Tropical plants include flowering perennials, shrubs, groundcovers, vines and trees. Most tropical cultivars are well adapted to live throughout the United States in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 11. Some species are more tolerant to cold than others are and many are well adapted for containerized growth for gardeners located in cooler regions to enjoy. Tropical plants grown in frost-prone areas require protection in winter.
Elephant ears (Alocasia), also called taro or giant taro, and is a perennial, shrub-like plant well adapted for landscapes within USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 11. Cooler regions can grow elephant ears inside large containers. It has various cultivars, with some North American natives. The size of the leaf depends upon the particular cultivar grown, as some species are almost as large as an elephant's ear and resemble one, thus the name. It works well in shade, tropical or mixed gardens.
Plants grow in a wide range of light conditions from full sun to full shade. Elephant ears plants grow quite fast, growing anywhere from 2 to 10 feet in height and 1 to 10 feet in width. It tolerates a wide variety of well-draining soil and has a low drought tolerance requiring regular watering.
Gloriosa lily (Gloriosa) is a perennial, tropical, flowering vine-like plant well adapted to areas within USDA Hardiness Zones 9 through 10. Cooler areas of the country should grow plants inside containers for protection in winter. In spring and throughout summer, flowers bloom in mixed colors of red, yellow and orange. It works well in shady garden areas, planted inside containers or on a trellis where a tropical affect is required.
Plants grow relatively quickly and its size is variable depending on the weather conditions. The vine-like branches can reach 10 feet or more in height. Gloriosa lily prefers well-draining sand or clay soils and has a medium tolerance to drought conditions, so regular watering is required. It will grow well in partial shade to total shade conditions and has a moderate salt tolerance.
Heliconia (Heliconia) is an evergreen, perennial that prefers growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 through 10. Cooler regions experiencing frosts and freezes can plant heliconia inside containers. Heliconia has many cultivars growing in various sizes. Flowers bloom year-round in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, depending upon the cultivar grown. Plants work well as a screening plant, in tropical gardens and shorter cultivars work well as a groundcover.
Plants range in height from 2 to 15 feet with a spreading habit of 3 to 6 feet. It tolerates growing in a wide range of well-draining soil types and has a low drought tolerance, requiring regular watering. Heliconia grows best in full to partial sun conditions. Gardeners may find the plant messy, as the dead stalks require frequent pruning and removal for a clean look.