Tropical Flowers for Every Garden
Datura, bromeliad, and impatiens flowers
Tropical flowers bring a sense of “more” to your garden: more color, more fragrance, more size, and even more butterflies. Discover 14 tropical flowers that will bring their exotic beauty to gardeners in any climate.
The tropical hibiscus brings a flamenco vibe to the patio and container garden even for beginners. When it comes to the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, if you provide ample sunshine and generous water, you will receive nonstop blooms up to eight inches in diameter throughout the growing season.
Like many tropical flowers, the brilliant colors of the hibiscus are a beacon to butterflies. You can choose varieties that complement any color scheme, as the blooms come in hot shades like yellow, orange, and…MORE
The complicated anatomy of a bromeliad bloom begs for closer inspection, both from insect and human admirers. In fact, the Bromeliaceae family is a large and diverse one that includes plants like pineapples and the grey curly Spanish moss popular in craft displays. Gardeners who refer to growing bromeliads in general are probably talking about the Aechmea or Guzmania genera, two groups that encompass many popular garden plant varieties.
Clivia miniata, sometimes called Natal lily, is coveted by many gardeners as a tough houseplant that thrives in low light areas. Not only will clivia grow in your previously barren north-facing windowsill, it likes to be on the dry side, grows best with minimal fertilizer, and is happiest when root bound in a crowded pot. Finally, the perfect tropical plant for those with a slightly brownish thumb!
The chenille plant will grow for any gardener who provides it with ample water and sunlight. Also known as red-hot cattail, Acalypha hispida may need supplementary lighting with a grow light to successfully overwinter.
The orchid family (Orchidaceae) contains hundreds of genera and tens of thousands of species, so if you haven’t experienced success yet with these exotic plants, give it another try. One type that is particularly forgiving for beginning gardeners is the moth orchid, Phalaenopsis. Although orchids look great growing as a collection, due to their low bloom count, a more frugal strategy is to start with one moth orchid for a few months as a trial plant, and then grow your collection from there.
Jasmine adds two elements that benefit all gardens: fragrance and height. This twining vine is somewhat hardier than other tropical flowers, and will survive winters in USDA growing zone 7. Jasminum officinale vines produce flowers from late spring through early fall, and need to have an indoor dormant period throughout the winter months.
Jasmine is a slender but vigorous vine that gardeners can keep in bounds with frequent pruning. Provide it with full to partial sun and regular watering.
Aromatic as they are beautiful, flowering ginger plants are an excellent alternative for gardeners who have little or no direct sun in their landscapes. However, as is the case with most tropicals, hot and humid conditions are required for thriving plants. Zingiber types include the red bracts of the Awapuhi, used in some premium shampoos. Zingiber Neglectum ‘Pagoda Jewel’ looks like an alien life form, but grows with ease in moist, well-draining soil. Bring your ginger plants indoors.
Looking like a cross between an artichoke and a thistle, protea flowers are a staple in tropical flower arrangements due to their very long-lasting cut blooms. The African natives sport blossoms that are fuzzy, leathery, and quite drought-tolerant. Protea plants are more frost tolerant than most tropical flowers, and can stay outdoors all year in zone 8. Plant proteas in a sandy potting mix, and water once or twice a week. A half day of sun is adequate to coax blooming in late winter through.
Anyone who has visited a Mediterranean country will conjure memories of their trip by cultivating this vigorous vine, which grows throughout sunny, dry climates. The vines demand a full day of sunshine, which means you shouldn’t plan on overwinter the plants in your home. However, the cheerful magenta or red bracts will appear quickly on new transplants you install in the spring. Bougainvillea blooming may taper off during summer, but will peak in the fall, as it thrives when day and night.
Anthurium, or flamingo flowers, are most happy when their environment is humid bordering on muggy. The flowers are bracts that come in red, pink, white, and dramatic burgundy hues. The shiny surface of the bracts lends a lacquered appearance, which stands out in dappled sunlight conditions. Provide flamingo flowers with rich, moist soil, and protect from temperatures below 40 degrees F.
Medinilla magnifica, also known as pink maiden, is a departure from many tropical flowers in that it prefers a shady site in the garden. If you have cared for an orchid, treat your medinilla the same way, as it grows as an epiphyte in the wild. Pot it up in orchid bark, water sparingly, and provide it with dappled sunlight and moderate temperatures. A daily misting will keep your medinilla going through the dry environs of a winter windowsill.
There’s nothing like a few pots of pink, purple, and red pentas to bring the butterflies and hummingbirds flocking to your deck or patio. Clusters of star-shaped flowers appear throughout the summer on 12-inch tall plants, and ask for nothing more than full sun, well-drained soil, and average water.
The widespread availability and rapid growth habit of cannas make them one of the most popular tropical plants in home gardens. If you’re plagued by soggy, boggy soil, make cannas a garden staple, as they will even grow in standing water. It’s almost impossible to give these hungry giants too much sunshine or nutrients. A weekly shovel of compost or manure can help taller varieties like ‘Phaison’ reach their potential.
Everyone should grow a Brugmansia at least once in their lifetime. The sight of hundreds of bell-shaped fragrant flowers in late summer will bring a smile to your face every day. A variegated cultivar like ‘Snowbank’ will make plants interesting even out of bloom. Provide these shrubs with a large container, partial sun, and regular water. Prune hard in the fall when you bring it inside for the winter.