Gardeners in all areas of the United States can add relatively problem-free tropical plants to their landscapes. Tropical plants grow best planted in the ground in the warm USDA planting zones 9, 10 and 11. Gardeners in cooler regions can treat the plants as annuals or grow them inside containers, as long as they provide frost protections in areas that regularly experience frosts or freezes.
Plumeria, also called frangipani, grows well planted into the ground in USDA planting zones 9B through 11. It is also suitable for growing inside large containers. These plants are striking additions to any landscape with their thick, succulent-like branches and clusters of fragrant flowers blooming in late spring throughout summer. Depending on the cultivar, flowers range in mixes of several colors, yellows, white, reds, roses and pinks. Plants are deciduous and frost protection is required in cooler regions.
Plumeria plants reach heights of 20 to 40 feet with a spreading habit of half their height. They prefer growing in full to partial sun, and will not tolerate total shade. Plants will grow in a wide range of well-draining soils and are quite drought tolerant once established. Water plumeria plants regularly during the growing season. When plants begin dropping their leaves in fall, cease watering the plant all together. Prune only to control the plant's size.
Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is a staple in warm landscapes throughout the United States. It grows well planted into the ground in USDA planting zones 9, 10 and 11. The plant is frost-sensitive, so gardeners living in cooler regions should grow plants inside containers. Hibiscus is a perennial evergreen flowering year-round with large colorful blooms of up to 7 inches. Blooms are single or double and present in color mixes or solid shades of reds, oranges, yellows, white, purples or brown. Hibiscus is suitable for screens, hedges, background plants or containers.
Tropical hibiscus plants grow anywhere from 4 to 20 feet in height with a spreading habit of 3 to 5 feet. Plants are tolerant to a wide variety of well-draining soils and will grow and flower best if grown in areas receiving full to partial sun. Established plants are relatively drought-tolerant, but bloom best when given regular water. Prune to control size and shape early spring throughout late summer.
Bird of Paradise
Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) receives its name due to its bird-like flowers. It grows well planted into the ground in USDA planting zones 9, 10 and 11 and requires protection in areas experiencing annual frosts and freezes. Plants are suitable for use as specimens and do well planted inside large containers. The evergreen perennial produces blue, orange and white mixed blooms on long stems spring throughout summer.
Bird of paradise plants grow best situated in full to partial sun, reaching up to 5 feet in height with a spreading habit up to 4 feet. Regular watering will promote best growth and flowering, but plants are quite drought-tolerant once established. Prune regularly to remove dead leaves and spent flowers.