Plants for Tropical Landscapes

The tropical landscape is characterized by bold splashes of color and rich, green foliage. A combination of shade, scent, color and variety bring a dynamic element to a tropical environment. There are thousands of tropical plants to choose from when creating a tropical garden. Among them are the sweet smelling plumeria, the broad leafed banana, the colorful foliage of the croton, the large flowers of the hibiscus and the spray of color created by a climbing bougainvillea.


The rich, wafting scent of the plumeria (Plumeria spp.) is the highlight of a tropical garden. Plumeria, also known as frangipani, is a small tree that grows 20 to 30 feet tall with a wide canopy spread. Waxy cream or pink flowers off set its rich, green foliage. Plant plumeria in full sun and slightly acidic,well-draining soil. Plumeria can withstand some drought, but for best growth, water weekly during hot, dry periods. Plumeria reaches maturity in about five years, according to the University of Hawaii. It is hardy in USDA Zones 10b to 11.


Banana plants have long, flat, leaves that grow straight from the center of the plant before unfurling and hanging down towards the ground. Bananas (Musa spp.) are a fast-growing, herbaceous perennial that grow from shallow, underground rhizomes. Bananas reach maturity in 10 to 15 months. They prefer a rich, acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. They thrive on warmth, and the California Rare Fruit Growers Association recommends planting them next to cement or asphalt walks or driveways. Bananas grow 10 to 25 feet tall depending on the variety. They grow in USDA zones 9b to 11.


Croton (Codiaeum spp.) has bright, colorful leaves that vary from reds, yellows and bright greens, to dusky maroon and golden. Plant this shrub in an area that gets partial, shifting sun throughout the day; full sun or full shade will dull leaf colors. Croton thrives in well-draining, loamy, soil. In dry weather, give each plant 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Mature crotons are up to 6 feet tall with a 6-foot spread. Croton is hardy in USDA zones 9b to 11.


Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.), also called Chinese hibiscus, is a flowering shrub. The large flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators to the tropical landscape. Planted as a centerpiece in a flower bed or near a porch or patio, this tropical will draw the eye with its bright, colorful flowers. Plant hibiscus in full sun, and loamy, well-draining soil. Water weekly during periods of drought to keep the soil around the roots damp but not muddy or saturated. It is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.


Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) grows vigorously in hot climates. It flourishes in the wet season and is drought hardy during the dry season. This climbing vine has wood stems with sharp thorns and abundant green foliage. The shoots can reach up to 8 feet long. Bougainvillea's blooms come in an array of colors, from snowy white to deep reds, pale peaches and bright purples. Plant bougainvillea next to a fence of wall in full sun or partial shade. This hardy climber grows well in rocky, well-draining soil. It is a heavy feeder, and Texas A&M University Extension recommends using a 20-20-20 or 21-5-20 water-soluble fertilizer at half strength once a week.

Keywords: tropical gardens, colorful landscapes, hibiscus, bougainvillea, gardening tropical flowers, plumeria

About this Author

Eulalia Palomo has been a freelance writer with Demand Studio since 2009, writing for GardenGuides and eHow. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine, and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Palomo is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in liberal studies from Boston University Online.