13 Gorgeous Tropical Plants For Full Sun

full sun tropical plants

Growing lush tropical plants in the garden is not a privilege for only those who live in warm regions. Placed in a suitable container, many tropical plants can be part of a summer garden, even in continental regions. 

With their unusual leaves, colors, and flowers, they easily bring the atmosphere of the climate they come from, making your garden a unique, eye-catching place.

If you provide them with plenty of sun from spring to fall and store them during the winter in a cold and dark room (30 to 45°F), you can enjoy your private piece of the tropics for years!

1. Canna Lily (Canna Indica)

The Canna Lily is a noticeable perennial herbaceous plant from the Cannaceae family. It is a great outdoor tropical plant for full sun that does not mind living in a container. Its horizontal, thickened rhizomatous root spreads slowly. Therefore, it can stay several seasons in 15 inches-wide and 6 inches-deep pots.

Canna Lily has strong, fleshy, upright, and unbranched stems which bear large alternate, tobacco-like leaves. The foliage color is usually green, but popular cultivars like Black Knight have gorgeous dark maroon leaves. 

From June to November, exotic, iris-like, odorless flowers appear at the top of the stem. They can be yellow, orange, red, pink, or beige. Numerous new cultivars even offer multicolored flowers. For example, the Canna lily “Cleopatra” has magnificent spotted yellow-orange flowers.

2. Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria)

pink peruvian lily

Peruvian Lily, often called Inca lily, is a herbaceous perennial with delicate, showy, trumpet-shaped flowers 2 to 4 inches in diameter.

This herbaceous plant can grow up to 4 feet tall in its natural environment. Still, shorter dwarf varieties up to 1.5 feet tall are much more suitable for growing in containers. They are compact, bushy plants that bloom in various colors, from white and yellow to dark pink and bright red.

The flower show begins in early summer when vivid flowers appear on the branched top of the stem. These tropical plants prefer direct sunlight bloom until mid-autumn.

Tall Alstroemeria flowers are prized and long-lived cut flowers. They stay fresh in the vase for up to two weeks.

Inca lily grows from fleshy tubers that spread horizontally. Therefore, you should opt for a spacy pot with a 10 or more inches diameter. Be careful when transplanting this plant because the rhizomes are fragile and break easily!

3. Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia)

The intoxicating scent of Angel’s Trumpet flowers that spreads in the evening makes the plant a must-have species for sunny spots in the garden. 

The beauty is an endemic plant from the edges of the Brazilian rainforests. In its natural environment, it is a woody and branching shrub that can grow to 35 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

The lush plant with oval green leaves up to 8 inches long, even in a container, eventually becomes a shrub or small tree with a branched crown up to 6 feet tall.

Interestingly, the plant produces two types of leaves: symmetrical and asymmetrical. The huge trumpet-like flowers up to 24 inches long appear only on shoots with asymmetrical leaves.

The appealing flowers are turned downwards and resemble white, pink, or peach lanterns. Unfortunately, the flower only lasts one day. Still, the plant blooms profusely from mid-summer to fall.

4. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae)

large bird of paradise indoor

The unique Strelitzia, or Bird of Paradise, is another tropical charmer that does well in full-sun areas. Although it can tolerate some shade, its famous crane-like flowers will only appear if it gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.

Its large, gray-green, banana-like leaves form a dense, captivating, upright rosette. The numerous flower stalks bear 6 to 8 exotic, fan-shaped, odorless flowers of bright colors. 

The plant can grow up to 5 feet tall and needs a spacious and stable container, 10 to 14 inches in diameter. 

If you have a young plant, be patient. Strelitzia blooms only after 4 to 5 years when it reaches maturity. But even without flowers, its showy leaves will give your garden a tropical touch!

5. Cape Leadwort (Plumbago Auriculata)

Plumbago Auriculata, also known as Cape Leadwort and Cape Plumbago, adds a unique lead blue color to your garden’s scheme.

Small and oval leaves, slightly pointed at the edges, grow thickly along the stems. Numerous phlox-like, sky-blue flowers gathered in clusters adorn the plant from spring to the beginning of winter.

In the wild, it is a 3 to 10-foot high and wide shrub with semi-woody arching shoots up to 7 feet long. When growing in a container, it rarely reaches even half of those dimensions.

Additionally, spring pruning helps you shape the plant into a manageable bush with drooping flower shoots or a small tree. And don’t worry! Plumbago blooms on this year’s shoots, so pruning will not affect the extent of flowering.

6. Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis)

Hibiscus rosa sinensis, or Tropical Hibiscus (Chinese Hibiscus), is an upright evergreen branching shrub or small tree from tropical Asia. 

It has shiny, dark green leaves with pointed tips and serrated margins. Its 4 to 6-inch diameter, elegant, single, or double flowers grow in the axils of the leaves. Each flower has 5 folded petals, expressive pistils, and long, showy stamens. 

The breathtaking flowers are short-lived. They open early in the morning and close approximately one hour before sunset. But, numerous new flower buds appear daily from the beginning to the end of the flowering season.

This exotic gem is an excellent potted plant! You can choose between tall varieties that reach 6 feet or short varieties that grow from 2 to 5 feet.

7. Pink Jasmine (Jasminum Polyanthum)

Pink Jasmine or Jasminum polyanthum comes from the Oleaceae family. The vigorous, sun-loving tropical climber produces numerous reddish-pink flower buds in spring and early summer. They open into gorgeously fragrant white flowers with 5 petals, about 0.7 inches in diameter.

Abundant flowering inspired the epithet polyanthum (many-flowered) in its Latin name.

Pink Jasmine has compound leaves with 5 – 9 leaflets that are dark green on the upper surface and lighter on the underside. It can grow up to 18 feet and needs support. 

Yet, you can control the size of the plant by pruning throughout the year except during the flowering phase

8. Cabbage Palm ‘’Red Star’’ (Cordyline Australis)

cordyline red star

Cordyline “Red Star” is a real star among the potted tropical plants! The undemanding palm-like plant enlists the garden with its long, upright, sword-like leaves of intense burgundy color. 

In young plants, the leaves grow directly from the roots, forming a ground rosette. Over time, the lower leaves fall off; the central stem thickens and forms a trunk-like structure called pseudostem

Since the new leaves grow at the top, the plant has the charming shape of a small tree with a vase-shaped crown. Mature plants may bloom with clustered, fragrant, tiny sugar-white flowers.

This New Zealand endemic is a long-lived and slow-growing species reaching no more than 5 feet in a container.

9. Japanese Banana (Musa Basjoo)

Musa Basjoo

Musa Basjoo is often called a Hardy Banana, but this should not be taken too literally. It is the most cold-resistant among bananas. Growing this exotic plant in a large pot is a more reliable solution for regions with very cold, long, and wet winters. However, frost destroys its leaves, and its roots may suffer at temperatures 22°F and below. 

At the same time, this is a great container plant for full sun and heat.

Interestingly, Musa basjoo is a herbaceous perennial and not a tree, even if it resembles one! A trunk-like formation is a pseudostem and is not woody in structure! The large, arching leaves grow in the upper part of the pseudostem, forming a dense, dramatic canopy. 

Mature plants may give white flowers followed by inedible fruits. After the formation of the fruit, the pseudostem collapses, but new banana pups start from the roots!

10. Sago Palm (Cycas Revoluta)

sago palm

Sago palm comes from the Cycad family, a group of prehistoric plants that appeared on the planet during the time of the dinosaurs (more than 300,000 years ago)! Although many Cicadas often contain the word palm in their name, these “living fossils” are a separate group unrelated to palm trees.

Cycas Revoluta is native to Japan and China. Still, due to its captivating appearance, it is famous worldwide as a park palm or potted plant in continental regions. 

Its feathery fronds grow from a trunk-like center in symmetrical circles. They consist of numerous dark green spiny-tipped leaflets up to 10 inches long, with a dark green face and light reverse. 

This dioecious species is extremely slow growing at only a few inches per year.

The new fronds (usually only one every year or every other year) are soft and curled like fern fronds.

Over the years, it forms a central “trunk” from which a special process produces sago, granulated starch, after which the plant got its name.

11. Paper Flower (Bougainvillea Glabra)

bougainvillea in pots

Bougainvillea is a truly breathtaking tropical vine with an outstanding flower show in the summer months. 

Yet, the flowers are not “responsible” for their magnificent appearance. They are small, unsightly, and creamy white. The large, brightly colored papery bracts around the flowers make the Bougainvillea a special sight!

Bougainvillea Glabra is one of eighteen species of this plant from which more than 300 cultivars have been created.

It has smooth elliptical leaves without hairs, widest around the middle of the plant. The branches are thin and elongated, with short thorns curved at the tips.

The bracts are triangular, most often purple, but they can be white, lilac, pink, and icy purple.

This species is best suited for growing in containers in a full-sun spot. It blooms several times during the season.

12. Blue Potato Bush (Lycianthes Rantonnetii)

blue potato bush

It is almost impossible not to notice a Blue Potato Bush in bloom! The rare blue-purple color of its flowers, which almost completely hide the leaves, always attracts attention and admiration.

This South American native from the Solanaceae family grows to 6 feet tall, loves full sun, and blooms tirelessly from June to September. 

Its leaves are two to three inches long. They grow on short petioles and are slightly hairy at first. 

The 1.7-inch diameter flowers have 5 showy yellow stamens and are followed by decorative berry-like orange fruits after pollination. 

13. Frangipani (Plumeria)

plumeria plant

Many will agree that nothing is more exotic than a Hawaiian lei – a beautiful, fragrant flower necklace! That famous welcome gift from this tropical island is made from strung Frangipani flowers!

Yet, Frangipani is a plant you can grow in a container and enjoy its floral and fragrant performance in the summer months!

It is a wide, branching bush needing a stable and spacious container. To make your potted Frangipani happy, increase the container’s volume by one gallon for every foot of plant height.

The Frangipani leaves are large, shiny, and leathery. The stems are soft and easily breakable. When damaged, a milky juice (poisonous in large quantities) oozes from the wounds, typical of the Apocynaceae family.

Throughout the summer, Frangipani gives large five-petaled flowers grouped in branches. The alluring white, yellow, pink, and red flowers spread the divine fragrance in the evening.

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