A number of plants will grow happily in a container and provide a tropical look. Large foliage, unusual flowers, and even edible fruit are all possible with the right choice of plant. Although many are native to warm areas, they can be grown in temperate zones as well if the pot is moved to a protected area over the winter. Tropical container plants add instant drama to the garden, as well as being easy to grow.
Bananas, with their extremely large leaves and unusual looking flowers, are a great specimen plant for a large container. Although many varieties are strictly ornamental, some will produce fruit in areas with a very long growing season. Bananas in containers should be given regular water and fertilizer. Fruiting types need a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Foliage bananas will grow vigorously with just nitrogen, such as composted steer or chicken manure.
'Basjoo' will produce an abundance of growth in a short time, and is also reasonably cold hardy. Fruit is not edible, but the massive leaves and dense clumping form make this a worthwhile ornamental.
'Siam Ruby' is one of the most attractive banana plants. Leaves are liberally streaked with red and maroon. Fruits are small and somewhat seedy, but very sweet.
'Mysore' is a beautiful foliage specimen with edible fruit. Bananas produced by this variety will only ripen in places with very long and hot summers.
Citrus trees have a graceful form and very fragrant flowers. They can be moved indoors in cold climates to be enjoyed over the winter. Most citrus types are very heavy feeders, and require regular doses of fertilizer to maintain health and fruit production. Oranges, limes and lemons all have similar water and nutrient requirements. Garden centers sell fertilizers formulated specifically for citrus trees, which have different nutrient needs than other ornamental plants.
'Meyer' lemon has dense, glossy green foliage and a compact form. This tree is often producing flowers while ripening fruit, which makes regular feeding essential. Flowers are extremely fragrant, and the lemons ripen quickly with good flavor.
'Moro' blood orange is another citrus for containers. Fragrant flowers are followed by sweet fruit with a bright reddish interior. Although slightly hardier than most other citrus varieties, it should be brought indoors or protected during prolonged freezing weather.
Feijoa sellowiana (Pineapple Guava) has a dense shrub-like form that can be easily pruned to shape. Leaves are leathery with a silvery cast, and look particularly striking in sunshine. The fragrant flowers are large and bright pink, with red centers. Fruits are extremely flavorful, with hints of pineapple and strawberry. This guava will only grow 4 to 6 feet in a container. A slow release fruit tree fertilizer applied in spring will increase fruit production.
The 'Babaco' papaya will grow a stout trunk topped by attractive, deeply cut palmate leaves. This papaya will only grow 6 to 8 feet tall in a pot, but will still produce fruit. 'Babaco' papaya fruits are 8 to 10 inches long, and bright yellow when fully ripe. An 8-foot-tall papaya tree with a number of cylindrical golden fruits is quite a specimen. This is also one of the tastier papaya varieties. Fruits have a very strong citrus and passion fruit flavor, with enough sweetness to be eaten fresh.