Tropical flowers are a great way to add color to a space. When grown outside or undercover these exotic plants can add drama and interest to any space.
This list of tropical flowers is designed to not only highlight some of the more commonly grown tropical flowers, such as orchids and African violets, but also some of the more unusual species. All of these suggestions are suitable for growing in a range of conditions, bringing both color and interest to a space. Many of our tropical flowers are fragrant and, if grown outdoors, can also attract pollinators.
The trumpet shaped tropical flowers of the hibiscus can bring a summer vibe to gardens. Suitable for pots and planters, they are also an ideal addition to a sunny patio. Hibiscus plants are prized for their long lasting, large blooms that can reach up to 8 inches in diameter. With regular water and lots of sun, hibiscus plants thrive throughout the summer months, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators to the garden. Many of these are drawn in by the plants’ bright tropical flowers. These bloom in a range of shades from cool pinks and whites to rich purples and hot yellows and reds.
Despite their tropical appearance these plants are pleasingly easy to grow. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 11 hibiscus does best in an acidic soil. Watering the soil regularly helps to prolong flowering.
Open hibiscus blooms are popular with many pollinators.
A popular house plant, despite their topical flowers and appearance, bromeliads are pleasingly easy to care for. In the right conditions bromeliads are evergreen, producing torch-like blooms in shades of white, pink and purple.
Native to South America and the southern states of the United States, bromeliads are part of the Bromeliaceae family. Most varieties are epiphytic, meaning that the root system is not needed to harvest nutrients and moisture from the soil. Instead the roots are an anchor system, enabling the plant to attach itself to trees or other structures. Hardy in USDA Zones 10 to 12, in cooler climates they are best grown as houseplants.
Bromeliads are non-toxic making them an ideal choice for homes with pets or small children.
The torch-like Bromeliad.
One of the most popular tropical flowers thanks to its bright, stately floral bracts, anthuriums are a popular indoor plant choice. One of the trickier plants to grow on our list of tropical flowers, with the right care, the visual effect of a flowering anthurium is dramatic.
Thriving in indirect light positions, avoid placing anthuriums in full sun to prevent scorching the foliage. Best planted in well draining soil, aim to keep the soil around the plants evenly moist. This encourages the red blooms or bracts and bright yellow spadix to emerge. Some anthurium varieties also flower in shades of burgundy, pink and white.
Also known as Flamingo Flowers these plants do best in humid conditions. In parts of the Caribbean, Uruguay, Mexico and Argentina anthurium can be found growing wild.
The colorful bracts of the anthurium plant.
4 African Violet
The African violet is commonly grown as a colorful houseplant. Native to the eastern topical parts of Africa, these colorful plants are only hardy outdoors in USDA Zone 12.
Thriving in pots and containers, African violets typically flower in shades of blue and purple. Some varieties also flower in shades of pink and white while, more unusually, multicolor varieties are also available. Rewarding to care for, these easy going plants also easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. When not in flower the plants maintain their dark green, fuzzy foliage helping to provide year round interest.
Water your African violet plants regularly but be careful not to drown them. It can be difficult to know how often to water houseplants. If you are unsure how to gauge the moisture level of your soil, a soil moisture meter can be of great assistance.
Small African violet blooms sit above rich green foliage.
Another of our tropical flowers that is best suited to growing as a houseplant, the amaryllis is commonly grown for its large, lily-like trumpet blooms. At their peak the tropical flowers can reach over 4 inches in diameter. The blooms of the amaryllis sit on elegant, long stems, up to 23 inches long. In ideal growing conditions a stalk can produce anything from 2 to 12 blooms. But be careful, when in flower the stems can become top heavy. They may require staking with a Dreecy Plant Support to prevent them from bending or snapping.
Commonly grown from bulbs, this is a good growing guide if you’ve never grown amaryllis before. Caring for these tropical flowers is a rewarding process for even the most experienced gardener. Hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11, amaryllis plants do best in pots. This enables you to protect them during unpleasant or harsh periods of weather. Thriving in slightly acidic soil, like many of the plants on our list of tropical flowers, the amaryllis, depending on its growing position, can flower from December until June.
Amaryllis is commonly grown as a houseplant.
Originating on the Greek islands and the Middle East, the cyclamen is identified by its green, heart-shaped foliage. This provides ornamental interest even when the plant isn’t in flower. When the tropical flowers do emerge they can be in shades of red, pink or white. Many varieties are also fragrant, further adding to the interest. Typically grown as a houseplant, cyclamen plants are hardy outdoors in USDA Zones 9 to 11.
A diminutive plant, the hardy cyclamen (cyclamen persicum) is a reliable way to introduce color to winter and early spring gardens. Rarely reaching over 8 inches these durable specimens are ideal for adding color to shady areas of the garden.
If you are growing cyclamen, be warned they are toxic to dogs and cats.
Small but attractive, spring flowering cyclamens are a popular houseplant.
7 Canna Lily
The canna lily is a popular garden plant not only because it is attractive but because it is one of the easiest tropical flowers to grow outside. Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11 these plants do best in well draining, slightly acidic soil. Remember to enrich the soil before planting the bulbs in a full sun position. With a regular drink of water intricate blooms soon emerge. Depending on the variety these can be in shades of gold, red and orange.
The canna lily’s elegant appearance can lead people to believe it is a high maintenance plant, but this is not true. These tropical flowers are actually pleasingly easy to grow. Just make sure that you protect them from any cold spells your garden may experience. If you’ve never grown canna lilies before, this is a good guide.
Bright and colorful canna lilies.
The simple white blooms of the Jasmine plant may not have the ornamental appeal of some of the other tropical flowers on our list, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t a fabulous choice. The simplicity of the jasmine bloom, coupled with its distinctive aroma which fills gardens during the summer months, is hard to beat. Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10, in cooler climates you can grow jasmine indoors. Here the plants fill the home with their sweet fragrance. As well as the typical white blooms you can also find pink and yellow flowering varieties.
Native to the Caucuses, India and western China as well as parts of the Middle East, Jasmine plants do well in light positions in acidic soil. If you are growing indoors make sure the plants get lots of indirect light. The vigorous vines will also require some support, such as a trellis, to train their growth habit.
Fragrant jasmine blooms.
9 Morning Glory
Easy to grow, morning glory is a sprawling vine which during the summer months produces masses of attractive, old fashioned blooms. These emerge in shades of purple, blue, red, white and yellow.
Ideal for cottage gardens, or trailed up the side of a trellis, the morning glory is not the most low maintenance suggestion on our tropical flowers list. You will need to do a little work to keep the plant’s vigorous growth habit under control. Best planted in full sun, water regularly to encourage plentiful flowering. Morning Glory is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10.
Sprawling morning glory vines can be trained to grow up a trellis or arbour.
Orchids are colorful tropical flowers that are available in almost every shade of the rainbow. Their elegant shapes can add elegance and style to the garden or houseplant collection. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9 in the wild the plants thrive in tropical and subtropical areas. While there are numerous different varieties of orchid commercially available, most are moth orchids. These are members of the Phalaenopsis genus.
Thanks to their exotic appearance many people find caring for orchids a daunting proposition. However, by following just a few basic steps, which are outlined here, orchid care could not be simpler. Position your plant in a filtered light position and water regularly and it will soon start to thrive and flower. Ongoing care for an orchid is pleasingly minimal, just remember to repot them occasionally.
Available in a rainbow of colors, orchids are increasingly popular houseplants.
If you’re looking for tropical flowers that are both reliable and affordable then look no further than the penta. Bringing both color and texture to the garden, pentas are also suitable for growing in pots undercover as part of a houseplant collection.
Producing clusters of small, star-shaped blooms in red, pink and purple hues, pentas are a favorite of both hummingbirds and butterflies. Interestingly, the plants are called penta because each flower has five pointed petals.
Best planted in a full sun position and watered infrequently, most penta varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10. At their best during the heat of summer, if you want to know more about growing pentas, this is a good guide.
The five petaled flowers of the penta plant.
One of the cheeriest additions to the summer garden, cosmos fills your garden with long lasting blooms throughout the summer months. Native to Mexico, cosmos is one of the hardiest tropical flowers on our list. Summer annual varieties are typically hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10, however self seeding varieties are usually only hardy in zones 9 and 10.
Easy to grow, plant cosmos in full sun and water sparingly. Cosmos plants pair well with a number of other common annual and perennial summer flowering plants. Dwarf varieties, such as the Ladybird Series also grow well in containers.
Open cosmos blooms thrive in flower gardens.
13 Bird of Paradise
One of the most distinctive tropical flowers, Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is so called because its blooms are thought to resemble the bird of the same name. Despite its exotic appearance this attractive plant is pleasingly easy to care for.
Native to South Africa these plants are ideal for container gardens. Hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11 growing in pots in cooler climates enables you to move them inside during the cooler fall and winter months before returning to their sunny spot in the spring.
The exotic bird of paradise plant.
14 Angel’s Trumpet
Easily identified by its drooping bell-shaped blooms, Brugmansia or angel’s trumpet is a great statement shrub. Ideal for containers as well as beds, the plant is hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11. Taller varieties can also be grown as a small tree in warmer conditions.
During the summer months flowering is plentiful. The fragrant, colorful blooms, in shades of organ, pink, peach, yellow and white, are an eye-catching sight. For a truly standout piece why not try a variegated cultivar such as Snowbank. Here, the white and green patterned leaves continue to provide interest long after the blooms have faded.
Angel’s trumpet does best in acidic soil with regular watering and lots of sunlight. Don’t be afraid to prune your angel’s trumpet back well in the fall. New foliage and blooms will quickly emerge the following spring.
Angel’s trumpet is a dramatic addition to the garden.
The national flower of South Africa, the protea (Protea cynaroides) is identified by its distinctive, tropical flowers. These are best described as looking like a cross between an artichoke and a thistle.
A popular cut flower, the protea’s tropical flowers, which are fuzzy and leathery, emerge in shades of white, pink, red, cream and yellow. Proteas are early flowering when compared to other tropical flowers. They typically flower from late winter until the end of spring.
Drought tolerant, protea plants thrive in sandy well draining soil with a little water a few times a week. Hardier than other tropical flowers, the protea can be grown outside in USDA Zones 8 and higher. Unlike many of the other plants on our list, the protea doesn’t require huge amounts of sun. Just a few hours of light a day is enough to encourage blooms to emerge.
The distinctive national flower of South Africa.
Another one of our tropical flowers that are native to South America, bougainvillea (Bougainvillea Glabra) plants thrive in dry, sunny areas. Hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11 these vigorous vines are pleasingly easy to grow as long as you know what you are doing. This is a great in depth guide if you are new to growing bougainvillea vines.
Popular with butterflies, instead of tropical flowers bougainvillea plants produce colorful leaves or bracts. These paper-like leaves, which are dappled with tiny white spots, can look like small tropical flowers. Popular throughout the Mediterranean Basin, bougainvillea plants do best in full sun positions. While the plants do provide summer color, they can fade during the peak of the season before returning strongly for a colorful fall display.
17 Chenille Plant
Named from the French word for caterpillar, the chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is prized for its fuzzy, red blooms. The crimson blooms of the chenille plant provide not only color but also texture to warm summer gardens. Reaching up to 18 inches in length, these tropical flowers dramatically dangle down from amongst the masses of green foliage. This unique flowering habit has helped to give the plant its alternative name of the red hot cattail.
Chenille plants are hardy in USDA Zones 9 and 10. In cooler areas the plants can be grown as attractive houseplants or in containers and moved inside for the winter. If you are unable to provide enough natural light during the cooler winter months, a grow light can be used.
The draping blooms of the chenille plant.
Also known as the Natal Lily, Clivia (Clivia Miniata) is native to southern Africa. A member of the Amaryllidaceae family, along with agapanthus and alliums, these attractive specimens are a popular choice amongst people looking for colorful houseplants.
Surprisingly resilient, these unfussy plants require little light and water. At their happiest when root bound in a pot that is a little too small, just a little regular care encourages clivia plants to produce masses of rich, green foliage and orange or yellow lily like blooms. Clivia plants are hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11.
One of the least fussiest tropical flowers, the small colorful blooms of the clivia plant.
Native to the Philippines, medinilla (Medinilla magnifica) is a small, evergreen shrub which is at its best when planted away from the direct glare of the sun. Also known as the Pink Lantern plant or the Philippine Orchid, in its native environment medinilla grows as an epiphyte, attaching itself to trees in tropical forests.
When planted in a shady, favorable position medinilla plants produce elaborate, pink tropical flowers which drape down against the backdrop of the plant’s rich green foliage. Hardy in USDA Zones 10 and 11, medinilla thrives in pots filled with Orchid Bark. Water occasionally and mist regularly with a Plant Mister to maintain humidity levels and keep the plants healthy.
Medinilla blooms drape down in front of the deep green foliage.
Culinary varieties of ginger are commonly used in a range of cuisines and herbal medicines. While these are rarely grown for ornamental interest they do produce insignificant green blooms. For a more tropical feel, ornamental types, typically belonging to the Ginger Zingiber genus, can fill a space with aromatic, colorful bracts.Other popular ornamental varieties include the ginger lily or Hedychium and Curcuma. The latter produces colorful spiky blooms in shades of red, pink, white, yellow and orange.
Most ornamental varieties of ginger are hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10. Thriving in hot and humid conditions, ornamental ginger plants prefer partial sun positions. If you are growing your ginger outside, remember to bring it in or cover it with a Fabric Plant Blanket before the temperatures drop too far.
The spiky blooms of the ornamental ginger plant.
Elegant and attractive, tropical flowers can add dramatic interest to a garden or houseplant collection. Growing the plants indoors, if you are in a cooler climate, and also using grow lights and heat mats enables anyone to enjoy growing these exotic blooms. Now that you’ve read out list, which tropical flowers are you going to add to your collection?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.