Tropical garden plant options are nearly endless. Depending on your garden size, climate and inclination, a tropical oasis isn't too difficult to achieve. In tropical zones, such as in South Florida and Hawaii, tropical landscapes flourish year-round. Elsewhere, extra work is needed to maintain the lush look of the tropics. Cold and frost-sensitive plants need winter protection, either by moving the whole plant indoors, or by digging up and storing tuberous roots or bulbs indoors, if that is more practical.
Grow hibiscus species for their large, open, bell-shaped flowers that exist as solitary blooms or in clusters. Hibiscus flowers are very showy and range in color from white, yellow, orange and pink to purple and red. They bloom from summer to autumn on evergreen shrubs. Hibiscus moscheutos and Hibiscus syriacus are two species with frost tolerance and grow in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 10. Other hibiscus species are generally frost sensitive and need cold protection to survive year after year. Grow hibiscus in full sun, on rich, moist soil.
Trees and plants of the Arecaceae family, or palm family, are very ornamental specimen plants in tropical gardens and are available in forms to suit most any landscape. Tall palm trees work well in the right climate, but smaller types, like the parlor palm (Chamaedora elegans) or the reed palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii), work well in a small setting or in a climate where the containers must be brought indoors in the winter months.
Cannas are tall perennials that grow from thick, underground rhizomes. Canna height varies by cultivar from 1 1/2 feet up to 5-feet tall. Its leaves grow up to 2-feet long, with color varying by cultivar from green, red-purple, bronze or variegated. Canna flowers are extremely showy, blooming in summer and fall in 18-inch spikes, and are lily-like in form. Canna flower colors are available in red, pink, yellow, white, orange and striped. Grow cannas in full sun or light shade on various, well-drained, nutrient-rich soils. Cannas are generally hardy in zones 8 through 12.
Fancy-leafed caladiums (Caladium bicolor) are perennial, tuberous plants with an upright, spreading nature and are prized for their beautiful foliage. Caladiums reach a height of 8 inches to 3 feet tall and have large, 14-inch leaves. Leaf form varies by cultivar, and may be flat or ruffled, and variously variegated red, rose, green, pink, or white with stems as long as or longer than the leaf. Grow caladiums in full sun to partial shade on various organic soils. In non-tropical environments, dig up tubers each year before frost and store indoors in a cool, dry location.