15 Best Outdoor Tropical Plants To Add To Your Backyard

Last Updated October 19, 2021 By Bella Zinti

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Tropical plants are a popular choice for houseplants, as they're native to warm, humid conditions with relatively stable temperatures year-round. But in the right growing zones, they can thrive when planted in garden beds or containers that can be brought indoors for the winter.

Below, we've rounded up 15 colorful tropical plants to add to your backyard. Their dramatic leaves, brightly colored blooms, and sweet scents bring the exotic feel of your favorite vacation spot to any outdoor space.

Can you plant tropical plants outside?

Some tropical plants only require high temperature, and others also require high moisture, especially ones native to South and Central America, part of Asia. Before purchasing a tropical plant, you'll want to do some research to ensure it's a suitable choice for your growing zone. Many tropical plants are hardy enough to survive temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s. In colder areas, they grow well in containers that can be brought inside during unfavorable winter weather.

While it's easy to assume that all tropical plants prefer full sun, that isn't the case. Many varieties are native to lush tropical rainforests and dappled jungle floors, where they receive a good deal of shade throughout the day. Planting in the correct light conditions can help your plant grow faster and produce bigger, brighter blooms.

The 15 Best Outdoor Tropical Plants

While these tropical plants won't be available at most garden centers, they're often carried at specialty plant shops. Alternatively, they're available for purchase through Etsy or an online plant store.

Canna Lily (Canna indica)

Canna Lily

Create a tropical paradise in your own backyard with the bright flowers and large, veiny leaves of the Canna plant. While they thrive near water features in warm climates, they should be planted in containers and brought inside for the winter in zones 6 and 7. Plan to plant them around the same time as your tomato plants. They're relatively easy to care for and aren't prone to diseases and pests, making them a great choice for first-time tropical gardeners. Cannas mix well with a wide variety of plants, including tall grasses, snapdragons, elephant ears, and periwinkle.

USDA Growing Zones— 8-11

Light— Full sun

Soil— Fertile, moist soil or boggy conditions

Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae)


Wow your house guests with a showy display of Bromeliad plants or sometimes referred to as air plants. The dramatic foliage comes in shades of red, yellow, purple, orange, and green— sometimes with stripes, speckles, and other unique details on the leaves. Though typically grown as houseplants, the eye-catching tropical plant can be grown outdoors in zones 10 and 11. They're relatively slow-growing and can take up to three years to reach maturation and begin flowering.

USDA Growing Zones— 10-11

Light— Bright, indirect sunlight

Soil— Fast-draining, acidic soil

Plumeria (Plumeria)


Want to turn your patio into a tropical oasis? A plumeria tree will do just the trick! They're commonly used in Hawaiian leis and tropical flower arrangements. The easy-growing patio tree boasts bright pink and orange blooms with a deliciously sweet scent. Plant them in containers along your front porch or patio to enjoy the summery scent every time the wind blows.

USDA Growing Zones— bring indoors for the winter in zones below 10-12

Light— Full sun

Soil— Well-draining soil that's slightly acidic

Jasmine (Jasminum)


The small, fragrant white blooms of the Jasmine plant (Jasminum) are great for high-traffic areas in your tropical garden. Every time the wind blows, you'll get a whiff of the sweet scent while you enjoy coffee on the front porch or dinner on your back deck. Or, try lining your walkways or flanking your front door with these fragrant tropical plants to impress all your house guests with your green thumb. In the right conditions, it can bloom all year round.

USDA Growing Zones— 7-11 (depends on species)

Light— Full sun to part shade

Soil— Well-drained, sandy or loamy soil

Hibiscus (Hibiscus)


Hibiscus is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable tropical plants, thanks to its large, colorful flowers. The vibrant orange, yellow, and pink blooms (which can grow upwards of 6 inches wide) pop beautifully against the glossy, dark green leaves. They prefer to be slightly root-bound in containers, so opt for a smaller pot that's easier to bring indoors when the temperatures drop.

USDA Growing Zones— 5-9 for perennial hibiscus, 9-11 for tropical hibiscus

Light— Full sun

Soil— Well-drained, acidic soil

Bird of Paradise (Strelitziaceae)

Bird of Paradise

The stunning Bird of Paradise plant is one of the most beloved tropical plants. It's named for the bird-like shape of its distinctive flowers, which typically bloom in the late winter or early spring. Its large leaves and bright colors add a dramatic touch to containers on the corners of your back patio or pots flanking your front door. With proper care, they'll grow upwards of five to six feet tall. But pet-owners be wary; birds of Paradise are toxic to dogs and cats.

USDA Growing Zones— 10-12

Light— Full sun to partial shade

Soil— Loamy, slightly acidic soil

Flowering Maple (Abutilon)

Flowering Maple

The Flowering Maple plant— also known as Abutilon plants— earned its name from its maple-like leaf shape. In warm climates, they grow well in sunny garden beds, but should be planted in containers and brought indoors in colder areas. The long-blooming tropical plant bears papery thin flowers in a variety of solid and bicolored shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. They're great as border shrubs!

USDA Growing Zones— outdoors in zones 8-10, containers in zones 5-8

Light— Full sun or partial shade

Soil— Rich, evenly moist soil

Banana Palm (Musa)

Banana Palm

The eye-catching Banana Palm— sometimes called a Banana Tree, Plantain Tree, or Plantain Palm— is a popular palm tree all across the globe. In the right outdoor conditions, they'll produce delicious fruit you can eat right off the tree. Banana palms are heavy feeders and water hogs, so they will require a bit of attention in order to thrive. While most varieties will grow to be quite large, the Dwarf Cavendish Banana Palm caps out at around eight to ten feet tall. Just be sure to give it plenty of space to grow!

USDA Growing Zones— 9-11

Light— Full sun or partial shade (depends on the variety)

Soil— Rich, deep soil that's slightly acidic

Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

Calla Lily

Calla Lilies are instantly recognizable thanks to their spiraling blooms and oftentimes speckled leaves. They're relatively easy to grow and do great as container annuals outside of zones 8-10. With hues ranging from sunset reds and oranges to classic white and pink, the dramatic lilies make an impressive addition to cut flower arrangements. Plus, they'll attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard.

USDA Growing Zones— in the ground in zones 8-10, containers in zones 6-8

Light— Full sun or partial shade

Soil— Moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter

Ornamental Ginger (Zingiberaceae)

Ornamental Ginger

Ornamental ginger plants (Zingiberaceae) instantly add a tropical feel to your front porch, back patio, or apartment balcony. Each of the 1000+ ginger plant species boasts different colors and flower shapes for a jaw-dropping display. Their dramatic blooms and elongated leaves can grow anywhere from two to five feet tall, making them a perfect statement piece in a large container. Outside of containers, they're spread quickly and can easily overtake a garden bed.

USDA Growing Zones— 7-10 (depends on species)

Light— Dappled sunlight

Soil— Moist (but not soggy) soil with a slightly acidic pH

Caladium (Caladium)


While most other tropical plants get their pop of color from dramatic blooms, the Caladium gets it from its gorgeous heart-shaped leaves. The bright red, pink, green, and white variegation adds an unexpected dash of color to your outdoor space all summer long. Caladium plants are perfect for shady patches in your yard that can shield their delicate leaves during the hottest part of the day.

USDA Growing Zones— 9-11

Light— Partial shade or dappled sunlight

Soil— Fertile, well-drained soil

Elephant Ears (Alocacia and Colocasia)

Elephant Ears

Few tropical plants are more impressive than the giant leaves of the Elephant Ears plant. The veiny, heart-shaped leaves can grow to be several feet across. While most varieties will need to be brought inside for the winter, a few are relatively cold tolerant in subtropical climates. Though impressive on their own, they make a gorgeous backdrop for other colorful tropical flowers.

USDA Growing Zones— 9-11

Light— Bright, indirect sunlight

Soil— Moist, well-drained soil

Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia)

Angel's Trumpet

Angel's Trumpet— also known as Brugmansia— is a flowering tropical plant native to Central and South America. Its dramatic trumpet-shaped blooms boast bold colors and a light, sweet scent. The small, tree-like plant does require frequent watering and fertilizer to grow its impressive blooms. And beware, all parts of the plant are poisonous, so it's not a suitable choice for households with pets or small children.

USDA Growing Zones— 9-12

Light— Dappled sunlight with shade during the hottest part of the day

Soil— Light, well-drained soil that's slightly acidic

Corn Plant (Dracaena)

Corn Plant

Corn plant, also known as Dracaena Fragrans, is a tropical African evergreen. While they do grow fairly slow, they look a lot like a palm tree. Sometimes people refer to them as "false palms." If you have outdoor cats or dogs, know that dracaena is toxic to both.

USDA Growing Zones- 10-12 (USDA)

Light— Partial or indirect bright light

Soil— Moist, well-drained soil

Tree Fern

Tree Fern

Ferns are often associated with unleashed rainforests with tropical-looking foliage. They can be grown indoors and outdoors. Here are some of our favorite ferns that has a tropical vibe:

crocodile fern

hart's tongue fern

staghorn fern

kangaroo fern

bird nest fern

painted lady fern

Eagle fern

Holly fern

Depending on the fern variety, some prefer cold, hardy, and prefer hot conditions. All ferns love moisture and humidity conditions. They do enjoy evenly moist soil with regular watering (water weekly) with regular misting. Place your fern in bright, indirect light or a place that gets morning or afternoon sun. Keep the fern away from strong sunlight as leaf colors can turn yellow or brown.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.