Located in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, Hawaii has a tropical climate with virtually no risk of frost, except in mountain elevations. The islands, which include rain forests, get a lot of rain and most areas are lush and vibrant. According to the University of Hawaii Botany Department, native plants in Hawaii are either ferns, fern allies, monocot or dicot. Many have colorful blooms and striking foliage.
These evergreen shrubs produce a fragrant white flower, and double blooms are often used in corsages. Native to Hawaii, gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides), also known as Cape jasmine, thrive in tropical climates, and though they are hardy to 20 degrees F, they will not bloom well without summer heat. These plants have leathery, glossy, dark green leaves and can grow to 6 feet. Gardenia should be planted in full sun to partial shade in hottest areas and require regular water.
Plumeria (Plumeria), also known as frangipani, is best known for its fragrant, sturdy blooms, which are used to make leis in Hawaii. Plumeria, which may be a shrub or small tree, has foliage that is dark green and oblong. The Plumeria rubra variety has leaves that may reach 16 inches and its blooms are usually red, while white frangipani (P. alba) has 12-inch long, puckered leaves and yellow blooms with white centers. Plumeria cannot tolerate frost, requires full sun and thrives with moderate water.
Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), also known as leadwort, is a sprawling, mounding shrub or vine that produces clusters of small white or periwinkle blooms. Often used as a hedge plant in Hawaii, plumbago has small, medium green leaves that grow on alternate sides of the branch. Because Hawaii is temperate year round, plumbago should bloom constantly. These plants have some salt tolerance and thrive in full sun with moderate to little water.
More commonly known as elephant ears, Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is not only prevalent in Hawaii, but its roots are a key part of the Polynesian diet. This fast-growing plant has heart-shaped, rich green leaves that can reach 2 feet in length and can provide a lush, tropical effect. The roots, which are tubers, are a starch that is used in Hawaiian and Polynesian cooking. Elephant ears are hardy to 30 degrees F, but the tops will die down at first frost. These plants thrive in filtered shade and with ample water.