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The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants

By Robert Lee Riffle

Meant primarily for gardeners in USDA zones 8–10, The Tropical Look encompasses most of the southern U.S. and the West Coast. This groundbreaking encyclopedia of lush plants will also be useful to gardeners in other zones who are interested in growing tropical-looking plants (as opposed to strictly tropical plants, which cannot endure a frost) as half-hardy, annual, or conservatory plants.

Awards for this book: American Horticultural Society Book Award

Media reviews

"It's margarita time! If you're looking for a banana that can bounce back from zero-degree temperatures or plants that merely look tropical, this book has them, along with 400 color photographs."

Boston Globe

"The essential book for anyone interested in tropical plants."

—John Van de Water, Newark Star-Ledger

"This compendium of nearly 2000 plants is an excellent resource for learning about hundreds of tropical plants and their cultural needs."


"In the context of the scores of books on horticulture that I own or have seen, Riffle's comprehensive work is 'truly unique.' ... What makes this work so unusual is not so much its superb, lavish illustration, 409 color photos (their captions happily with Latin names) ... but rather its inclusion of many horticulturally 'obscene' or little-known taxa treated only in the specialist literature. ... This horticultural encyclopedia is destined to become a classic."

—Rudolf Schmid, Taxon

"Although The Tropical Look is directed for Zone 8 and higher, those of you with greenhouses, or who are adventurous may want to try the unusual as annuals or 'die-back' plants."

—Marty Figley, Garden Spot

"Who knew an encyclopedia could be so much fun!"

—Mike Peters, Gardening on the Gulf Coast

"Gardeners and horticultural professionals alike will find much to be excited about in this expansive and significant resource. Riffle's effort will contribute immensely to the development of many fantastic indoor and outdoor displays around the country ... Timely, comprehensive, and beautifully produced"

—Alice Joyce, American Gardener

"This new encyclopedia is the most updated guide to these lush plants."

American Gardener

"The concepts are brilliant and are very well explained. ... It stands head and shoulders above all other books in its field. This book would be cheap at double the price."

—Clear Englebert, FungShway.com

"From Acacia to Zombia, this hefty volume lists basic descriptions for nearly 2,000 plants — and color photographs of many. The author shares his extensive knowledge enthusiastically."

Neil Sperry's Gardens

"One of the most excellent sources for unearthing specific plants and determining whether or not they will suit your needs and growing conditions."

—Lynette Walther, Palatka Daily News

"This is an informative guide of nearly 2,000 such [tropical] plants that can add drama and excitement to the garden."

—Ethel Fried, Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer

About the author

Robert Lee Riffle

Robert Lee Riffle (1940–2006) was an internationally recognized authority on palms and tropical plants. His landmark book, The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants (1998), won an American Horticultural Society Book Award, as did An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms (2003), which he co-wrote with Paul Craft.

Read more about Robert Lee Riffle

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This book is print-on-demand

It cannot be ordered from TimberPress.com. However, you can buy it from other online retailers: