Tropical Plants for Landscaping

Big and bright characterize many plants and the flowers that adorn them in tropical landscapes. Plants specific to the tropics grow year-round only in frost-free climates, while some brighten up gardens as summer annuals in areas that receive cooler weather. Whether you're sprucing up your Key West cottage in keeping with its junglelike surroundings or adorning your Toledo bungalow with a touch of Caribbean outdoor décor, keep in mind that tropical species like sun and warmth.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus, Hawaii's state flower, produces large blooms up to 6 inches across that range in color from soft blue to hot pink to orange or red. Most plants are hardy to USDA zones 9 and 10, but northern growers also plant them in the spring as summer annuals, or keep them alive inside during the winter months. These large shrubs can grow up to 15 feet high. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Plant them in spots that receive full sun or very little shade, and in soil that is well-drained, moderately fertile and slightly acidic. Keep the soil fairly moist.

Nun Orchid

Nun orchids grow in USDA zones 9 to 11. They grow up to 4 feet tall in the spring and produce dark reddish-brown flowers that nod downward and are topped with silvery white petals. The flowers, which darken with age and reach about 3 inches across, are long-lasting and fragrant. Grow nun orchids in light shade and in moist, well-drained, rich soil that is acidic. Water them regularly and start new plants by laying the tubers on some moist potting soil to entice new offsets at the nodes.

Banyan

Cultivated throughout southern Florida and found in the wild in India, the banyan grows to be a striking landscape feature. Naturally, it starts growing as a seed that a bird has dropped on another tree. It produces aerial roots that reach down from horizontal branches and tap into the ground, and can create a forest of its own. If allowed, these fig trees can grow up to 100 feet tall and spread over several acres. Grow banyans outdoors as shade trees in a large area that receives partial shade in USDA zones 10 to 12, or in containers. Allow the soil to dry completely before watering.

Spineless Yucca

Grow spineless yucca in USDA zones 9 to 11 in full sun or shade, and in well-drained soil. These natives of arid parts of Mexico and Central America tolerate dry periods once they are established. The palmlike plant has pliable leaves that reach up to 30 feet tall. As it matures, the trunk thickens and stretches up from the ground. White, bell-shaped flowers bloom on stalks that grow above the fronds in the summer.

Keywords: tropical landscape plants, frost-free gardening, tropical flowers

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and www.thecourier.com in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.