Pushing the Limits with Tropical Plants in Gainesville .
The garden is growing in the "Butterfly Rainforest" which is a screened enclosure (kind of like a giant pool cage) with hundreds of butterflies flying among all the tropical plants. It was amazing to see a huge Alexander and Fishtail Palm doing well in a zone 9a! The fishtail palm survived the bad freezes in 2010. It must have seen temperatures drop into the teens. The gardener at the museum says the fishtail palm completely defoliated twice in the 15 years they've had it, but it always came back. You can see some damage on the Alexander palm from last winter, but I think it'll be very full this summer.
They're also growing a nice Silk Floss Tree, Jamaican Poinsettia, Rainbow Eucalyptus, fruiting Monsteras, 10-foot tall begonias, and plenty of flowers. They told me they only cover the smaller tender shrubs and the flowers (the flowers have to stay in bloom to feed the butterflies even during cold snaps through the winter). I'm sure the screened enclosure and the heated water feature provide a little bit of protection. It goes to show what you can do with the right microclimate.
Next week I'm working on a video that shows off some of the plants on campus at the University of Florida. They have a nice sized Norfolk Island Pine, a very large fruiting papaya, and lots of other cool finds all growing in a protected courtyard.