Full sun areas have warmer temperatures, more humidity and drier soils than shady areas. There are many tropical plants that thrive in sites with intense direct light. These plants can tolerate growing in some shade, but the shade causes them to stretch out to reach for sunlight which weakens the stems. Shade will fade their flower colors and cause the soil to retain too much moisture.
African tuliptree (Spathodea companulata) is a tropical tree growing 80 feet tall with a thick trunk. The glossy, deep green leaves are made up of five to 19 oval leaflets that cluster at the ends of the branches. The large blossoms are red-orange, tulip-shaped bells with golden throats and yellow ruffled petal edges. Most of the flowers appear in the spring, but the tree will bloom occasionally throughout the year when the weather is right. Seed pods that are 5 to 10 inches long develop after the flowers have faded. Each seed pod contains around 500 paper-thin seeds. African tuliptrees need full sun for the quickest growth and best flower production.
Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a tropical perennial vine that reaches 30 to 40 feet in length. Heart-shaped green leaves are 4 inches long and grow in a thick mat. The flowers cluster at the ends of long stalks in tiny blossoms of white, rose, pink and coral. In warm climates, coral vine flowers in the summer, but it flowers during the fall in cooler areas. The coral vine requires full sun to produce the best flowers. Coral vines are killed back to the ground by freezing weather but will grow back rapidly if the roots are protected from the cold.
Lantana (Lantana camara) is a tropical evergreen shrub that grows 6 feet tall and spreads 8 feet wide. The 2- to 5-inch long green leaves are textured with serrated edges. Small, multicolored blossoms cluster at the ends of branches. Flower colors include white, yellow, orange, red, pink and rose. In tropical conditions, lantana blooms all year long; otherwise, it produces flowers in the summer and fall. Lantana will die back to the ground at temperatures below 28 degrees F. It quickly grows back after warmer weather reappears.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a tropical shrub that reaches 10 feet in height when mature. The large, dark green leaves are oval-shaped with pointed tips. The bracts, or specialized leaves, turn red and small yellow blossoms appear on the poinsettia in winter. The bright red and green colors of this plant make it a popular choice during the holiday season. This quick-growing bush will reach its mature height in one growing season if planted in the ground. Shade causes the poinsettia’s upright stems to flop and the dark red blossoms to fade.