We are all thinking that plants that love warm temperatures are tropical plants. While that may be true, not all are sun-loving tropical plants. Some of them love to hide to soak in gentle light to protect their leaves from sunburn. But some hardy tropical plants are well-adapted to grow in full sun. And indeed, they love it! For that reason, we have compiled some of the best and most versatile full sun tropical plants for your garden.
Besides having an excellent tolerance to heat, they are low-maintenance tropical plants. They don’t need much watering during early summer, though you must pay attention during heat waves.
In addition, some of them feature beautiful flowers you cannot resist growing. Interested?
Table of Contents
- What Is A Tropical Plant?
- Are Tropical Plants Good In The Sun?
- How Hot Is Too Hot for Tropical Plants?
- How Do You Make A Tropical Garden Full Sun?
- Best Tropical Plants That Tolerate Full Sun
- 1. African Iris (Dietes Grandiflora)
- 2. Bamboo (Bambusa)
- 3. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae)
- 4. Calathea (Calathea Lutea)
- 5. Canna Lily (Canna Indica)
- 6. Croton (Codiaeum Variegatum)
- 7. Dwarf Cardamom (Alpinia Nutans)
- 8. Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus)
- 9. Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)
- 10. Plumeria (Plumeria Alba)
- 11. Ti Plant (Cordyline Fruticosa)
- 12. Yellow Bell (Tecoma Stans)
- Final Thoughts
What Is A Tropical Plant?
Like its name, a tropical plant is a plant that grows well and naturally in tropical climates with hot temperatures and high humidity. The average temperature is around 77°F – 82°F in the summer months, while the rainy season is usually cooler, around 65°F – 75°F. Such temperatures will last all year long with no frost. Moreover, some tropicals can stand full sun. Thus, they are mostly grown outdoors.
Nonetheless, most love bright indirect light, especially those that natively grow in tropical rainforests, like orchids. The hot sun can burn the leaves and flowers, thereby giving no benefit to their appearance. In addition, both the full sun tropical plants and the shade-loving ones prefer a humid environment with around 60-96% moisture to thrive.
Are Tropical Plants Good In The Sun?
Not all tropical plants perform well under the sun, particularly in hot temperatures. Some prefer indirect light to avoid the scorching sun that can burn their attractive leaves. Especially if in their native habitat, they grow under tree canopies that protect them from direct sunlight.
But luckily, there are full sun tropical plants that you can plant in areas with arid conditions. You can grow, for example, a Bird of Paradise plant under full sun in Southern California. It will bloom stunningly, displaying orange flowers that mimic flying birds. If you prefer leafy plants, Calathea lutea can deal with full sun in Florida and its cold winter too!
How Hot Is Too Hot for Tropical Plants?
As we know, tropical plants like warm temperatures around 65°F – 75°F. They can tolerate up to 82°F. However, they also have limitations. Any temperature higher than 85°F will slowly stress out the plants. Some stress signs you can notice include wilt and/or rolling leaves, crisp edges on leaves, slow growth, up to dropping flowers, and foliage. If one of the symptoms occurs in your tropical plant, you must immediately secure it to the shade location. Deep watering is also necessary to do in the morning. In addition, avoid fertilization during heat stress.
How Do You Make A Tropical Garden Full Sun?
Creating a tropical garden is relatively easy. You only need to combine various tropical plants growing in your yard. However, don’t plant dense shade trees so that your garden gets full sun exposure. So, what plants are good for tropical gardens?
Our experts recommend combining plants with dense foliage and broad-leaf as a feature of tropical forests. You can try to grow Calathea lutea and ferns for the greenery. Add croton to spark some colors in between. Then, the bird of paradise plant, whose orange flowers are shaped like flying birds. Balance the landscape out with white flowers of Plumeria and dwarf cardamom.
If you need additional colorful shades, Canna Lily is your ideal bet. For the finishing touch, grow bamboo to create privacy around your garden. Also, the green grass carpet will cover the soil and prevent waterlogging when the rain comes.
Best Tropical Plants That Tolerate Full Sun
Now, it’s time to share our collection of full sun tropical plants for you! Not only are they versatile, but also exquisite to adorn your outdoor space. Some can even grow in hot Florida weather or sunny California, as long as you know how to provide the best care. Find out the most stunning one below!
1. African Iris (Dietes Grandiflora)
If you are looking for a tropical plant for zone 9, African Iris or Dietes grandiflora will be your ideal pick. This rhizomatous herb has white flowers with a touch of purple and yellow that create an eye-catching combination. The blooms hang on the tip of its long, green stems that can reach up to 1.5 meters. Meanwhile, the sword-shaped leaves are painted dark green with a glossy surface, making the blooms stand out against the greenery.
With such features, you may think it takes work to grow. Sebaliknya, it is pretty easy. African Iris is versatile, coping well with frost and drought conditions. It stands at a temperature around 75°F – 83°F in daylight and 68°F – 75°F at night.
Moreover, it also thrives in the sun or shade. However, with proper watering, the plant shows the best growth under full sun exposure. Our experts suggest watering them at least one inch per week. 0.8 cups per 9 days is recommended if it doesn’t get direct sun.
2. Bamboo (Bambusa)
Who doesn’t know this sturdy plant? Bamboo or Bambusa is a fast-growing perennial that has 12 varieties. Some of them can grow up to 30 cm per day, while some tend to grow slowly, like Fargesia bamboo. Meanwhile, the shortest one is called Compacta bamboo, only 2-3 meters tall and grows in clumps.
Generally, all bamboos feature yellow or green ringed stems (culms), which are their trademark. In each ring, there is a hollow section. Plus, some people in Southeast Asian countries take advantage of these holes to make traditional meals made of rice.
Furthermore, bamboo plants will make a stunning natural privacy fence for your garden. Nonetheless, ensure they have moist but well-drained soil, as the roots will get inundated. Hence, the watering schedule is vital to preserving humidity. You can water them once or twice a week if you grow the plant on the ground. In case the temperature gets cooler, increase the frequency to three times per week.
This plant can thrive in temperatures between 65°F to 95°F. Considering its growth rate, pruning may be necessary to keep them in shape. The best time to prune bamboo is in spring and winter.
3. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae)
True to its name, Bird of Paradise or Strelitzia reginae truly depicts paradise in the shape of a tropical plant. This large tropical plant bears huge banana-like leaves with striking orange flowers whose petals resemble birds flying among the leaves. Not to mention they stick on the long stalks with deep green foliage, offering a perfect background to elevate the blooms.
Apart from tropicals, Bird of Paradise is also known as a subtropical plant. It thrives in warm temperatures of around 65°F – 80°F under bright full sunlight. However, it can cope with low temperatures of up to 50°F. You can set a watering schedule for every one or two weeks.
But remember to allow the soil to dry out before the next watering. Increase the frequency when hot summer waves arrive. As for the grounds, it loves moist but well-drained ones. Don’t let it get soggy, or they will grow slowly.
4. Calathea (Calathea Lutea)
Despite having broad banana-like plants, Calathea lutea has nothing to do with bananas. It doesn’t belong to the Musaceae family. The leaves have a bright green color, but somehow silvery touches and waxy underneath.
They grow crowded from the rhizome, giving tropical forest vibes. Sometimes, it produces red, waxy flowers that hide between its large leaves. Thanks to these features, this large-leaf tropical outdoor plant will perfectly match your area.
They are generally grown as garden borders along with ground covers or low-growing plants. You just need to ensure that the planting location has moist, well-drained soils. If the soil is poor, add compost to provide more nutrients.
Furthermore, you can water them only if the soil surface gets dry, around once or twice a week. Considering it thrives at 65°F – 80°F, you must live in the U.S. hardiness zone 10-11 to plant Calathea. You would expect the foliage to roll up at night when the temperature drops.
5. Canna Lily (Canna Indica)
Canna indica, or Canna Lily, is a tall tropical plant for zone 7. The bright mix of orange and yellow shades on the flowers is one of the main characteristics of this herbaceous flowering perennial.
Meanwhile, the 25 to 50-cm long, bright green leaves come from the stems that grow from underground rhizomes. You can expect this tropical backyard plant to grow up to 1.5 meters tall if only you know how to properly care for them.
It grows well in temperatures up to 90°F but is not cold-tolerant. No wonder it only thrives in the US hardiness zone 7, where the average winter temperature only reaches 0°F. For the best flowering, you must ensure the growing area has bright sun exposure for at least 8 hours.
Along with such lighting levels, the soil should be moist and well-drained with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. And so, provide weekly watering to lock the soil humidity. Knowing it is broad, fragile leaves, avoid planting Canna Lily on the site with chances of strong winds.
6. Croton (Codiaeum Variegatum)
For those who don’t like flowering tropical plants but want to add cheerful shades to their garden, Codiaeum variegatum or Croton will be great choices. The shades of yellow, red, green, and dark purple stunningly blend on the lance-shaped leaves.
Some colors seem to stroke on the surface, while the rest decorate the edges. These leaves also have exquisite feathery textures that add to the uniqueness of this woody plant.
To maintain the beautiful color of the leaves, croton plants grow in the full sun site. Low sunlight exposure will fade their variegation, making them less attractive. However, you must not let the plants under sweltering weather that exceeds 85°F or lower than 55°F because the foliage will turn brown.
Furthermore, this tropical doesn’t fuss about soil types but must have a pH of 4.5 to 6.5, moist and well-drained. In addition, water your plant if the soil is dry. The frequency depends on the season, but once or twice a week is OK.
7. Dwarf Cardamom (Alpinia Nutans)
Some tropical plants have characteristics with wide leaves that grow tall and dangling. But that’s not the case with Dwarf Cardamom. True to its name, Alpinia nutans is miniature in size, growing to only 1 to 1.5 meters tall.
The white flowers spike from the stems along with dark green leaves. You can also notice wavy edges on the foliage that make this native Southeast Asian tropical landscape plant even prettier.
Seeing its size, this dwarf tropical plant is suitable for narrow planting locations. But you must remember, it needs warm temperatures to grow optimally, ranging between 65°F – 85°F. Don’t expose it to cold weather below 50°F, so its growth is not stunted.
In addition, rich, moist, well-drained soils are preferable to encourage flowering. You can also add fertilizer to boost development. Water the plant twice weekly to retain soil moisture and ensure the roots are well-hydrated.
8. Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus)
No wonder people often claim that Hardy Hibiscus is one of the best flowering tropical shrubs. It highlights striking flowers which vary in color depending on the cultivars. But the most common are pink and red.
From the center of their petals, the stigma emerges beautifully, bearing the yellowish stamens as well as the pistils. The leaves are no less appealing, having green colors that allow the blooms to be the star of attention.
Moreover, it will be an ideal tropical plant for hardiness zone 5. It produces most blooms under full sun, despite relatively tolerating partial shade. Even so, we don’t recommend exposing hardy hibiscus above 85°F because it is sensitive to scorching heat.
t also doesn’t cope well with cold weather below 50°F since it can stop flowering or damage the mature blooms. But luckily, these tropical bushes can grow in any soil type as long as they are rich, well-drained, and moist. Besides, watering once every other day is necessary once the plant is established.
9. Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)
Having a tropical garden is not complete without growing ferns. However, not all ferns can do well under the sun. One of the ferns that can stand full sun is Maidenhair Fern or Adiantum. The unique feature of this plant is the palm-shaped ferns with bright green color wrapping the arching stalks.
They only grow 1 to 2 feet tall and usually grow naturally on deciduous woodlands and rocky slopes. Moreover, the fern is a tropical plant for hardiness zone 6.
Compared to the previous full sun tropical plants, Maidenhair Fern likes warm weather but does not tolerate high temperatures. It can only stand at a maximum of 70°F and not below 59°F. To improve its tolerance to high temperatures, it is better to propagate them during hot days.
You must also provide moist, well-drained soil to ensure its proper growth. To achieve this condition, daily watering is preferable.
10. Plumeria (Plumeria Alba)
One of the best tropical plants for the high sun is Plumeria alba. This unique shrub forms a vase-shaped canopy of dense, dark green foliage. Between the leaves, you can see clusters of trumpet-like white flowers with a hint of yellow shade in the center.
These blooms also emit a strong fragrant floral and fruity scent. The plant can grow around 15-25 feet tall, a perfect flowering shrub for a small garden.
Thankfully, Plumeria alba isn’t being tricky about its growing requirements. It copes well in a wide range of soil types with moist and well-drained conditions. The pH must also be slightly acidic, ranging between 6.5 to 7.0.
In addition, this hardy plant also prefers warm and humid environments with temperatures of about 65°F to 80°F. So, six hours of full sun is vital. Nonetheless, it must be taken into account that temperatures below 50°F make it switch to dormancy.
11. Ti Plant (Cordyline Fruticosa)
Along with croton, this tropical-looking hardy plant may be your favorite to adorn the garden. Ti plant does not bear flowers, yet the foliage looks captivating with magenta, purplish leaves. Some of them also have a green color with strokes of yellow shade on the edges.
The lance-shaped leaves looked like blooming flowers. However, you may also expect purplish flowers and red berries in the summer!
It does not take tons to grow Cordyline fruticosa. This evergreen tropical plant can grow in various lighting levels, including full sun, partial shade, or total shade. However, you will see the most striking colors when you grow them in a sunny location.
In addition, it relatively copes with high temperatures up to 95°F. But avoids drought as it requires moist soil to thrive. Furthermore, make sure the soil is rich, fertile, and well-drained. You can water the plant from spring to fall once or twice a week.
12. Yellow Bell (Tecoma Stans)
We save the best for the last! Yellow Bell or Tecoma stans is a native evergreen shrub or small tree to Florida. It highlights tubular-shaped flowers with a showy yellow color and a touch of orange in the center. Meanwhile, the leaves are olive-green, which makes the flowers stand out more. They grow short, around 3-6 feet tall. So, you can grow them without worrying about taking up too much space.
If you want to have the most stunning flowers, you must grow them in a sunny area. Add ammonium sulfate-based fertilizer in spring or summer when this flowering shrub is actively growing. In addition, pay attention to the temperatures.
It thrives at temperatures around 73°F – 93°F. You should water them around one inch per week during hot days to keep the soil moist. Avoid overwatering as it can trigger mildew and root rot.
Not all tropical plants can thrive in the full sun. So, you must check them first before planting them in sunny areas. Make sure you grow those that suit their hardiness zones to ensure proper growth. If you want to grow one, we recommend Yellow Bell and Canna Lily. Both can cope with temperatures up to 90°F – 93°F. So, they are great for those who live in arid regions.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do you keep tropical plants alive in extreme heat?
Despite loving to soak under full sunlight, not all tropicals are heat tolerant plants. Some of them struggle to adapt when an extreme heat wave comes. As a good keeper, you must know how to deal with such a severe condition. Deep watering is one of the best ways to save them from scorching hot summer days. It is vital to keep the roots moist in high temperatures.
You can also mulch your plant as it helps preserve moisture and thus protect the roots from dehydration. In addition, providing shelter for your outdoor tropical plant, for example, placing them on an east-facing patio. It can receive morning sun for at least 6-8 hours, yet safe from burning.
Do tropical plants get sunburned?
Like other plants, tropical plants can also get sunburned. Especially those that don’t like to grow in the full sun. Some examples are Monstera and the exotic plant, orchids. Both love to grow under the bright indirect sun or dappled light exposure in their native habitat. The direct sun can scorch their beautiful leaves or flowers. Generally, signs of sunburn include crisp edges, followed by brown spots and yellow leaves.
Should you water your tropical plants every day in hot weather?
Your tropical plant will most likely tolerate sunny weather without regular watering. Still, you must water them every day during extreme heat. It is crucial to keep the soil moist. In addition, watering also prevents root dehydration which can lead to yellowing leaves. The best way to know when to offer water is by checking the soil surface. When about two inches of the surface is dry, you can water your plant.
Where should tropical plants be placed?
Most tropical plants love bright indirect sunlight to perform best. It imitates their natural habitat, where generally, they grow under dense tree canopies with light beams passing through gaps in the leaves. You can place them in north-facing or east-facing areas.
On the other hand, some also prefer full sun to grow, like hardy hibiscus and bamboo. They will thrive in the south-facing outdoor area. The tropical plant that grows in full sun is maidenhair fern.
Can you put your tropical plants outside in summer?
Tropical plants prefer warm temperatures to fully flourish, around 65°F – 75°F. So, it’s completely OK to put them outside on summer days. But watch out if you plan to place them on your outdoor patio at night. They can face trouble if you expose them at 50°F or lower.
Your plant may start to show stunt growth in such conditions. Therefore, make sure you must check temperatures first before deciding to shift the plants outside. We recommend installing a temperature on the wall near your garden.