With their often spectacular colors and blooms, tropical plants can bring an exotic touch to warm-weather gardens and greenhouses. While the Internet has made the shipping of tropical plants easier than ever, many tropical plants can be bought at a local nursery, saving shipping costs and sometimes allowing for a healthier plant.
The oilcloth flower (Anthurium andraeanum) is one of the most commonly seen nursery flowers of the Anthurium genus. The flower, also called a painter's palette because of its palette-shaped spathe, has a waxy petal that contains a protruding spadix. Oilcloth flowers need well-drained soil and an occasional misting. Feeding the plant a lime-free fertilizer once a month in spring through fall will help to keep the plant flowering. These tropical flowers require high humidity and will do the best in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. Pets and children should be kept away from the plant, as it is poisonous if ingested.
Bird of Paradise
The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) is named for its resemblance to the colorful bird of the same name. The Bird of Paradise is pollinated by the sunbird, a small bird that lives in Africa, southern Asia and Northern Australia. The genus holds five species, although a similar-looking plant called the False Bird of Paradise has many more. Cultivated varieties include the Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), a dark blue and white flower native to South Africa; and the Crane Flower (Strelitzia reginae), a deep orange Bird of Paradise that is the official flower of Los Angeles. Bird of Paradise does well in full sun to partial shade, and in rich and moist soils.
Native to Colombia, the amazon lily (Eucharis grandiflora) is a humidity-loving plant that thrives in indirect sunlight. Amazon lilies produce striking clusters of pure white blooms and have dark-green foliage. These plants need some extra care, requiring warm water during the winter and the occasional leaf sponging. Amazon lilies require the warmth of gardening zones 10 through 12. They are tolerant of many soil types and will do well in a rich loam or with high-quality potting mix.