of the most hardy palms available. Can withstand freezing temperatures below 10°F.7-11
Chamaerops humilis Palm, Mediterranean Fan. Another hardy palm that can survive sub freezing temperatures below 10°F.8-10
Aucuba, Gold Dust Aucuba, Gold Dust. One of my favorites; it's a variegated evergreen shrub that requires shade. Pretty enough to be a houseplant. I believe it is hardier than zone 7, because it's survived two winters here in zone 5, although it does suffer winter burn. Supposedly deer resistant, but mine aren't. Purchased from Home Depot 2012.7-10
Belonica Lily Belonica Lily. This is a gorgeous double-formed Oriental Lily. Black Eye Lily is also striking (Zone 3-9).4-9
Brandywine™ Viburnum nudum Brandywine. Showy glossy leaves. Delivers loads of berries that transform from green to shades of vivid pink and blue. Supposedly deer resistant, but mine are protected by cages and have been nibbled on. Purchased from Lowes in 2012.5-9