Freshen your yard for the dog days of summer with beautiful tropical plants. Tropicals provide dramatic colors, exotic textures, and are a cinch to care for because they love hot weather. Happily, there’s a wide variety of tropicals available, so you can find the perfect plants for your landscape’s style and growing conditions.
Tropical hibiscus is perhaps the most recognizable. It features plate-shaped flowers in just about every color of the rainbow, and newer varieties, such as Tropic Escape® hibiscus, even offer huge (8-inch-wide) bicolor flowers that blend multiple shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, and even purple.
Tropical hibiscus grow best with at least 6 hours of direct sun each day. They need lots of sun to keep producing a continuous display of flowers. Hibiscus also like plenty of moisture; watering daily may be required, especially if they’re in small pots in hot spots of your yard. Grow it in landscape beds/borders or in pots; either way, it’s a showstopper.
Tip: Get the look of a tropical plant but in a cold-tolerant perennial with hardy hibiscus. It also likes full sun and features large flowers in shades of red, pink, and white. Perennial hibiscus is hardy in Zones 5-9.
Perfect for attracting hummingbirds, mandevilla offer an abundance of trumpet-shaped blooms in red, pink, and white. Old-fashioned mandevilla, such as the old-fashioned variety ‘Alice DuPont’ are vines, but plant breeders have also come up with mounding varieties that are perfect for container gardens or in landscape beds and borders.
No matter how it grows, all mandevilla varieties grow and bloom best in a spot with full sun. They’re a little more drought-tolerant than hibiscus, so you can still get a bold look with a little less care. Mandevilla are also resistant to deer and rabbits, thanks to a bad-tasting milky-white sap in the stems and leaves.
One of the more exotic varieties, tulip ginger (also called Curcuma) produces dramatic pinecone-like flowers in shades of purple, pink, and white. It blooms throughout the summer, no matter how hot it gets, and makes a good cut flower, too.
Tulip ginger grows best in full sun or part shade and appreciates evenly moist soil. In especially hot, dry spots, it’s best in a little shade. Like mandevilla and hibiscus, it grows equally well in pots as it does in the garden.
One of the best plants for attracting butterflies, pentas is a tropical that features dome-like flower heads (reminiscent of small hydrangeas) in shades of red, lavender, pink, and white. It’s also loved by hummingbirds.
Pentas needs full sun to grow its best, tolerates a little bit of shade, especially in the morning hours. Once established in the ground or containers, it’s relatively drought tolerant, but pentas blooms best when regularly watered during dry spells.
About the author: Justin W. Hancock is a horticulturist at Costa Farms, the largest grower of houseplants in the United States. He currently lives and gardens in Miami, FL (but grew up gardening in Northern Minnesota!).
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