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COLUMBIA - Eric Plott thinks Missouri's plant life can look similar to that of a tropical area. So he's testing his theory by raising tropical plants in his yard--which he calls the Tropical Missouri Ranch--and selling them in his mother's beauty salon.

His goal: to take the trees, indigenous to warmer climates, and train them to survive the harsh Missouri winters.

Plott began the experiment last year. He planted 10 seedlings and left them outside without any protection. Five survived the especially harsh winter. He's testing out an additional 70 this year.

"I have a lot of faith in these trees, in particular cold hardy ones. I know they will make it here," Plott said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the country into 11 gardening zones. The lowest numbers have the coldest temperatures. The department says palms trees grow in zone 7 and higher. Columbia is in zone 5.

"That's what I love doing - hear people shocked reaction, ‘Woah, you can have that in your backyard?' Yes, you can," Plott said.

Horticulturalist Mary Kroening said Missouri gardeners are using more tropical plants in their gardens.

"Gardeners are becoming more open to planting things that are borderline hardy. People are pushing the edges a little bit and enjoy the warmer trend that we are in," Kroening said.

Plott said it will take three to five years for the palm trees to become established enough to survive a Missouri winter without any protection.

 

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