Nothing can shatter the illusion of a tropical getaway faster than a garden full of dead plants in winter! By using evergreens like magnolias or hollies, you not only provide winter interest but also give your tender plants more protection from frost and drying wind. If your zone is too cold for broad leaved evergreens, even conifers will do the trick. Some recommended evergreen trees are pine, holly, feijoa, bottlebrush, magnolia, anise tree and wax myrtle. For groundcovers try mondo grass, juniper or liriope.
2. Tropical tubers and bulbsEven the coldest climates will provide a season for tropicals! After the danger of frost has passed, plant tropical tubers like cannas, elephant ears and gingers in the ground until the next deep freeze. If the ground doesn't freeze you can even leave many bulbs in the ground through the winter! Plus, there are so many types of tropical tubers to choose from you're sure to surprise your neighbors!
3. Container gardensGrow a portable tropical garden by using containers! This way you can move your most tropical plants indoors when freezes threaten and enjoy them indoors too, so long as you give them a shady spot where leaves won't get burned. You can even try sinking pots of bromeliads or succulents in the ground, covering the rims with mulch and popping them back out when it gets too cold.
4. Iconic tropical plantsYou know the ones; hibiscus, palms, monstera (pictured to the right), orchids, bromeliads, or bananas. Use the plants that instantly make people think "tropical" and put them in prominent locations where they'll steal the show, or choose cold hardy substitutions. Incorporate windmill palms in your garden, plant Chinese ground orchids or make a grove of Japanese fiber bananas.
5. Cold hardy varietiesIn South Florida you can grow weeping bottlebrush, australian tree ferns, bromeliads, parlor palm, philodendrons and tons more tropicals. Why not grow their cold hardy counterparts like stiff bottlebrush, tasmanian tree ferns, Aechmea distichantha, radicalis palm and split leaf philodendron? Rather than running outside every night to protect them from frost, you just get to relax and enjoy the show.