14 Tropical Plants to Grow in Full Sun

Tropical plants are a popular, exotic choice for sunny gardens. Which ones should you consider for full sun?

Tropical plants are always a popular choice for brilliant, sunny gardens. Their massive leaves, vibrant hues, and fantastic textures add interest and dimension to every garden setting. 

Tropical plants are native to those areas of the world that have frost-free, temperate, and generally humid climates, such as South and Central America, Asia, and Africa.

That means that in most other parts of the world, you can keep them outside while the weather is good and then bring them inside once the temperature starts to drop.

Keep reading to learn how to add an exotic touch to your garden while it is hot outside. You have many choices when it comes to combining colorful contrasting tones with magnificent architectural greenery to bring a tropical flair to your garden.

1. Plumeria

Plumerias are also known as Lei flowers and frangipani. In tropical climates, these little trees are plentiful. 

From spring to fall, they bloom in a range of colors, including white, yellow, pink, and red. They are used to make traditional Hawaiian leis.

Plumerias make great potted plants, so they can easily add color to any outdoor area. Once temperatures drop below 33°F, you can easily bring the pots inside to protect the plants from frost.

white plumeria flowers blooming in the garden

2. Bird of Paradise

The bird of paradise is a clump-forming, evergreen plant native to South Africa. Although it enjoys full sunlight, the plant can also flourish in shaded locations.

The gorgeous and vivid flowers give a dash of tropical color to any outdoor landscape and make excellent cut flowers.

A fully grown plant can reach a height and width of 5 feet.

Watering a Birds of paradise plant

3. Canna Lily

The canna lily is a rhizomatous plant with tropical-looking leaves and enormous iris-like blooms. Its typical foliage colors include emerald green, deep burgundy, and lime green, with variegated patterns. 

The frost-sensitive tubers are planted in late spring and quickly grow into marvelous 3- to 8-foot-tall giants. 

Canna lilies require little maintenance and are easy to grow.

4. Bamboo

Most bamboo grows best in direct sunlight. This plant requires at least 5 hours of sunlight per day. Not surprisingly, bamboo will produce the majority of its leaves near the top, where it receives the most sunshine.

Bamboo prefers rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. In ideal conditions, this woody perennial evergreen grass can grow to be as tall as a tree.

A hexagon mirror in the middle of bamboo plants

5. Bougainvillea

The bougainvillea is one of the best-known and most widely grown tropical vines. It loves the sun and needs at least 6 hours of direct sunshine per day to thrive and look its best.

Bougainvilleas have spiky, cascading stems with colorful petals of red, orange, and purple that conceal small white blooms.

6. Passion Flower

Passion flowers, commonly known as Passiflora, are climbing plants. The vine is native to South America and Mexico.

The passion flower blooms from early summer until late October. Its fragrant flowers range in size from 0.5 to 6 inches and come in a variety of colors, including white, blue, green, red, and pale pink. 

blooming passion flower after the rain

7. Ferns

Sun-loving ferns can withstand up to 4 hours of direct sunlight each day in the morning, noon, or afternoon, as long as they are in the shade for the remainder of the day. They require less water than other varieties and so are better suited to sunny conditions.

Ferns are plants that do not produce flowers. They usually reproduce via spores.

These resilient plants are quite forgiving and easy to maintain.

8. Esperanza

Esperanza is known by a number of different names, such as Tecoma stans, yellow bell, hardy yellow trumpet, and yellow alder.

To thrive, the plant requires warm, humid conditions similar to those found in their natural environments.

If conditions are right, esperanza produces massive tubular blossoms that stand in stark contrast to its dark glossy leaves.

Esperanza is a great addition to a pollinator garden because hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are all attracted to its flowers.

esperanza golden trumpet flower

9. Crotons

The croton plant, codiaeum variegatum, is an evergreen shrub native to India and Malaysia. 

Croton is a low-maintenance perennial plant with thick, leathery, variegated leaves that come in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes.

Although croton does produce flowers, its leaves are its main attraction, many featuring green, scarlet, orange, and yellow splotches. As the plant matures, its color may deepen to nearly black.

The more bright light the plant receives, the more intense the colors of its foliage. It also prefers well-drained soil and a humid environment.

10. Angel’s Trumpet

The angel’s trumpet, also called brugmansia, is a beautiful perennial with bright flowers that explain the plant’s name. The plant, which can grow up to 12 feet tall, produces 10-inch long, fragrant flowers that resemble a trumpet.

The angel trumpet is native to the Andes Mountains in South America, where it flourishes on sloping terrain with hot, humid days and frigid nights.

This quick-growing, deer-resistant shrub adds an exotic flair to any sunny spot in a garden.

yellow angels trumpet flower under the sun

11. Jasmine

Many varieties of jasmine are twining vines, yet there are some that are shrub-like. The leaves can be evergreen, semi-evergreen, or seasonal, depending on the climate.

All jasmines flourish in full and partial sun, although they require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The majority of jasmine plants thrive in tropical to subtropical climates. However, there are a few varieties that tolerate colder temperatures.

This plant is especially well known for its intoxicating fragrance that is released by its white, pink, or yellow blossoms.

12. Banana Palm

Banana palms are recognized by their clustered, cylindrical leaf stalk bases. Individual leaves can grow to be very large, measuring up to 7 feet in length and 20 inches in breadth. Together, the leaves form the equivalent of a trunk.

This popular plant, a member of the Musaceae family, grows quickly both in the ground and in a large pot. In the spring, it produces orange-purple flowers that contrast with its rough, evergreen leaves.

The banana palm is a must-have if you wish to bring the tropics into your home.

13. Cordyline

The cordyline, also known as ti, has leathery, spear-shaped leaves that come in a variety of colors. It is a dracaena plant from the tropics and thrives in climates with average temperatures above 55°F.

In early summer, the plant produces cup-shaped, fragrant flowers that come in white, pink, or purple. The blossoms are followed by berries. 

Plant cordyline in well-draining, slightly acidic soil in full or partial sun.

cordyline plant growing in the garden

14. Mandevillas

Mandevilla is a genus of flowering vines native to the tropics and subtropics, sometimes referred to as rock trumpet. It is a low-maintenance, twining vine that won’t suffocate nearby plants. 

The big, five-petaled flowers are typically beautiful and fragrant and come in pink, red, and white colors. On rare occasions, you will see yellow margins.

The stems may twist and extend in different directions if you don’t stabilize them. Careful pruning can encourage more branching and blooms.

Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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