Tropical summer bulbs can still be planted in summer but must be dug up before the first frost in fall. Store clean bulbs in a dry medium, such as vermiculite, shredded paper or sphagnum moss, until planting them again after the last frost of spring. Those in the warmer zones (7 to 11) can experiment with leaving plants in the ground but should be sure to cover them with a generous layer of mulch in winter.
This look can be easily re-created, provided you keep the leaves from getting burned by slowly moving the plants to a shady area outdoors. Houseplants appreciate the fresh rainwater and humidity that they receive in the garden, and you'll appreciate the exotic vibe that they lend to your backyard retreat.
Whether you live in Florida or New York, the mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus, zones 6 to 11) in this photo makes an excellent lawn replacement for shadier spots and remains evergreen in warmer zones. Liriope (Liriope muscari, zones 5b to 11) and ferns are also good choices for a finely textured ground cover.
To make things interesting, plant tropical bulbs like elephant ears (Colocasia and Alocasia, zones 7 to 11) or winter-dormant gingers, like shampoo ginger (Zingiber zerumbet, zones 7b to 11), with its bright red cones held aloft by tall stalks in late summer and fall. These and other bulbs can be left in the ground or dug up in fall, depending on your climate. Out of the way to the side of the house, the tropical bulbs won't draw attention to themselves when they decline or get hit by frosts.
How to turn a side yard into a glorious garden
When using tropical plants in small areas, a little goes a long way. Don't add too many plants right away, since many will quickly outgrow their space and require trimming or division to keep them from making the garden seem even more snug. Start with a solid backbone of hardy evergreen shrubs and ground covers and an inviting paved area so that visitors (and yourself) can enjoy the garden. Then bring out the big guns.
The philodendron (Philodendron 'Burle-Marx', zones 10 to 11) can be swapped out with temperate plants with a similar texture, such as hostas (Hosta spp, zones 3 to 9), while the larger-leaved palm trees can be replaced with cold-hardy types, like windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei, zones 6b to 11) or needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix, zones 6 to 11). Oh, and that Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa, zones 9b to 11) peeking over the path? Its iconic cut leaves make it worthwhile to grow in a container and take indoors for winter.
Beware of trees marketed as fast growing, as they're often too fast for their own good and plague homeowners with brittle limbs, messy seeds and invasive roots. Instead, choose trees that you wouldn't mind seeing for many years to come.
More: How to make your shade garden glow