Tropical Florida Plants (Flowers, Shrubs, Trees) – Pictures and Identification

Tropical Florida Plants

Tropical plants are the perfect addition to brighten up a Florida landscape. However, for plants to flourish in Florida’s tropical climate, they need to withstand the hot, humid, and coastal air in the southeastern United States. In addition, the diversity of climate between North Florida and South Florida can make it challenging to find plants that thrive throughout the entire Sunshine State. 

The Best Florida Tropical Plants — Overview

The best tropical plants for growing in Florida are suitable for USDA zones 9 to 11. Examples of excellent tropical Florida plants include cape honeysuckle, cape jasmine, bougainvillea, and Bolivian sunset. These tropical Florida flowering shrubs have spectacular blooms, tolerate drought, and thrive in all areas from the panhandle to the Florida Keys.

Tropical Flowering Shrubs for Landscaping Florida Gardens

The best flowering tropical shrubs for Florida are bougainvillea, hibiscus, Ixora, cape jasmine, and bird of paradise. These flowering shrubs are heat-loving, drought-tolerant plants requiring little maintenance and thriving in constant sunshine and high humidity. In addition, they also withstand the salty air of Florida’s coastal regions. 

Tropical Foliage Plants for Landscaping Florida Gardens

The best tropical Florida foliage plants for hot, humid climates are begonias, caladiums, red aglaonema, and crotons. These tropical plants are known for their colorful foliage and vibrant leaves. Additionally, some of these plants also thrive well in the shade—a vital consideration for the hottest parts of South Florida. 

Low Maintenance Tropical Landscape Plants

The best low-maintenance plants for a tropical landscape should require minimal watering and pruning, even in hot sunny conditions. One of the best low maintenance tropical landscaping plants with colorful foliage is caladium. Other low maintenance tropical plants for Florida gardens are croton plants, begonias, and ornamental grasses. 

What are the best tropical plants for a Florida landscape? This article lists the top flowering and foliage shrubs, bushes, and plants that thrive in humid, sunny conditions. 

Growing Zones in Florida

It’s vital to consider the plants’ growing zones to ensure your Florida garden can support the shrubs, ornamental bushes, and plants you want to grow. For example, some plants for zones 10 and 11 will struggle in the cooler winters of northern Florida. However, cold-hardy shrubs won’t perform well in southern Florida.

Here are descriptions of Florida’s growing zones according to USDA data:

Florida USDA Zone 8—Northern regions of Florida bordering Alabama and Georgia. The minimum winter temperature is 20°F (-6.6°C). Cities in zone 8 include Panama City, Tallahassee, Pensacola, and the Panhandle. 

Florida USDA Zone 9—Central Florida from the west to the east coast. The minimum winter temperature is 25°F (-3.8°C). Cities in Florida’s zone 9 include Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando. 

Florida USDA Zone 10—Most parts of southern Florida south of Lake Okeechobee. The minimum winter temperature is 30°F to 35°F (-1.1°C – 1.7°C). Cities in zone 10 include Cape Coral, Naples, and Fort Lauderdale. 

Florida USDA Zone 11—The hottest part of Florida at its southernmost point. This includes the Florida Keys. Minimum winter temperatures are 40°F to 45°F (4.4°C – 7.2°C).

Tropical Florida Plants (With Pictures and Names) – Identification Guide

Tropical plants are sun-loving, heat-tolerant shrubs, ornamental flowers, and evergreen plants that add color and visual appeal to a southern landscape. What are the best plants to add a tropical accent to your garden? Please read on to find out. 

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis)

The evergreen flowering cape honeysuckle shrub can be grown as a living fence in Florida gardens

Cape honeysuckle is a spectacular tropical flowering shrub with a spreading habit for Florida gardens. The flowers on this tropical bushy plant are orange or reddish-orange tube-shaped flowers that are 3” (7.5 cm) long and grow in small clusters. The attractive shrub is a must in any tropical landscape and grows 7 to 10 ft. (2 – 3 m) high and wide.

In a tropical or subtropical garden, cape honeysuckle is ideal for growing as a large formal hedge, ground cover, or as an espalier plant (training branches to grow horizontally). Cape honeysuckle is suitable for all Florida growing zones. 

Marsh Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) — Tropical Plant With Large, Showy Flowers

Hibiscus coccineus

Hibiscus coccineus is a native Florida flower found in marshes and swamps in the Southeastern U.S.

Marsh hibiscus is an evergreen perennial shrub with showy tropical flowers that bloom almost continuously in southern Florida. This hibiscus variety is native to Florida. It is famous for its dramatic five-petaled flowers 6” (15 cm) wide with vibrant red, deep pink, or brilliant white colors. 

Marsh hibiscus thrives in USDA zones 6 through 11 and grows between 3 and 6 ft. (1 – 1.8 m) tall and up to 3 ft. (1 m) wide. In northern Florida, the tropical perennial hibiscus may die back in winter and then return in spring. 

Tropical Florida Flowering Plants (With Pictures)

Flowering plants for tropical landscapes are perfect for adding a splash of color to a garden. Additionally, lush, glossy green foliage improves the look of mixed beds, driveway edges, and borders. Or you can grow climbing flowering plants to decorate trellises, hide garden eyesores, or low-growing plants for foundation plantings

Bougainvillea — Tropical Flowering Plant

bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a flowering vine that come in various colors and is suitable to grow in south Florida

Bougainvillea is a tropical flowering shrub with stunning red, orange, pink or purple flowers that thrives in garden landscapes of southern Florida. It’s a tall, evergreen shrub with creeping, woody vines that grow 3 to 40 ft. (1 to 12 m) tall and wide. Bougainvillea is a sun-loving shrub that performs exceedingly well in high humidity.

Bougainvillea thrives in Florida’s growing zones 10 and 11. You can plant the ornamental tropical shrub to grow over walls, decorate trellises, and use it as a creeping vine. 

Egyptian Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata) – Low Maintenance Tropical Landscape Plant

Egyptian Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata)

The Egyptian star is a low growing flowering plant that is grown as a perennial in south Florida

The Egyptian starflower is a low-maintenance tropical perennial plant for southern Florida landscapes. Also called Egyptian starcluster, the features of this sun-loving tropical bushy plant are clusters of pink, red or white star-shaped flowers. The tropical flowers on this evergreen plant add a pop of color throughout the year in tropical gardens. 

Egyptian starcluster is suitable for USDA zones 10 and 11. Only growing 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) tall, the flowering tropical plant is perfect for ground cover in full sun, foundation plantings, or a mixed bed. 

Canna Lily (Canna indica)

Canna Lily (Canna indica)

Canna lily flowers grow best in full sun but can tolerate part shade and are suitable for all zones in Florida

Canna lily plants have spectacular funnel-like ornamental flowers and attractive leaves to enhance a tropical landscape. Canna lilies thrive throughout all zones in Florida. The foliage plants are known for their stunning red, orange, or golden yellow showy flowers that bloom during summer and fall. The tall tropical plants grow 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall. 

Canna lilies are suitable for USDA zones 8 through 11 and are excellent full sun Florida plants that can also grow in partial shade. The attractive leaves measure up to 24” (60 cm) long and 8” (20 cm) wide. 

Bolivian Sunset (Gloxinia sylvatica)

Bolivian Sunset (Gloxinia sylvatica)

Bolivian sunset flowering plants grow well in filtered sun or dappled shade

Bolivian sunset is a low-growing flowering shrub that produces clusters of red-orange tubular flowers. The shade-tolerant leafy plant features dark green lance-shaped leaves and clusters of attractive flowers growing on red stems. Bolivian sunset is useful as a ground cover plant for shade or foundation planting on a north side of a building.

Bolivian sunset thrives in all areas of Florida, and the winter-flowering tropical plant grows 24” (60 cm) tall and wide. 

Pinwheel Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides ‘Pinwheel’)

Pinwheel Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides ‘Pinwheel’)

Pinwheel jasmine is an attractive Florida flowering shrub for partial shade

Pinwheel jasmine is a stunning Florida plant to enhance the aesthetics of a tropical landscape. The shrub is tolerant of shade and thrives in Florida’s cooler winters in the north and the hot, humid climate of the Keys. Pinwheel jasmine is identified by its white pinwheel aromatic blooms, glossy green lanceolate leaves, and a bushy appearance.

Grow tropical pinwheel jasmine plants as a flowering hedge, back of the bed shrub, foundation planting, or container plant. In zones 6 to 11, the plants grow 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall and wide.

Flame of the Woods (Ixora coccinea)

Ixora (Ixora coccinea)

Ixora is a compact sun-loving shrub that can be pruned as a hedge in south Florida

Flames of the woods is a tropical flowering plant with rounded clusters of 4-petaled, star-shaped red, pink, yellow or orange flowers and lance-shaped, glossy green leaves. Tropical Ixora shrubs bloom throughout the year in southern Florida. The shrubby plant is ideal as an evergreen hedge, privacy screen, or border plant. The tall evergreen shrub grows 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) tall.

Also named jungle geranium, jungle flame, or iron tree, the bushy tropical plant thrives in USDA zones 10 and 11. In northern Florida, you can grow the plant in a container for a tropical touch to a garden landscape. 

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain laurel bushes can tolerate some shade in northern Florida gardens

Mountain laurel is a low maintenance flowering plant suitable for growing in North Florida. The shade-loving multi-stemmed deciduous shrub blooms with stunning pale pink clusters of urn-shaped flowers. These bright flowers contrast with the plant’s leathery green leaves. Mountain laurel is suitable for growing in a cottage garden, shrub border, or as a specimen plant. 

Mountain laurel performs best in partial sun in USDA zones 4 through 9. The shrubby plant grows between 5 and 15 ft. (1.5 – 4.5 m) tall. 

Viburnum — Flowering Tropical Shrub with Huge Flowers

Viburnum Snowball Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ or ‘Sterile’)

Viburnum Snowball Bush has showy round white flowers and grows between 10 and 12 ft. (3 – 3.6 m) tall

Viburnum shrubs are low-maintenance tropical plants that grow as large shrubs. The rounded leafy shrub blooms with large globose, conical, or domed clusters of white flowers. Dwarf viburnum shrubs are excellent for most of Florida tropical landscapes where they don’t grow taller than 5 ft. (1.5 m). 

Viburnum generally grows in central or northern Florida. However, you can find some heat-loving cultivars that perform well in full sun in zone 10. 

Further reading: Types of Viburnum: Shrubs, Trees and Hedges.

Allamanda Bush (Allamanda schottii)

Allamanda Bush (Allamanda schottii)

Allamanda bushes are tropical flowering shrubs that add bright color to central and south Florida landscapes

The allamanda bush is a flowering evergreen shrub suitable for growing in central and southern Florida. The sun-loving bushy tropical landscape plant blooms with spectacular trumpet-shaped tropical yellow flowers. The shrub’s broadleaf evergreen foliage consists of leathery leaves growing in whorls of three to five leaves. Allamanda bushy shrubs grow 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and wide.

The allamanda bush doesn’t tolerate cold and is ideal for growing in Florida’s hot climate. Grow the shrub as an evergreen flowering hedge, specimen plant, foundation plant, or corner accent. 

Cape Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides)

Cape Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides)

The white flowers of cape jasmine bush add beauty and fragrance to Florida landscapes

Cape jasmine is a native Florida shrub with spectacular brilliant white fragrant flowers and thick leathery leaves. The bushy evergreen shrub is suitable for all of Florida’s growing zones. The densely growing, mounding shrub has medium growth and requires plenty of summer watering.

Cape jasmine adds brilliant color to a tropical landscape and grows 4 to 8 ft. (1.2 – 2.4 m) high and wide. This attractive shrub is suitable for USDA zones 8 through 11. 

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) with Spectacular Flowers

bird of paradise flower

The bird of paradise is tropical plant that is sometimes mistakenly called “banana tree” because its large leaves resemble the ones of banana plants

The bird of paradise is a big leaf tropical plant that has stunning flowers that look like a bird’s head. Also named the crane flower plant, this perennial evergreen plant has large leaves like a banana plant with unusual flowers growing at the ends of long stems. 

Typically, bird of paradise flowers grow 6.5 to 11 ft. (2 – 3.5 m) tall. In addition, their vast leaves grow up to 6.5 ft. (2 m) long and 2.6 ft. (0.8 m) broad. In an outdoors tropical garden, the bird of paradise thrives in USDA zones 10 through 12. 

Tropical Florida Foliage Plants (With Pictures)

Plants with colorful leaves are ideal for growing in Florida landscapes. The best tropical foliage plants add a punch of color to tropical and subtropical gardens and are more interesting than ferns and oriental grasses. 

Croton Plants With Colorful Foliage

croton plant

Croton plants include many cultivars with beautiful colorful foliage to add interest to Central and South Florida landscaped gardens

Croton plants are some of the most colorful foliage outdoor tropical plants to grow in a Florida landscape. The tropical leafy plants have leathery multicolored leaves that are shades of green, orange, yellow, and red. Additionally, species of croton plants have slender, violin-shaped, oval, oblong, egg-shaped, or lanceolate leaves.

Croton plants perform best in freeze-free climates, making them ideal for growing in Central and South Florida. You can plant croton plants to brighten a tropical landscape growing along a property’s foundation line, in a mixed bed, or as an accent plant in an evergreen hedge. 

Red Aglaonema

red aglaonema plants

Red aglaonema cultivars. Clockwise from top left: ‘Siam Aurora’, ‘Lady Valentine’, ‘Red Anjamani’ and ‘Super Red Star’

Red aglaonema is a group of outdoor tropical foliage plants that add spectacular red color to southern Florida gardens. The exotic plants have lanceolate or heart-shaped leaves in various shades of red with green accents. Some aglaonema varieties have vibrant red leaves with green margins, and others have greenish leaves with red speckles and pinkish edges. 

Heliconia 

Heliconia species

Heliconia exotic species are suitable for South Florida gardens

Heliconia is a group of tropical flowering plants, identified by their attractive reddish flowers and large leaves like those growing on banana plants. The large foliage tropical plants thrive outdoors in Florida gardens and add a splash of bright oranges and reds. The exotic flowers of heliconia plants look similar to a bird’s beak. 

Depending on the species, heliconia tropical plants grow between 1.5 and 15 ft. (0.5 – 4.5 m) tall. Related to canna lilies, banana plants, and bird of paradise, heliconia plants thrive in Florida zones 10 and 11. 

Calathea — Tropical Plants with Decorative Leaves

Calathea types and Care

Calathea tropical plants include many varieties with different leaf patterns that can be grown outdoors in South Florida

Calathea is a genus of tropical plants famous for their exotic foliage that adds interest to tropical landscapes. The leaves of calathea plants are characterized by their eye-catching intricate patterns. These patterns can be pinstriped, zebra-like, or resemble a peacock’s tail. In addition, calathea plants have variegated leaves in shades of green and white. 

Related to prayer plants, calathea only grows outdoors in tropical climates. There are around 60 species of calathea, so it isn’t easy to specify their leaf shape, size, and patterns. However, most people keep calathea as attractive tropical houseplants indoors.

Begonias

begonia leaves

Rex begonia have attractive leaf color patterns

Begonias are excellent shade plants for a tropical Florida landscape. The low-growing foliage plants have leaves in attractive shapes and color patterns. However, begonias are also flowering tropical plants that bloom with clusters of pink, red, orange, or white flowers. Typically, begonias don’t grow taller than 24” (60 cm) wide.

Several species of begonias are suitable for growing in Florida gardens. These include rhizomatous begonias, cane begonias, and wax begonias. You can plant begonia plants in all regions of Florida. 

Caladiums

caladium

Caladiums are low light tropical plants with colorful leaves suitable for Central and South Florida

Caladiums are bulbous tropical foliage plants that thrive in shaded conditions in central and southern Florida. Also called angel wings, caladium plants have stunning foliage, consisting of pink, white, red, and green heart-shaped leaves. For best results, it’s best to grow caladium plants in dappled sunlight or partial shade. 

Tropical foliage plants in the Caladium genus grow between 0.5” and 2 ft. (15 – 60 cm) tall. Colorful cultivars have either heart-shaped or lance-shaped leaves. However, all types of caladiums are characterized by spectacular exotic foliage. 

Variegated Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’)

Variegated Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’)

Variegated ginger is an ornamental ginger plant that tolerates partial shade and can be grown outdoors in South Florida

Variegated ginger is a tropical foliage plant with attractive green lanceolate leaves and yellow streaks. The low-growing shade plant performs well in shaded areas in southern Florida climates. As well as stunning leaves, variegated ginger produces clusters of funnel-shaped white flowers growing in small spikes. 

Also called shell ginger, the upright clumping tropical ornamental plant grows 8 to 10 ft. (2.4 – 3 m) tall. You can grow variegated ginger as a specimen plant, foundation planting, or in masses as a bright backdrop to accent other flowering plants. You can plant variegated ginger in most regions of Florida in full sun or partial shade. 

Arikury Palm (Syagrus schizophylla)

Arikury Palm (Syagrus schizophylla)

Arikury palm is a tropical dwarf tree suitable for small gardens in Central and South Florida in zones 9b – 11

The arikury palm is a perfect small accent palm, ideal for compact Florida landscapes. The long fronds measure 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) long and have an arching and drooping habit.

The attractive arikury palm grows up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) high with a spread of 10 ft. (3 m). The identifying feature of this Florida palm is its distinctive toothed petioles. Unlike other ornamental palms in Florida, the arikury palm lacks a smooth crown-shaft.

Other characteristics of the arikury palm are 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) flowering stems with golden yellow flowers, yellow or orange fruits measuring 1” (2.5 cm) long, and a shaggy-looking trunk.

Tropical Flowering Trees For Florida (With Pictures)

Geiger Tree (Cordia sebestena)

Geiger Tree (Cordia sebestena)

Geiger tree is a tropical flowering small tree native to Florida and thrives in Florida Keys

The Geiger tree is an evergreen tropical shrub-like small tree that thrives in southern Florida. The tropical tree’s attractive blooms are vivid orange clusters consisting of flowers that are made up of six fused papery petals. The beautiful tubular flowers measure 2” (5 cm) wide and bloom throughout the year, especially in summer.

The Geiger tree is native to Florida and thrives in the Florida Keys. The tropical tree is named after a Key West wrecker John Geiger. Gieger trees grow between 25 and 30 ft. (8 – 9 m) tall and feature a vase-shaped crown and drooping branches.

Plumeria Tree (Frangipani)

Plumeria tree

Plumeria tree is also called frangipani

Plumeria is a group of small trees or shrubs that are famous for highly scented, exotic and showy flowers. The star shaped plumeria flowers come in shades of white, yellow, pink, red, and multi-colors. Plumeria trees are also known for their large, leathery leaves that decorate the attractive ornamental tree from spring until fall.

The tropical trees are classed as deciduous or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs. The spectacular flowering trees thrive in USDA zones 9 through 12. Plumeria trees commonly grow in Florida, the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, Mexico, and Central America.

Frangipani trees are moderate to fast-growing plants that can grow up to 20 ft. (6 m) tall. However, in most tropical and subtropical garden landscapes, the exotic trees reach between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) tall.

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