A tropical garden in the heart of winter

FrostIt’s cold! This morning we experienced the heaviest frost of the year thus far, and while it makes the surrounding area look like a winter wonderland, it’s kept the fire working overtime, and us scratching our heads wondering why some of the plants are coping better than others.

Our goal has been to create a tropical garden to complement the plantation style home we’ve built, and as a we mentioned in a previous post, we planted a number of different types of plants in an experiment to see what might work, and what won’t. While we’re just entered the coldest time of the year, we’ve already had some interesting results.

Ginger Variegated

Variegated Ginger

Of all the plants in the garden, the variegated ginger, seems to be weathering the cold the best. In fact, it appears to be thriving on it. It has doubled in size since we planted it late last summer. This has probably surprised me the most, as I expected this to be one that would have shown the ill effects of a harsh winter first. In fact, it’s growing over a succulent ground cover that we’ve got growing nearby, protecting it from the heavy frosts.

Our Xanadu has been faring quite well too! A few burnt edges here and there, but all in all – it’s doing pretty well. Last nights cold temperatures (dropping to around -2c) probably did the most amount of damage we’ve seen, but it should bounce back OK. I guess this isn’t all that surprising, as it’s technically a native plant (discovered in Western Australia), with a very convincing tropical look.

The different varieties of canna lilies aren’t doing great. The large green leaves of a canna plant have quickly turned to a dark brown/black and are quickly dying back. After doing a bit of research, it’s common to have them die back completely each winter, before growing strong once again once the temperatures rise above 15c and the threat of frost is gone. Unfortunately, if the frost is heavy enough, or if temperatures are cold enough, the root system can freeze, and the plant will die of completely. We’ve got a pretty thick layer of mulch down, so hopefully this doesn’t happen. We have seen new growth after frost from earlier in the season, so I think we’ll be OK.

Canna Lilies with frost damage

Canna Lilies with frost damage

One of our native plants, the Physocarpus opulifoliusDiabolo, was one plant that I thought would nave no issues with a frosty conditions, or colder weather. A native plant to Australia, we quickly lost two of the smallest plants to the first frost of the season. It just goes to show, that just because a plant is labelled as a native, doesn’t mean it’s suited for your area of the world.

All in all, the majority of the plants have suffered some sort of damage. Our banana palm and mango tree have probably been the most sensitive to the frost, but ever since we started covering them with light cloths during the coldest nights, they’ve been doing just fine. In fact, a painting drop cloth draped over stakes to support its weight will raise the temperature around the plant just enough to keep frost from forming at all. Just make sure it touches the ground on all four sides to trap escaping heat from the ground.

About Stefan
Stefan is the regular writer for Megan & Stefan, and hails originally from San Diego, California. A resident of Australia since 2007, he write about his experiences living abroad, his love of photography, and documenting the process of building a house here in this sunburnt country he calls home. Feel free to drop him a line - he's always up for a chat.


  1. maja says:

    Swimming pool!!!!


  1. […] the canna lilies that were so quick to show damage from the heavy frosts we had? These plants bounced back better than ever. All of our canna lilies died completely back […]

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