Tropical plants are all the rage in sunny summer gardens today. Gardeners can’t get enough of the brightly colored, exotic flowers and foliage. Outside of your hardiness zone? No matter: most of the plants will overwinter nicely indoors.
Best Tropical Plants for Full Sun Locations
Want to add a bit of the exotic in your summer garden? The following tropical plants prefer full sun to achieve their best size and performance. Full sun is defined as an area receiving at least six or more hours of direct sun each day.
- Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) – Hardy in zones 9 to 11, the vivid orange and blue flowers on birds of paradise resemble birds in flight.
- Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) – This lovely flowering vine is also hardy to zones 9 to 11. Bougainvillea has arching stems with brightly colored bracts in shades of purple, red, orange, white, pink, or yellow.
- Angel trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) – Angel trumpet, or brugmansia, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub in zones 8 to 10. Huge, fragrant, trumpet-like blooms hang downward in white, pink, gold, orange, or yellow. Keep in mind, though, all parts are poisonous.
- White Ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) – Hardy in zones 8 to 10, the canna-like leaves with fragrant, white flowers make this ginger lily a must have in the tropical summer garden.
- Canna lily (Canna sp.) – Canna lilies can be enjoyed year-round in zones 7 to 10. Their large green or variegated, paddle-shaped leaves and bright colorful flowers definitely give the feel of the tropics right in your backyard.
- Taro/Elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) – This tropical favorite may be hardy in zones 8 to 10 but will sometimes survive in zone 7 with protection. Huge, heart-shaped leaves in variations of green, chocolate, black, purple, and yellow make elephant ear plants definite showstoppers.
- Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) – This hardy banana plant survives in zones 5 to 10. Though towering like a tree, it’s actually an herbaceous perennial, with huge leaves forming a trunk-like structure. Very tropical looking and easy to overwinter.
- Jasmine vine (Jasminum officinale) – Jasmine thrives in zones 7 to 10 and features fragrant and showy, star-shaped flowers in white or pale pink.
- Mandevilla (Mandevilla × amabilis) – As it’s only hardy to zones 10 and 11, you’ll need to overwinter mandevilla, but it’s still a great choice for adding tropical flair to the summer garden. This woody vine features large, pink, trumpet-shaped flowers.
- Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Another tropical beauty that needs to be overwintered in most climes (zones 10-11); the large blooms of hibiscus provide a range of colors all summer. You can also opt for the hardy hibiscus varieties too, which are just as appealing.
Overwintering Tropical Plants
If you live in an area where these plants are not hardy, bring them indoors when temperatures drop to about 50 degrees F. (10 C.). Dormant bulbs and rhizomes, like taro and canna, can be stored in a cool, frost-free area such as a basement or garage during winter.