5 Tropical Plants for Zone 8

We declared on Facebook that 2015 is the year that we break out of our comfort zone and plant tropical plants. Over Christmas break, we did something we had not done in years: we took a trip to the library. I returned home with George Little and David Lewis’ gem of a book A Garden Gallery. Their book is a wealth of knowledge regarding what tropical plants will succeed here in our beloved Zone 8.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book or the gardening duo who wrote it. Little and Lewis offer this advice: trust yourself and go with what feels right. In other words, garden with your heart and don’t overthink it!

little and lewis garden

Little and Lewis garden photo credit July Hays

Their world renowned garden located on Bainbridge Island is a living gallery of tropical plants juxtaposed with concrete sculptures and paintings of their own creation. What makes tropical plants so attractive is their unique ability to transport you to another place. They offer all of the characteristics for good plant design: color, structure and texture, and yet, they are the exception in most Pacific Northwest gardens.

This year, I vow to plant at least one Musa basjoo (banana tree), and all of the plants listed below.

Here are five of my favorite tropical plants that are hardy in Zone 8:

Canna ‘Tropicana’ – It’s no wonder that it’s considered by some to be the most striking of all cannas. Its stunning multicolored foliage is reason enough to plant it, but come summer, it delights even more with orange flowers.

canna tropicana

Canna ‘Tropicana’

Rice-Paper plant – I first came across this massive, sculptural plant at the Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour in 2012. We were blown away by the impact of its large, jade-green leaves and Jurassic Park feel. It can reach 20′ in height with a span of up to 15′, so plan for mature growth.

tropical plants for zone 8

Tetrapanax papyrifer (Rice-paper plant) spotted at Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour

Elephant Ears ‘Black Stem’ – Giant, shiny, heart-shaped leaves set atop black stems that can grow up to 7′ in height. Yellow flowers produce a fragrance of papayas. Need I say more?

elephant ears black stem

Elephant Ears ‘Black Stem’ photo credit Thomas J. Walters

Banana tree – I’ve seen these growing in Costa Rica where they are massive. Here, their height and spread will reach  14’. For you doubters out there, Musa basjoo has survived winters as far north as New England and Ontario, Canada.

banana tree zone 8

Banana tree at left photo credit Joshua McCullough and Lilyvilla Gardens

Dinosaur Food – My first encounter with Gunnera was at The Bloedel reserve, and if I remember correctly, it’s planted in a bed with heathers and hydrangeas. So don’t be afraid to plant it next to more common garden plants. This is another plant much loved for its leaves, which can reach 6-8’ across.

dinosaur food plant

Gunnera manicata (Dinosaur food plant)

What tropical plants do you love that will thrive here in Zone 8? Log in to Facebook and let us know in the comment section below!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

Stamped Concrete Steps & Patio

This Port Orchard project, consisting of stamped concrete steps and a patio, was poured and finished in January. That’s right, January. True, this past January was warmer than most. But we completed this project last January. And the winter before that, we completed this one. We pour and finish concrete year-round, and the clients who are willing to take the risk are rewarded with a substantial winter discount.

Our client wanted the shape of his stamped concrete steps to be round instead of square. It was a good call; the round steps work well with the curved shape of the patio. Forming up steps such as these takes a good amount of preparation, as you can see in the photo below.

concrete forms for steps

Wood stakes support the forms to prevent them from bowing out as the concrete is poured and hand trowelled.

finishing concrete steps

The forms were removed on the same day as the pour as the concrete is still wet enough to customize. Here you see Elias texturing the concrete steps with a Roman slate texture mat.

stamped concrete steps kitsap

Below is the final product after all of the finishing and texturing was complete.

stamped concrete steps

We returned to this site the following week to pour and finish the patio. The body of the patio was stamped with an Ashlar slate stamp, while the border was textured with Roman slate.

stamped concrete steps and patio

As you can see, our client opted to go with gray concrete instead of adding integral color. Because the color of his house is light blue with white trim, we agreed that gray was the right choice. Antique coloring was added for contrast and a marbling effect. We applied more antique coloring to the border, again, for contrast, so that the border appears darker and adds definition.

If you’re looking for a concrete contractor to help you install stamped concrete steps at your home or business, give us a call at 360-697-3215 to set up a free consultation and estimate. We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.