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Tropical Plants: Care, Types of Tropical Plants

Outside of the tropics, the different types of tropical plants are usually treated as houseplants. When used outdoors, they can be treated as annuals. Even in this limited role, they can lend a tropical flavor to a Northern yard, whether as luxuriant foliage plants or stunning bloomers. Learn how to care for these beauties and how to incorporate them into your landscaping in the articles below.
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Types of Tropical Plants
In this introduction to some of the types of tropical plants, I begin with observations about design. I then proceed to introduce popular specimens, including some so commonly seen at garden centers that Northerners may not always think of them as coming from far-away lands bathed in scalding sunshine.

Bird of Paradise
Think you know bird of paradise? You might be surprised. If you live in the desert, your idea of "bird of paradise" may be quite different from what denizens of the tropics think of when they hear that common name. I discuss both types here (they are equally beautiful).

Aloe Vera
You are perhaps more familiar with this tropical plant as an ingredient in lotions and such. Its ability to soothe chapped hands and such is practically legendary. I even recently bought some dishwashing liquid specifically because it contained Aloe vera. But this denizen of dry, hot regions could also figure into your gardening plans.

Poinsettias - The Christmas "Flowers" That Are Not Really Flowers
Poinsettias pretend to be Christmas flowers in the North but really are not -- in two senses. First of all, Yuletide associations aside, these are tropical plants. Secondly, you may hear people speak of how lovely those poinsettia "flowers" are at the florist, but the pretty part is really a "bract."

Types of Palm Trees
Nothing else says "tropical plants" like palms. But with so many types available, where does the novice begin? How hardy are the various types of palm trees? Which are best grown as houseplants in cold climates? Learn the answers to your questions in this article.

Lantanas are sub-tropical plants and grow as perennials in Florida landscaping, for instance. But in cooler climates, these showy bloomers are often treated as annual flowers. In the latter case, one popular use for lantana is in hanging baskets, even though it is classified as a shrub, not a vine.

Elephant Ears
Elephant ears fall into the "for foliage only" category (as opposed to specimens grown for flowers) -- unless, of course, you are growing them for their edible corms (taro). But the only time the corms come into play for me is when I dig them in fall in preparation for winter storage, lest these tropical plants be ravaged by Old Man Winter up here in New England.

Gerbera Daisy Flowers
Gerbera daisies are sometimes called "African" daisies, because these tropical plants hail from South Africa. In cold climates they are variously used as houseplants, as accents amongst bedding plants or as a colorful focal point in container gardens.

How to Store Cannas for the Winter
Even up here in New England, I come across the occasional canna hedge. Some of these tropical plants have variegated foliage, making them striking even when not in bloom. Of course, in cold climates, you have to store canna rhizomes away in winter. That is the subject of this tutorial.

Purple Shamrock Plants or Black Oxalis
Black Oxalis bears an interesting leaf shape and is not a plant you'll have to fuss over much. It's a unique houseplant to display for St. Patrick's Day. I also discuss growing it outside (during summer, if you live in the North) in this article.

Bamboo Plants FAQ
You probably associate bamboos with the tropics (I know, all those old World War II movies featuring fighting in the Pacific theater, right?). But some bamboo plants are cold-hardy. Learn about them (and more) in my introductory article and start including bamboo in your landscape design. Bamboo plants can form a very effective privacy screen.

If I lived in a warm climate and owned a courtyard, I guarantee you that I would be growing bougainvillea up my courtyard walls. It's such a classic look, immediately evoking images of Southern California or the Mediterranean. Bougainvillea is a vine but can be pruned so as to appear shrub-like.

Purple Fountain Grass
Purple fountain grass is widely grown as an annual even in areas where it is not hardy. It's no wonder: its beauty will earn this tropical plant favored status in your landscape, even if only for a brief time. Read my introduction to find out more about this exquisite ornamental grass, including how to show it off to best advantage.

How to Store Dahlia Tubers
The "rules" for storing dahlias over the winter are not chiseled in stone. There are many different storage techniques, so it becomes a matter of finding one that will work for you. And all your work can be wasted by one factor that may be out of your control: temperature.

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