LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Blooming tropicals are a gorgeous addition to the summer garden, and with so many to choose from, you can create a tropical oasis in your landscape. Thanks to our semi-tropical climate, we can add many of these to our landscapes and patios and enjoy the beauty they provide.
Many grow well in the hot, humid temperatures of Louisiana and prefer full sun for the best blooms. They all benefit from a slow-release, granular fertilizer during the growing season or an occasional feeding of liquid fertilizer. Tropical plants have to be protected from temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage. Hard freezes will kill most.
Now is a great time to add some flowering tropicals to your landscape or patio. Blooming tropical plants provide nectar for many pollinators. Here are some of the best options for Louisiana.
Golden trumpet (Allamanda cathartica) has prolific yellow flowers with elliptical green leaves that thrive in full sun. It is an ever-blooming selection that should be protected from freezes for year-round interest. Native to northern South America, it remains evergreen in warm temperatures. It will die back in freezes. A woody climber, it can get up to 15 feet tall. It can be pruned to grow as a shrub or have a more compact shape. The vine does not twine or have tendrils, so you will need to support it with stakes for upright growth.
Mandevilla is another evergreen vine with large deep-green leaves and pink tubular flowers. Alice du Pont is the most popular variety. Colors range from light to dark pink and red to yellow and white. Because of its trailing and vining habit, mandevilla should be trellised or allowed to spill over in hanging baskets.
Passionflower (Passiflora) is a native vine that thrives in high humidity and can be prolific in full to partial sun and in any soil. Featuring beautiful, unique blooms, passionflower is the host plant for the Gulf fritillary butterfly.
Bougainvillea is a vigorous, evergreen woody vine with thorns. This popular tropical plant offers bright colors of fuchsia, purple, pink, orange and white. It thrives in full sun and is a prolific bloomer. Much like mandevilla, bougainvillea requires trellising to provide support for upright growth. If you would prefer it to cascade and trail downwards, try it in a hanging basket.
Cannas (Cannas x generalis) have large colorful foliage with broad leaves 6 to 12 inches long in colors from green to bronze to deep lavender. They also have beautiful flowers in colors of red, pink, yellow, orange and cream.
Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) has large hanging clusters of pink, red or white flowers. It is a vigorous grower with heart-shaped leaves and a long bloom season. Vines are drought tolerant, prefer full sun and thrive in almost any kind of soil.
Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. Nothing says tropical more than hibiscus. Chinese hibiscus, also known as rose of China or H. rosa-sinensis, is the most popular hibiscus. Today, hundreds of hybrids are available in thousands of color combinations.
Esperanza, or yellow bells (Tacoma stans), is a deciduous shrub that produces bright yellow, bell-shaped flowers from late spring to winter. Orange selections also are available. This plant likes full sun and will grow 3 to 5 feet in height.
Firecracker plant (Russelia equisataformis) is an evergreen shrub with red and yellow tubular flowers on cascading stems. Place this in full sun to part shade, and expect it grow 4 feet high and 4 feet wide.
Giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) has beautiful, orange, crane-like flowers against huge, blue-green leaves. A striking tropical bloomer, it prefers full sun to part shade.
Hummingbird bush (Hamelia patens) shrub grows to 6 to 10 feet tall, and blooms are red-orange, tubular flowers that last from early summer to late fall. It performs best in full sun. Try Lime Sizzler, a Louisiana Super Plant.
Mandevilla comes in a variety of beautiful colors, including light to dark pinks, reds, yellows and white. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Bougainvillea is a tropical blooming woody vine with unique flowers. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Esperanza has bell-shaped flowers in bright colors of orange and yellow. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Tropical hibiscus comes in single- and double-flower forms in nearly any color combination imaginable. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter