Tropical plants thrive in areas that are warm all year round, and while growing them in Zone 8 can be a bit difficult, it's not impossible. Keep in mind that many factors determine how well the tropical plants may grow: A tropical plant cannot usually survive several days or nights of 30 to 35 degree temperatures; wind chill can be just as problematic as cold temperatures; established and hardier plants will have better survival chances; and how well you protect them from occasional cold weather can determine the success of growing these beauties in your area.
Modern hybrids of Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis (B. Brasiliensis) and B. glabra) are amazing tropical plants that have become quite popular because they're so beautiful, and they bloom so well in spring and summer. Bougainvillea are fast growing vines by nature, but they're easily kept pruned and shaped for use in containers or as 3- to 4-foot-high shrubs. These plants are a woody evergreen that have spines similar to rose bush thorns. The spines are used by the plant to grab on securely for climbing.
Bougainvilleas are quite showy with colors of pink, white or yellow, but it's not actually the flowers themselves that catch your attention, it's the paper thin bracts which surround the flowers. They flower profusely throughout the spring and summer, particularly if you stress them first by allowing them to dry out and then over watering once or twice. This drying and watering approach mimics the tropical conditions Bougainvillea grow naturally in.
Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) not only resembles Bamboo somewhat, it is actually part of the Barberry family instead of the Bamboo family. This is an attractive, easy to care for shrub that has wonderful delicate foliage that changes colors with each season. Heavenly Bamboo is a bit pink in the springtime, light green in the summer, a bronze or purple color in autumn and bright crimson red in the winter.
A very small variety of Heavenly Bamboo that grows just 18 inches tall can easily be used as a ground cover or garden edging, while the larger varieties grow to 8 feet tall with an 8-foot spread.
Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa), also known as Fuzzy-Skinned Kiwi and Chinese Gooseberry, is a fast-growing vine that can grow up to 30 feet in length. The plant produces small, oval-shaped, hairy-skinned brown fruits about 2 to 4 inches in size that have juicy, green sweet fruit inside.
Kiwis are a fairly hardy tropical plant that can withstand short periods of temperatures as low as 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruit will develop on vines that are at least one year old but it will slow on wood that's older than 3 years. To ensure fruiting, plant several vines together in a group so you'll have both male and female plants.