Florida plants for shade

Tropical plants and tropical gardens for hot, dry climates

There’s a tropical plant to suit every garden in Australia and I’ve compiled a list of some of our tropical plants which will thrive in hot climates. Hot climates can be a challenge for the gardener, unless you want to grow a rock garden or cacti garden!

Tropical gardens in hot, dry climates

The very hottest we’ve ever experienced on our property here was last year, when it hit 41.6 degrees. I know it gets much hotter than that in many other places of Australia. Rain is scarce here, and generally comes in the form of a sky-sized bucket, which tips 800mm onto the land in 3 days. Then, nothing for the rest of year.

Despite this, our property looks like a tropical jungle. We have gardens everywhere and plants are generally very happy. Gingers grow in abundance, Bamboo’s are thriving, Heliconia’s flower all summer and autumn. It doesn’t come as easy in hot, dry climates as it does in a nice mild climate with lots of rain. It is however very possible!

How to create a tropical garden in hot, dry climates

  1. Mulch! Bring it in by the truckload if you can. Mulch is going to make all the difference for your tropical plants. Mulch enhances your soil structure and helps increase water permeability into the soil. Mulch can transform a rocky, barren piece of land into a fertile, rich tropical garden. We’ve transformed many of our gardens from rocky, dead soil into beautiful garden soil.
  2. Apply seaweed solution. Religiously, every 2 weeks. Apply with a watering can, plastic bottle or bucket, any way possible. Seaweed gives tropical plants strength and keeps bugs at bay in a nature friendly way. Seaweed solution makes plants more frost resistant, and it also helps them fight off excess perspiration, which makes them more drought hardy.
  3. Water. Applying deep mulch will greatly reduce the amount of water you’ll need to give your tropical plants, but you will still need to water. Tropical plants like water, and although there are some tropical plants which can withstand long periods of drought, most will look best with regular watering.

Below is a list of drought hardy tropical plants, in case you are not in a position where you can water regularly. If you can water regularly, and mulch deeply, you can grow all our tropical plants in hot, dry climates. Some of our tropical plants are suitable for full sun positions, you’ll find a list below.

4. Shade. If you really want to grow the more delicate forms of Gingers or tropical plants, or tropical plants which prefer shade, you can erect a temporary shade structure. I really wanted to grow an Australian Fan Palm (Licuala ramsayi) next to our house, but there’s no way this palm will establish in a hot, dry garden, in full sun. I’ve tied a piece of shade cloth to the 2 Bangalow Palms next to it (which are very, very sun, drought & heat hardy) and the cloth covers the Australian fan Palm. It is now 1m tall and performing very well.

5. Establish a canopy. Use tough plants to establish a tallish canopy, under which you can grow all your tropical plants. You can use tough tropical plants like Hibiscus, Spiral Ginger, Tiger Grass and Giant Bird of Paradise to create a tall screen, which will in turn create shade for your less-tough tropical plants. Palms like the Pink Crown Palm (Dypsis gracilis/Pink Crown) are ‘emergent’, meaning they start off as shade loving plants, and morph into sun lovers once they poke their head out of the top of the canopy.

6. Plant tropical plants close together. Plants perform better when they are clumped very closely together. The closer they are, the better they are at keeping humidity and cool air between them. Plants magically work together to create a micro climate, which will be the perfect tropical climate for the plants you’ve chosen to grow. The aim is to not have a single inch of soil uncovered!

Tough tropical plants for hot, dry climates

Hardy Gingers & Heliconia’s

* Upright shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) – Beautiful Ginger with large white and pink flowers and lush tropical foliage. Full sun to part shade. Fairly drought hardy. Heat hardy with enough water.

* Lobster Claw (Heliconia rostrata)

* Spiral Ginger (Costus pictus) – This is a great Ginger to grow! It always looks amazing with lush green foliage. Gorgeous little flowers which are edible. Very drought hardy, heat tolerant, and suitable for full sun to part shade. A good tropical plant to establish some shade for other tropical plants as it is very fast growing.

* Heliconia Strawberries & Cream – A beautiful small Heliconia for tropical gardens. It is suitable for full sun to part shade, heat tolerant and drought tolerant (although it looks best with regular watering). Flowers are stunning and brighten any garden heavy on foliage. Flowers for many months at a time.

* Heliconia Peter Bacon

Hardy ornamentals, foliage and flowering plants

* Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) – a stunning plant with amazing orange flowers and big, lush green foliage. Full sun to part shade. Very drought hardy tropical plant. Copes with heat beautifully.

* Giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) – Very fast growing tropical foliage plant with big, beautiful, bird attracting flowers. Full sun & very, very drought hardy.

* Tiger Grass (Thysanolaena maxima) – a Bamboo look-alike from the grass family; this is a beautiful tropical plant for every garden. Frost hardy, drought hardy, full sun to part shade, heat hardy.

* Canna indica – Any Canna is a fantastic addition to your garden, every single Canna flower is a work of art, absolutely stunning. Canna indica is one of the toughest Canna’s around, and is suitable for full sun to part shade positions. Very heat tolerant. Looks best with regular watering, but is very drought tolerant also.

* Petunia Bush (Ipomoea carnea) – Petunia Bush is a beautiful plant which can be grown as a small tree, shrub or in pots. It responds very well to pruning and can be kept at any height required. Flowers are stunning, a pale pink. Leaves are large and lush-looking. A great plant for tropical gardens. Drought tolerant, full sun, heat tolerant.

* Hibiscus Hot Pink

* Citronella Geranium (Pelargonium citronellum)

* Variegated Mauritius Hemp (Furcrea foetida Medio Picta)

* Cassava (Manihot esculenta)

* Frangipani’s (Frangipani Darwin Harney | Frangipani Dwarf Evergreen Pink)

Hardy Palm Trees

* Alexander Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) – A beautiful, easy to grow palm tree. Palms are a staple of the tropical garden and the Alexander Palm is about as easy as it gets. This palm doesn’t ask for much. It’s suitable for full sun to part shade. It is drought hardy and heat tolerant. Grows well in pots as well as tropical style gardens.

* Weeping Cabbage Palm (Livistona decipiens)

Hardy tropical ground covers

* Mozes in a cradle (Rhoeo spathacea)

Fantastic tropical ground cover for adding some year-round colour to your garden, with purple and green foliage – a must have. Suitable for full sun. Heat & drought hardy.

* Pink Rain Lily (Zephyranthes grandiflora) – very drought hardy little ground cover with beautiful pink flowers. It flowers after rain, and will lie dormant for many months, unaffected by drought. Full sun to shade.

* Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – an essential garden plant! Edible, great chook food, useful as green mulch, enhances compost piles and more. Full sun to part shade, drought & heat hardy.

* Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum tricolor) – Amazing colourful groundcover! Very drought hardy. Full sun to part shade. Suitable for hot positions.

* Liriope (Purple Flowers) – one of the toughest tropical ground covers available. Full sun, drought hardy and heat hardy. Suitable for gardens and pots. Gorgeous purple little flowers with dark green strap-like foliage.

* Blue Sapphire (Evolvulus pilosus) – One of my favourite groundcovers. This plant will cover good ground in a tropical garden in a short amount of time. Very tough, drought hardy and heat tolerant. Full sun to part shade. Also looks great in hanging baskets and pots.

* Stripey Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon intermedians) – A great little ground cover with very unusual white and green variegated, strap-like foliage.

* Syngonium White Butterfly – super tough ground covering plant, which is also very suitable for pots and hanging baskets. Best in a shady to part shady position. Very drought hardy and heat tolerant.

Hardy Succulents and Cacti

If you’re into succulents and cacti, and live in a hot climate (especially hot and dry) you’re in luck! Succulents and cacti are well suited to hot, dry climates and require very little water. Here’s a few of ours:

* Lady Slipper (Euphorbia tithymaloides) – a lovely little shrub-like succulent which looks great in rockeries, cacti gardens, but also tropical gardens. I have mine growing amongst Gingers and other tropical plants and it looks great. It flowers nearly year round and never looks scruffy. Full sun, drought hardy, heat hardy. Gardens or pots.

* Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia millii) – Another beautiful, very tough succulent. Gorgeous little red flowers and dark green foliage. Very easy to grow and very drought hardy. Heat tolerant, full sun. Suitable for gardens (including tropical gardens) and pots.

* Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

* Aloe vera barbadensis

Hardy Australian native plants

* Most Australian native plants are very drought hardy, and very used to dry conditions. An example would be the Kurrajong Tree (Brachychiton populneus), which is edible as well as beautiful.

20 of the Best Plants for Shade


Shade gardens are a welcome retreat in the hot months of summer, but it can be difficult to find plants that will add color and texture to your flowerbeds without full sun.

So, if you have spots under shade trees, near fences or adjacent to structures that are in part or full shade, you might need a little help finding attractive shade plants that will thrive in these conditions.

To that end, here are 20 of the best plants for shade to help you make your garden a success this year.

1. Hostas

Hostas are first on the list because they are pretty much the go-to plants for shade. Hostas are available in many varieties and are attractive perennials with big, showy leaves that vary widely in color and texture. They are easy to grow, do well in shade and add great color to your garden.

They are toxic to cats, dogs and horses when ingested, so if you share your yard with pets that like to nibble on plants, hostas might not be the right choice for you. If this is not an issue, these are the first shade plants to turn to when designing landscaping for areas with lots of shade.

2. Begonias

Most begonias prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, so if that is the situation in the spot you are trying to fill, begonias are a perfect choice. If your flowerbed is shaded most of the day, opt for tuberous begonias, which do better with more shade.

Begonias do not do well in colder weather, so if you live in an area that regularly sees the temperature drop below 50 degrees, you will need to bring them inside or put them in a greenhouse for the winter.

While begonias prefer moist soil and, therefore, are not a great choice for drought-tolerant landscaping, they do add some fantastic color with their deep green or patterned leaves and bright flowers.

3. Lily of the Valley

If children and pets do not frequent your garden, Lily of the Valley is an attractive shade plant you might consider. While it is okay if a child or dog touches a Lily of the Valley while playing, all parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested. If this is not an issue, these attractive shade plants feature tiny, white flowers and can fill a flowerbed quickly.

Lily of the Valley is a perennial plant that spreads through seeds and underground rhizomes, so it can spread quickly and can be divided to feature in containers or other areas of your yard. You might also consider growing these shade plants in containers to keep them from spreading.

4. Hydrangeas

Most hydrangeas need full sun in the morning followed by shade in the afternoon, but there are some varieties that will tolerate partial shade throughout the day. Since hydrangeas prefer moist soil, they are not the best choice for drought-conscious gardeners, but they do offer stunning bunches of blooms in shades of pink, white, purple, blue, and red.

Aside from regular watering, you can feed your hydrangeas once a year when the weather is cool, but keep in mind that overfertilizing could result in fewer blooms, since the plant will focus on growing leaves.

5. Geraniums

Not all geraniums love the shade, but there are many varieties that will thrive in full or partial shade in your garden. This easy-to-grow bloomer can be grown as a perennial in most parts of Southern California. If you live in an area where the temperature drops below their comfort zone, you can always bring them inside for the winter or grow them as annuals.

Usually found in shades of pink, purple, blue, or white and available in sizes ranging from less than one foot in height to more than seven feet, geraniums definitely come in a variety that will fill that shady spot in your yard.

6. Ferns

When ferns are growing in the wild, it is often in woodland areas beneath the canopy of trees or interspersed in crevices on rocky slopes. So, it should come as no surprise that many varieties of ferns can be perfect additions to shade gardens.

Ferns are a particularly good choice if you are looking for lush, feathery foliage to cover a large space and are not concerned about colorful flowers. While many ferns are not low-water options, purchasing from a local nursery can help you find varieties that grow well in Southern California without wasting water. Regardless of the fern variety you choose, you will need to water it regularly until it is established. Once established, these shade plants should thrive in your garden with weekly irrigation and yearly feeding.

As an added bonus, ferns can be planted on shady hillsides to control erosion.

7. Heuchera

Heuchera, aka alumroot or coral bells, tolerates partial shade and encourages bees and birds to visit your garden. The many varieties available offer a wide range of hues complimented by the bell-shape blooms that appear in late spring and summer.

You will need to divide these evergreen perennials every few years to keep them thriving. Simply dig up the plant, divide the root system to make a few separate plants, and then plant each of the divided plants for long-lasting color and texture in your garden.

8. Sweet Alyssum

The tiny, delicate blooms of alyssum make a great ground cover around other shade plants or can be planted in a container garden as a filler or on its own to spill over the edges. Alyssum varieties generally come with white, pink or purple flowers, all of which do well in shade. If the spot you are filling is in deep shade, you might consider going with a purple variety, since these seem to have the most potential for thriving in shade.

Alyssum is a shorter plant and grows to only about four to eight inches high, so it is best at the front of a border or as a ground cover between other plants.

9. Coprosma (Mirror Plant)

Mirror plants add year-round color to your garden starting with shiny, deep-green leaves that eventually become mottled with orange or pinkish hues. Since this hardy shrub is drought tolerant, thrives in coastal areas and requires little care once established, mirror plants are a good choice for Southern California gardens and for busy homeowners. It does just fine in salty air, so it is particularly good for folks living near the beach.

While coprosmas prefer full sun, they will survive in partial shade. You will need to water your mirror plant regularly until established. Once established, it will need extra irrigation during hot or dry spells. Annual fertilizing and pruning will also help your coprosma thrive.

10. Dead Nettle (Lamium)

If you need shade plants for a spot that gets little sun during the day, dead nettle might be the option for you. These easy-care, flowering plants are often used as a quick-growing ground cover and will grow in flowerbeds and borders or in containers. The most common colors for dead nettle blooms are white, pink and purple.

It is important to remember that all varieties of lamium are members of the mint family, so they can be invasive and can take over your yard if you let them. To avoid this, you can cut them back to encourage compact growth or you can divide these perennials every spring to plant them in other areas of your yard or to give away to other folks with shady spots to fill.

11. Toad Lilies

Toad lilies are one of the most beautiful plants for shade gardens and add an exotic look that makes them a welcome addition in cutting gardens as well. Blooms come in white, pink, purple, yellow, and blue and this pretty perennial will do just as well in containers as they will in the ground.

Toad lilies are generally easy to care for; however, they do require regular watering and are usually not drought tolerant. It is also important to note that toad lilies are a member of the lily family and all parts of the plant are poisonous. This means that these shade plants are not a good choice for planting near play areas for small children or your pet’s favorite spot for an afternoon nap.

12. Vinca Major and Vinca Minor (Periwinkle, Creeping Myrtle)

Vinca major and vinca minor are perennial, evergreen ground covers that thrive in shade. While vinca minor is a bit more shade loving than vinca major, either of these options will do fine in your shade garden. Vinca major is a bit bigger than vinca minor, does not tolerate cold weather quite as well, and its vines can spread more aggressively. So, if you are looking for something that can quickly cover the ground in a shady spot and you do not mind some serious spreading out, vinca major might be your best bet. If you want the hardiest, most shade-loving option, go with vinca minor.

Vincas prefer moist soil, but they are drought tolerant. Historically, vinca major was used to treat high blood pressure, so it is probably not a good idea to allow children or pets to spend a lot of time around the vinca unattended. Consuming a small amount is likely harmless, but consuming too much could cause low blood pressure.

13. Impatiens

Impatiens do not like full sun and do best in partial or full shade. This, of course, makes them a perfect choice for anyone looking for plants for shade.

These annual flowers are great for adding quick color to flowerbeds or containers. They can be planted in between other plants for pops of color, or you can plant several impatiens close together for a large grouping of colorful blooms.

Unfortunately, these little beauties are not drought tolerant and may even require more than one watering a day during the summer if they are planted in containers. However, the good news is that they are not considered toxic to people or pets, so they are a good choice for shady spots where you cats, dogs or kids like to spend time.

14. Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons are evergreen shrubs with showy blooms that come in hues of white, pink, purple, red and yellow. While they do require at least some sun, rhodies do well in part shade and are a beautiful addition to shade gardens. With their shallow root systems, regular irrigation is required, particularly when the weather is hot or dry. Most varieties grow to be between three and six feet tall, so this is a good choice for large spaces that need color.

Aside from regular watering, rhododendrons also require acidic soil. Many Southern California gardeners are working with clay soil, so you will need to amend it to shift the pH level to about 5.0 or 5.5 to keep these shade plants happy.

15. Azaleas

Azaleas are in the same genus as rhododendrons and have similar requirements regarding irrigation, care and soil acidity. Some azalea varieties are evergreen and some are deciduous, so be sure to choose a variety that fits your needs. Different varieties also vary greatly in when they bloom, which can be as early as spring or as late as fall, so do a little research or ask for recommendations at your local garden center to make sure you purchase plants that will bloom at the right time of year to compliment the other plants in your shade garden.

16. Camellias

Camellias do best in partial shade and come in both shrub and tree varieties. This large bloomer has beautiful, showing flowers in the fall and attractive foliage throughout the year. Camellias do not require excessive water once established, so this is a plus, but they are pretty picky about the few things they are picky about. For example, they cannot survive in neighborhoods that are close enough to the beach to experience salt spray. They also do not tolerate afternoon sun well and, when exposed, will not bloom as readily and can show signs of sunburn.

17. Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Lungwort was named for its resemblance to the shape of a lung, which was, at one time believed to mean it would treat lung ailments. Although it proved to have no healing properties related to lung health, the name stuck. While the name might be a bit unfortunate, the spotted foliage and delicate flowers are a beautiful addition to shade gardens. These low-maintenance perennials prefer moist soil until established, and then can tolerate some drought, particularly when planted in the shade.

Lungwort prefers partial shade and will do best in a spot that has some morning sun, but then is shaded for most or all of the afternoon.

18. Astilbe

Astilbe is a colorful shade plant with showy plumes that attract butterflies to your garden. Flowers are generally shades of white, red, pink or purple, and you can choose varieties with foliage that ranges from light green to deep red for even more color throughout the year.

Astilbes are perennial, so you can pick a spot for planting, and then enjoy them year after year without needing to replant the area. As good plants for shade gardens, astilbes prefer shade in the afternoon and tolerate full shade – just know that you will not get as many floral plumes on astilbes that are in deep shade all day.

19. Japanese Forest Grass

Japanese forest grass is a good choice for folks in search of shade plants that will enhance their garden’s visual appeal without colorful flowers. This attractive, slow-growing grass grows in mounds that reach about 18 inches in height and, as is common with perennials, it can be divided every few years to provide you with new plants to fill in spots in your garden.

Japanese forest grass requires regular watering and must have shade to survive Southern California’s hot, dry summers.

20. Spurge

There are thousands of varieties of spurge, which means you can choose between annuals and perennials, green or burgundy foliage, and flowers and bracts that come in white, pink, yellow, orange, red and even green. Most of the plants in this class grow no more than three feet tall, but some varieties of this aggressive spreader can take over a garden border before you know it. This makes it a good choice as a ground cover or for erosion control.

Look for varieties that are drought tolerant to add color to shaded areas without increasing your water usage.

The 10 best plants to get a tropical garden style in Britain

Tropical gardens are becoming increasingly popular in Britain. I think it’s down to their exotic, relaxing mood. It’s like being on holiday, without leaving home.

What sets tropical gardens apart is their distinctive mood: lush and soothing. The plants are impactful and contemporary, but the overall feel is timeless. Plus, they are really low-maintenance.

Tropical plants are hardier than you might think and will survive cold temperatures well. What they can’t bear is drought, so keep them well-watered, especially in the first year.

The trick to getting tropical plants to work in your garden is to mix them with British plants. Create a framework of exotic varieties and fill in with garden stalwarts like carex, sedge, hosta, astrantia, miscanthus and Japanese anemone.

Plant tropical varieties in spring, so their roots have time to get established before winter. Here are my top 10 tropical plants.

1 Trachycarpus fortunei

A lovely palm tree with a stout, fibrous trunk and huge fan-shaped leaves. Keep it sheltered from harsh winds and protect the crown with straw in cold winter weather.

2 Chamaerops humilis

This is a shrubby palm, often called a dwarf fan palm. It brings a good architectural angle to tropical planting. Plant in a sheltered spot in partial shade and water sparingly in winter

3 Dryopteris filix-mas

Also known as the male fern, this is a great variety of woodland fern. It is fully hardy and will survive everything except hot, direct sunlight. Use as ground cover under trees.

4 Cordyline australis

A popular plant, like a palm but with singular leaves. It is a woody shrub but it can be made into a tree shape by cutting out the lower leaves. Protect with straw and horticultural fleece if the winter is very cold.

5 Hosta

A very flexible plant that is ideal for partial or full shade. It gives great ground cover and comes in a huge range of leaf variations. Must be kept well-watered.

6 Carex comans

This is a hardy fine-leaved grass available in a range of colours, from green and white to rusty red. Used in drifts, it gives beds an ethereal effect as it moves in the wind.

7 Ghost lady fern

A great shade plant with soft, silver foliage. Its colour helps to break up dense green planting and it tolerates dry conditions better than a lot of other ferns.

8 Dicksonia Antarctica

This is a soft tree fern that originates from Australia. They are usually evergreen, but the leaves may die back in cold areas. Protect the crown with straw held in place with wire over winter.

9 Zantedeschia aethiopica

Also known as an arum lily, this has striking white flowers and glossy green foliage. It’s fairly hardy and likes full sun or partial shade. Mulch in autumn when it starts to fade.

10 Phormium

A great strap-leaved plant available in a wide range of colours, from yellow and green to red and black. It originates from New Zealand and is generally hardy.

Omar Gardens Blog

Tropical gardens are beautiful. Period.

Their lush and soothing nature gives you the feel of being on holiday- in a really exclusive island- right in the comfort of your home. Even better, they are low maintenance and hardier than you might think.

After you have planted your trees, the next thing you should plant is shrubs.

The blossoming flowers and coloured leaves really highlight your garden and bring out the beauty. You could also construct natural fences with your shrubs!

Not to worry, even if your garden is too small for decent sized trees, some large shrubs are ideal. See our 10 favorite shrubs below:

1. Paper Gardenia (Tabernaemontana): The paper Gardenia is a large evergreen shrub. It has waxy, pure, white, ruffle-edged flowers, which are especially fragrant after dark.

It can be grown in full or partial shade but to achieve your desired shape, you need to prune the plant lightly.

Paper Gardenia

If your garden is a new one, this beautiful shrub’s rather fast growth rate makes it a perfect match. If your garden is a shady one, even better as it provides structure and form.

Tip: You should watch out for Scale insects and Aphids if you are growing this plant indoors.

2. Hibiscus (Single red and white varieties): Picture having hummingbirds and butterflies in your garden all the time!

They are not there for you, they are there for your Hibiscus plant. This shrub is even more desirable because they grow tall (and beautiful) and are more resistant to disease.

You know what they say about the hibiscus shrub? It adds flair to your garden. Carefully tending to hibiscus plants will reward you will many lovely years of exotic flowers.


Tip: if you are growing your hibiscus in a container, make sure you provide your plant with at least six hours of sunlight- they really work for those lovely blooms. Sunlight doesn’t necessarily mean overly hot, you may want to provide shade for the plants when it’s really hot in the afternoon.

3. Mickey mouse plant ( Ochna serrulata ): Before you wonder, the Mickey Mouse plant is not named because of the leaves or blooms, but for the black beautiful berries that resemble the face of Mickey Mouse (It’s true!)

If you are looking to attract butterflies and bees to your garden, this plant is a suitable choice.

Mickey Mouse Plant

To achieve a really beautiful shape (or even your desired shape) it needs a bit of pruning when it’s still young. So you can have a little fun experimenting with it.

Also known as carnival bush, The plant is a small, semi-evergreen shrub that reaches mature heights of 3 to 8 feet.

Tip: The seed may be poisonous, so keep that in mind and be careful if you have children or pets around.

4. Pride of Barbados (Caselpina Pulcherima): It is called the Pride of Barbados for a reason!

The scientific name Pulcherima literally means “very pretty” and this plant definitely lives up to the name.

The great heat loving shrub has incredible terminal flower clusters showing an orange-red with a tinge of gold on the edges.

Pride of Barbardos

Each flower is composed of five showy petals with very prominent six inch long red stamens. Pride of Barbados is very hardy and blooms throughout the year, giving your garden a nice colourful boost.

Tip: This plant needs full sun, well drained, alkaline to acidic soil

5. Single Red Ixora Bright Red flowers (Ixora Javanica): Like the Pride of Barbados, The Ixora flowers also bloom throughout the year.

This shrub grows best in full sun but it can tolerate light shade. If you want to do some container planting, this flower is an excellent choice.

Ixora Javanica

Ixora is susceptible to hard pruning which makes it excellent for hedges.

Don’t worry, the flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other nectar-seeking insect pollinators too!

If you are looking to cut flowers in vases or floral arrangement, this is your plant.

Tip: You should prune this shrub annually to keep bush in shape and encourage flowering.

6. Oleander (Nerium Oleander): This is a classic case of beauty and the beast. Oleander is your candidate for the most poisonous and most beautiful plant.

It is an evergreen shrub (or small tree) that grows to approximately 6 m. A sticky latex is exuded if the stem is cut. The leaves are usually in groups of three while the flowers are tubular with five lobes.


They could be red or pink in the wild but they may also be white, cream, yellow or purple in cultivars. The good news? Some of them are scented.

The poisonous nature of Oleander does have one advantage: The leaves slow insecticidal activity against sugarcane mite and citrus leafminer.

7. Climber (Clerodendrum): This is a large climber with a very profuse flowering habit.

Clerodendrum is usually planted against fences over archways and columns. These beautiful shrubs enjoy growing in sun and they prefer rich, loamy soils that drain well.


Prune them regularly to encourage new growth that will produce masses of beautiful flowers. To ensure prolific blooming, you should apply plant food or water soluble fertilizer with high potassium content every month.

Tip: The clerodendrum is easily affected by mealybugs and spider mites. You can treat using insecticides or alternatively, remove mealybugs with an alcohol­ saturated cotton swab. You can also wash the plants with soapy water.

If your clerodendrum doesn’t bloom, it’s because it isn’t getting enough light. Try moving it to where it will get indirect light.

8. Climber (Bougainvillea): In one word, the bougainvillea is breathtaking!

Just one little detail- it is not for lazy gardeners. Without regular light pruning and training, your “bougie” is at risk of running wild.

Once you understand their growth habit- Bougainvilleas are climbers- which is why they produce such thick stems with large thorns that hook into things as they reach towards the light.


The best thing to do is to train your climber to the size and shape you want. After doing that, all you have to do is keep clipping the tips of the shorter bushier growth straight after each flush of blooms has finished.

Tip: They need at least six hours of sunlight a day to produce the bloom that we love.

9. Cabbage Tree (Cordyline Fruticosa): Commonly referred to as “ti plant”, it grows as a shrub or small tree up to 10 feet tall.

You need to provide the ti plant with proper care- it ensures vigorous growth and attractive foliage and encourages flowering once the plant is mature.

Tip: This plant likes partial shade to full sun. If you are going to keep it out in the sun, you should take care to water it often.

Cabbage Tree

10. Croton (Codiaeum Variegatum): The plants are leathery leaves in bold colors of yellow, pink, red, orange and green giving it the nickname “Joseph’s Coat”.

It is a woody-based perennial that typically grows to 6’ tall.


Tip: Croton is a member of the Euphorbia family, which means it has a poisonous sap. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but you need to take precautions.

Keep croton away from children and pets and wear gloves while handling it.

Tropical plants are an amazing statement to add to any garden, offering exotic design sense and wonderful texture and color. Ok, we love ’em ’cause we can pretend to be on a beach in Fiji, or wandering around the rain forests in Hawaii, or pretty much any other place in the world where tropicals thrive. The trouble is, tropical plants are just that… tropical. And most of us don’t live in such exotic growing zones. (All of you lounging under your palm trees in Florida, stop laughing at us. ) However, we found these hardy tropical plants you can grow, just about anywhere! Some of them are pretty hardy in all but the coldest climates (hey, there are places even roses won’t grow!) and some of them need some winter protection. Some of them come back every year, but a few others are annuals you can use to fill in your tropical garden as it grows. All of them are worth a try for any gardener!

How to Grow Hardy Tropical Plants

There are three types of hardy tropical plants we are going to cover for the sake of planning such a space. There are too many to list them all, so if you choose a few in each category, you are well on your way to a tropical zone! Remember, to always have hardscaping structure when trying to grow a “wilder” type of naturalized garden like this. A well placed path, deck, or gazebo will help pull the garden together when those huge leaves, bountiful flowers and dramatic focal points start to make your world their own!

Height and Drama of Tropical Plants


The most cold hardy palm grown in the U.S. is called the Windmill Palm. Hardy down to zone 7, it can be made even more hardy by taking winter precautions. Many gardeners grow palms in Ohio, New York and Virginia, by wrapping the tree with burlap, planting in a wind protected position, and mulching deeply. Generally grows 10- 20 feet tall, in full to partial sun. Can be potted in a large container. Often used at tropical location hotels. Photo from ‘Fast Growing Trees‘.

Clumping Bamboo

If you are thinking about getting some bamboo for your tropical paradise, good choice. And make sure you read our post on how to grow bamboo. The trick here is to know the difference between clumping bamboo, and running bamboo. Plant the latter only if you want your home, yard and the nearest neighbors to be swallowed whole by the plant. Clumping bamboo has none of it’s more aggressive cousins nasty qualities, but all of the good ones. Photo by ‘Bella Bree‘.

Elephant Ears

Elephant Ear is a tender tuber that can be planted anywhere, as long as you lift the tubers after the first frost and store indoors until spring. This mammoth plants can grow to 6 feet tall with 3 foot long leaves, and do well in partial shade. Definitely a plant for drama! Photo by ‘Wayside Gardens‘.

Hardy Banana

The Hardy Banana Plant is hardy down to below zero at the rhizome, but the leaves will freeze and fall off below 28 degrees. If you mulch well and keep the rhizome from freezing, you will have a banana come back year after year. Cisco Morris from ‘The Seattle Times’ has a great tutorial on how to prep your hardy banana for winter. Photo by ‘Amazon‘.

Gunnera, or Giant Rhubarb

Another plant hardy only to zone 7, but can be lifted in the fall and stored in peat or vermiculite. This is one of the largest herbaceous plants on earth, growing 8-10 feet tall and wide. Protect from afternoon sun, and keep well watered. They can also be grown in a large container and moved into a frost free garage to go dormant for the winter. Photo by ‘Missouri Botanical Garden‘.

Hardy Tropicals with Color and Scent

Toad Lily

The toad lily is an exotic looking hardy lily plant that blooms in August and September, in the shade! 1-2 feet tall and wide, this plant is hardy down to zone 4 and is a great filler between and under this larger drama plants, giving you pretty pink flowers that look like orchids. ‘Missouri Botanical Garden‘.

Hardy Hibiscus, Rose Mallow

Hardy Hibiscus grows 4-6 feet high in full sun, and has plate size tropical blooms all summer long. Oh, did we mention it’s hardy down to zone 4? Coming in blues, purples, pinks, reds and whites, this is a show stopper! Photo by ‘White Flower Farm‘.

Hardy Fuchsia

If you’ve never tried the Hardy Fuchsia, and only had the hanging tender variety, you are missing out, Hardy Fuchsia grow 6-10 feet high and as wide as a shrub, with the same gorgeous pendulous flowers. Only this one is hardy down to zone 6! Can you imagine the butterflies and hummingbirds? Protect from afternoon shade and keep moist in fertile soil. Photo from ‘Fine Gardening‘.

Trumpet Vine

A vigorous vine that needs a strong support to grow, but will keep your garden full of tropical looking tubular yellow, orange or red flowers all summer. (And keep those hummingbirds around!) Full sun and something to grow onto is about all this plant needs, hardy down to zone 5. Fine with poor soil, fast growing, but can take a couple years to start blooming.

Fillers and greenery

Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet potato vine is an annual, so not hardy anywhere except the Southern US… It is however, a very cheap bedding plant that grows very quickly to 6 feet long. Great in containers it also can be used as a bedding plant to create some tropical lushness. Both in free and red leaved forms. Our favorite is ‘Margarita’, in a lime green. Sun, partial shade, keep moist, fertilize regularly. We pinch ours back when about 12 inches high to create a busier plant. Photo by ‘White Flower Farm‘.

Annual Vinca

A flowering bedding plant that is hardy to zone 9, but most of us grow it like an exotic form of petunias. They usually grow 6 inches – 1 foot tall and as wide, and are covered all summer long with flowers in pinks, whites and reds. They are self cleaning, which means they don’t need to be deadheaded. Drought resistant, full sun, but do best well watered, with some moderate fertilizer. A workhorse in the tropical garden! Photo by ‘BHG‘.


Here is your colorful foliage tropical for the shade. Caladiums can technically be made to be hardy, because they are bulbs you can dig up in the fall… When the daytime temps drop into the 50’s, dig the bulbs and leaves, let ‘em dry for a week or so, trim off the tops and store the bulbs in a warm (60°F+) ventilated area for planting next spring. Shade and a well drained moist soil is all they need to make a glowing tropical bed or container. There are so many different varieties too! Greens with pinks, reds and whites mixed in so many ways. Photo by ‘Classical Caladiums‘.

Have you tried tropical in your garden? Share how you made it work in comments! Photo below by ‘Balcony Garden Web‘.

If you enjoyed learning about how to grow hardy tropical plants, we think you will love our posts on Privacy with Plants and How to Grow Orchids.

Image Credits: Missouri Botanical Garden, Fast Growing Trees, Bella Bree, Wayside Gardens, Amazon, White Flower Farm, Fine Gardening, White Flower Farm, BHG, Classical Caladiums, Balcony Garden Web

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Tropical Shade Gardening Ideas – How To Create A Tropical Shade Garden

If your dream is to create a lush, jungle-like garden filled with exotic, shade-loving tropical plants, don’t give up on the idea. Even if your shady garden is many miles away from the tropics, you can still create the feeling of a tropical garden. Want to learn about creating a tropical shade garden? Read on.

How to Create a Tropical Shade Garden

When looking for tropical shade garden ideas, first consider your climate and growing zone. For example, if you live in an Arizona desert, you can still create the feeling of a tropical shade garden. However, you’ll need to do it without a lot of plants having high water demands. Or, if you live in a northern climate, a tropical shade garden should consist of cold-tolerant plants with a tropical appearance.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with color, as tropical jungles aren’t exactly sedate. Although you can plant blooming annuals and perennials, the best tropical shade garden plants tend to have big, bold, brightly colored or variegated leaves that will stand out in a shady garden.

Jungles are dense, so plan accordingly. While some plants may be prone to disease without air circulation, creating a tropical shade garden means planting like a jungle – a lot of plants in a small space.

Garden accents, including planting containers, are easy ways to create accents of bright color. Other tropical shade garden ideas that create an essence of the tropics include rattan furniture, woven mats, stone carvings or tiki torches.

Shade-Loving Tropical Plants

Here are some popular tropical shade garden plants to choose from:


  • Elephant ears (Colocasia)
  • Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus)
  • Golden shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea)
  • Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)
  • Kaffir lily (Clivia)
  • Red aglaonema (Aglaonema spp.)
  • Giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)
  • Violets (Viola)
  • Hardy fiber banana (Musa basjoo)
  • Hosta (Hosta spp.)
  • Calathea (Calathea spp.)

Ground Covers

  • Liriope (Liriope spp.)
  • Asiatic star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum)
  • Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
  • Algerian ivy (Hedera canariensis)


  • Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
  • Gardenia (Gardenia spp.)
  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
  • Fatsia (Fatsia japonica)


  • Impatiens
  • Caladiums
  • Begonias
  • Dracaena (perennial in warm climates)
  • Coleus

It’s possible to get a tropical style garden without having to swathe your plants in bubble wrap every winter! These are the top tropical plants for a colder climate.

1. Chusan palm/Trachycarpus fortunei

A really lovely palm (above) with fan-shaped leaves. This is a hardy plant and while it is incredibly robust in very cold winters it’s a good idea to bubble wrap the top. BUY NOW

2. Bean tree/Catalpa ‘Bungei’

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This is a slow-growing tree with big leaves that form an umbrella shape. It’s great for giving a small garden a shady, jungle-like feel.

3. Bamboo/Phyllostachys nigra

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Bamboos are the perfect plant for a tropical look; they are reliably hardy, evergreen and with a small footprint so they don’t take up too much room. Go for a clump-growing type like black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra, rather than the spreading varieties. BUY NOW

4. Ginger Lily/Hedychium aurantiacum

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A truly tropical-looking orange flower, it’s a bulb-like plant and will push up through the soil in early summer to produce red flowers late in the season. BUY NOW

5. Fatsia/Fatsia japonica

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This, and its climbing relative fatshedera, have big, glossy, evergreen leaves giving a perfect tropical backdrop to the garden. BUY NOW

6. Horse tails/Equisetum arvense

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These come arrow-straight up out of the ground in spring. Really odd plants but very exotic looking – they do spread so place them carefully!

7. Arum lilies/Zantedeschia aethiopica

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This lily will be evergreen in sheltered spots and produces the most elegant swan-like white flowers in spring and summer. BUY NOW

8. Bear’s breeches/Acanthus mollis

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Tall and stately, this perennial produces huge white and purple flowers in summer and will be evergreen in a sheltered spot. BUY NOW

9. Trilliums/Trillium grandiflorum

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Early in the year this plant’s three-petalled, large flower pushes up through its low glossy foliage. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to find carpeting the floor of an enchanted jungle. BUY NOW

10. Rodgersia/Rodgersia pinnata ‘Superba’

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Imagine a perennial with enormous horse chestnut leaves and huge candles of flowers poking out from them. That’s rodgersia. It dies down in winter but will come up in spring – to nearly 6ft if it’s happy and kept well-watered! BUY NOW

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