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Tropical Hibiscus

Lost in Paradise, How to Achieve a Tropical Look Inside and Out

Tropical style is easy to achieve when using the right plants. No matter the climate, there are plenty of plants suitable for creating a tropical vibe in just about any space whether it be indoors, on a porch or patio, or in the landscape. Plants used do not necessarily have to be tropical in nature; they just need to contribute to the overall tropical feel.

Using bold colored annuals, perennials, houseplants, trees and shrubs in reds, yellows, oranges, maroons, pinks, greens, and purples can help achieve a tropical feel. Incorporate plants that have interesting patterns, shapes, textures, and movement. In larger spaces, add a few outdoor accessories such as a fountain or bench, brightly colored pots, and decorative wall art to complete the look.


Houseplants are an easy way to add color and create a tropical vibe indoors. In addition to their lush leaves, many of these tropical species produce gorgeous blooms indoors. Some are even fragrant! Use these houseplants to bring the tropics indoors:

croton • bird of paradise • banana plant • elephant ear • philodendron • conjo rojo • bromeliad • palms •anthurium • cordyline • peace lily • orchid

TIP: All indoor plants go through an acclimation period to adjust to a new indoor environment (from greenhouse to home). Don’t be alarmed if they drop some leaves initially. Refrain from repotting for approximately six months to give them plenty of time to acclimate to their new environment. Another tip, when bringing indoor houseplants outside, be sure to acclimate before exposing them to bright light.


Don’t let limited outdoor space prevent you from trying out your tropical green thumb. Incorporating flowering plants, small trees and shrubs, hanging baskets, and combination planters are key to growing in small spaces. Mix in vibrant colored accessories like pillows, an outdoor rug, colorful pots, and decorative wall art.


When creating any container, there are several factors to consider that will affect the overall impact. Color, of course, is a high priority when trying to achieve a tropical look. Understanding “thriller, fillers and spillers” will help you to create an eye-catching combination. Once you’ve selected your container, start selecting the plants.

THRILLER - Choose a thriller plant to go center stage. It should be taller than the rest and stand out due to it’s color and strong stature. Shade Thrillers: fern • majesty palm • red sister.

Sun Thrillers:
tropical hibiscus • geraniums • ornamental grasses

FILLER - Select flowers that fill in the area directly around your thriller. These will add depth to your planter.

Shade Fillers:
impatiens • green leaf begonias • ferns • stromanthe • anthurium

Sun Fillers:
diamond frost euphorbia • marigolds • petunias • lantana • vinca • bronze leaf begonia

SPILLER - Finally, add blooms or foliage that gently cascade over the edge of your container. Spillers add dimension and a little added drama.

Shade Spillers:
lysimachia • Ivy • fern

Sun Spillers:
bacopa • sweet potato vine • verbena • trailing Petunias • million bells

TIP: Hanging baskets are a quick and easy way to create a tropical container. Remove plant from the hanging basket container and drop into a pot.


In the landscape, use saturated colored plants mixed with big, bold foliage like elephant ear or a banana tree for added layers and texture. Mix in some brightly colored garden accessories like an umbrella, seat cushions and pillows, an outdoor carpet, and decorative wall art to tie it all togehter. Add a water
feature or fire pit to invoke a sense of peace and tranquility.

TIP: It’s important to keep in mind that while tropical landscape design styles are more free-form than modern or traditional gardens, you still need to be aware of the sunlight requirements of the plant you choose. Choose from these sun and shade-loving options for a tropical look indoors or outdoor:


Annuals for Sun:
mandevilla • scaveola • lantana• tropical hibiscus • marigold • million bells • crossondra • vinca • bronze leaf begonia • pentas • dahlias • geraniums

Perennials for Sun:
elephant ear • Mexican petunia• pineapple lily • perennial hibiscus • purple heart • coreopsis • Miss Huff lantana • black-eyed susan• daylilies • cannas • coneflowers • sedums & succulents • ornamental grasses • rudbeckia • coreopsis • salvia

Shrubs for Sun:
Gold mop cypress • abelia kaleidoscope • golden euonymus • pittosporum • oleander • yucca • boxwood • knock out rose

Trees for Sun:
windmill palm • crepe myrtles • basjoo banana


Annuals for Shade:
shrimp plant • caladium • New Guinea impatiens • coleus • sweet potato vine • begonia (dragon wing & green leaf) • diamond frost euphorbia>/i>

Perennials for Shade:
perennial ferns • heuchera • hosta • peonies • hellebores • columbine

Shrubs for Shade:
fatsia • plum yew • hydrangea • camellia • golden euonymus

Trees for Shade:
Japanese maple

To learn more about options for tropical-like plants click here.