Have you dreamed of a tropical destination but haven’t had the time or money to get there? No matter where you live you can experience the beauty of the tropics in your own back yard with container tropicals. These gorgeous, lush, colorful plants can really liven up any garden, patio, deck or balcony to make it feel like an amazing oasis.


Let the sweet-smelling blooms of ginger take you away to a tropical paradise in your own back yard.

Photo Credit: James Burghardt

Hawaiian Ti

Welcome to the tropics – here is your host, the Hawaiian Ti plant.

Photo Credit: AgriStarts 4


Nothing says “tropical” more than a beautiful hibiscus bloom.

Photo Credit: Stokes Tropicals

As with all tropicals, these container-worthy plants thrive in humid conditions, but they can also do wonderfully in planters in other regions if given enough sun and container room to grow. Note: The reason for growing tropicals in containers is that they must come indoors when temperatures drop below 50 degrees F.

For an immediate showy effect, start creating your contained tropical look with these foliage showstoppers: bananas, elephant ears and Hawaiian Ti plants. Bananas are well-known in the tropics and are used for their beauty and delicious fruit. Some varieties are strictly ornamental and are used for their unique foliage, like dark red striping. The fruit-producing varieties only have green leaves, but their great quantities of sweet fruit more than make up for it. You might consider using both types in your container garden.

Elephant ears, also known as alocasias, provide large, ruffled foliage that really gives a lush jungle feel when added to a back yard or patio. Similar to banana plants, elephant ears are fast growers and fill out large pots nicely.

Hawaiian Ti plants, also known as cordylines, come with bright red, orange or chocolate hues in their leaves. They’re beautiful tropicals that add a dazzling effect to container gardens – almost like a sunset on your deck (only without the sun).

And how can you have a tropical paradise without the beautiful blooms of the hibiscus to admire? The flowers of these plants can get as big as a dinner plate, and they come in many vibrant hues. The various types of gingers make another nice addition to a tropical container garden. Most gingers display beautiful foliage, as well as a rainbow of flower colors and shapes. Butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) even has fragrant blooms.

Don’t forget tropical vines like bougainvillea, jasmine and mandevilla. Bougainvillea is often found covered in flowers of every color you can imagine. It blooms year-round in tropical conditions. When grown in containers in other regions, the plant flowers once the weather heats up. Jasmine is grown for its pretty foliage, generally white flowers and heavenly scent. Mandevilla has large, sometimes crinkled, shiny leaves and beautiful star-shaped flowers in shades of pink, red, yellow and white with golden throats. These three tropical vines like full sun, grow quickly and need good plant support on a vertical structure. (What better way to create a wall of tropical color on the patio or balcony?)

When planting your container tropicals, use a commercial potting mix with high levels of organic material and good drainage. Also take the proper care in watering and fertilizing potted plants. Find a nice balance of watering your tropicals when needed without letting them get too dry or overwatering them. Elephant ears and bananas require more water than the other plants mentioned here, so you’ll need to water them more frequently. After potting, fertilize with a 6-month controlled-release fertilizer for best results.

Once your container tropicals are planted, you’ll want to break out the hammock and mix some frosty drinks in the blender – then kick back and enjoy that gorgeous tropical paradise you’ve created in your own back yard. (Now, has anyone seen my sunscreen?)