Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Tropical Plants for Outside

canna lilly 44. image by mdb from

Create a jungly feel to the outdoor landscape by planting tropical plants and flowers. Grown in dozens of bright colors, tropical flowers oftentimes have large flowers and lush foliage that evokes the feeling of being on a tropical island. Many tropical-loving flowers thrive in moist, humid environments and require full sun to partial shade. Planted in containers to line a patio or porch, or flanking an outdoor water feature, tropical plants create a showy garden display.

Elephant’s Ear

Imperial taro elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta 'Illustris') is a tropical flower that provides a commanding addition to any garden or landscape. Growing 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, imperial taro has a clumping growth habit and gigantic heart-shaped leaves that are veined. Purple and green, the large leaves create a lush feel to the landscape and are ideal planted along the backdrop of a garden or tucked into a large container. A summer-loving tropical flower, the imperial taro elephant’s ear thrives in shady areas of the garden dappled with sun. Imperial taro plants require moist soils to thrive and can be divided in winter or early spring to grow in other areas of the garden. The USDA hardiness zones for planting are 8 to 11.

Canna Pretoria

Canna pretoria (Canna 'Pretoria'), a striking canna variety, has bright orange flowers that sit atop the variegated foliage. Growing 3 to 6 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide, canna pretoria have yellow and green striped foliage that creates a tropical feel to the garden. Thriving in high heat and humidity, canna pretoria is ideal in hot, wet climates, similar to the tropics. Beginning in summer, canna pretoria emerges to light up the landscape with bright and bold colors. Canna pretoria requires full sun to part shade and moist, fertile soils to thrive. The zones for planting are 7 to 11.

Red Hibiscus

Red hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is a perennial flower with a large, five-petaled, funnel-shaped flower that grows up to 6 inches wide. A mid- to late-summer-blooming tropical flower, the red hibiscus thrives in moist, humid climates, similar to the tropics. Red hibiscus have deep green leaves that contrast with the bright red flower bloom. Growing 6 to 8 feet tall, the red hibiscus flower is an ideal flower to plant as the backdrop of the garden for a commanding landscape presence. Red hibiscus prefers full sun and well-drained soils. The zones for planting are 5 to 9.

Garden Guides