Popular Tropical Plants

By Ted Rollins , last updated April 7, 2011

Tropical plants are, perhaps unsurprisingly, indigenous to tropical climates and, though popular, require much more care than your typical house or garden plant. They need lots of rainfall to survive in their natural environment, and thus you’ll need to either water them heavily or install a sprinkler system if you have an outdoor tropical garden setup. You’ll also need lots of mulch and fertilizer, as they require heavy amounts of both. In what follows, you’ll find out more about some of the most popular tropical plants; once you pick out the ones you like, it’ll be your duty to keep them alive and happy!

Hibiscus Plant

The hibiscus is one of the most popular plants from the tropics. The species is very large, as it is made up of hundreds of subsets. The hibiscus’s large flowers grow in a variety of colors, including pink, red, orange, yellow and purple. The flowers make great decorations as well as large landscaping scrubs. Other uses include the use of the flower in the prevalent hibiscus tea. Some varieties are also used to attract bees and butterflies. In certain tropical islands through the Caribbean, hibiscus is a primary ingredient in sorrel, a celebratory drink. Varieties of hibiscus are culturally significant through East Asia, as two countries, South Korea and Malaysia, have made it their national flower.

Bromeliads

Bromeliads are a close relative of the pineapple family and require much less care than your typical tropical plant. Bromeliads can grow to massive sizes; some varieties get up to 4 meters tall, with their flowers reaching up another 5 meters. Their foliage ranges widely in shape, from small needle-thin leaves to ones that are fan-like and broad. The colors of bromeliad leaves go from maroon to green to gold. Some varieties of the tropical plant are known for their pungency, which commonly resembles the smell of cloves. Due to the wide array of different bromeliad types, care instructions are difficult to provide, but they generally require lots of humidity, filtered sunlight and loosely packed soil.

Poinsettias

The euphorbia pulcherrima, more commonly known as the poinsettia, is a flower that’s indigenous to Central America. The United States Minister to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, brought the plant to the country in 1825 and gave it its name. The shrub or small tree reaches a maximum height of 15 feet, but can be as small as 2. The plant is typically a bold red color, but it can also be found in orange, green, pink, white and cream varieties. The plant gains its strong colors via the process of photoperiodism, meaning that they need long periods of darkness followed by shorter bursts of heavy light for multiple days.

Poinsettias are closely associated with Christmas. This connection comes from a Mexican legend from the 16th century, and the plant remains a popular Christmas decoration in the States. Until recently, a single grower in California, who held a secret to their growth that reduced competition, monopolized the plant. However, in the late 1990s a lab discovered his harvesting secret, which led to increased competition in the poinsettia market and greatly reduced prices, making it much easier for you to afford your first poinsettia!

Any of the plants described here are a great way to bring a little bit of the tropics into your garden.

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