Learning Center


How to Use Tropical Plants in Your Landscape

TradeWinds Hibiscus


With summer just around the corner, it’s a great time to start planning and planting your pots and updating your landscaping! Tropical plants always add a gorgeous splash of color showcased in pots around patios and porches, but they are also lovely planted in borders, beds, and as accents within existing landscapes. In Arkansas, tropical varieties should be treated as annuals, as most varieties cannot survive temperatures below freezing. Tropicals can be used the same way as other annuals in your garden for color and texture, and in the following paragraphs we’ll share a few of our favorite varieties for landscape use!


The Tropical Hibiscus is a big, vibrant bloomer that boasts of daily blooms! A classic tropical that looks beautiful in pots and in landscapes!

Quick Facts:

  • Height: 4 to 10  feet
  • Spread: 3 to 8 feet
  • Bloom Color: Red, orange, yellow, pink, and white
  • Bloom Span: Up to 12 inches
  • Bloom Form: Numerous large,disc-shaped blooms
  • Light: Full sun to partial, 6+ hours
  • Water: Thoroughly whenever dry

Tropical hibiscus are generally easy to care for in your landscape. They need to be planted in a bright area that receives 5 to 6 hours of sun daily with well drained soil. Tropical Hibiscus enjoy being watered well, as most tropicals do, but will begin to droop and experience root rot if overwatered. Water well when the top layer of soil is dry and in the summer heat expect to water 3 to 4 times per week. Hibiscus come in numerous varieties with two of the major type distinctions being tree versus dwarf. Both kinds still need adequate sun, watering, and the above information. but their overall size and style are different.

Tropical Tree Hibiscus

Growing from 6 to 10 feet in height, Tree Hibiscus are excellent choices for focal points within landscapes. Their blooms are typically on the larger size, known as dinner plate blooms, and can grow to 12 inches or larger. Tree Hibiscus require little maintenance beyond proper care and are excellent for pops of color and height around within borders!

Dwarf TradeWinds Hibiscus

The TradeWinds Hibiscus offers a compact alternative to standard-sized tropical hibiscus. This series was specifically bred to produce profuse blooms without dropping its flower buds as frequently as standard hibiscus. This variety has a tighter growth habit and like with every tropical hibiscus, expect season-long flowering and lush foliage with proper care.



Add extra color in your landscape this year by growing a Mandevilla vine up a trellis, pergola, or arbor, or even over a mailbox! With big, showy blooms that continue all summer (even in hot hot heat) and a low-maintenance attitude makes it a top vine choice.

Quick Facts:

  • Height: 3 to 15+  feet
  • Spread: Wide! Up to 20 feet
  • Bloom Color: Red, pink, and white
  • Bloom Span: 2 to 5 inches
  • Bloom Form: 5 petaled
  • Light: Full sun to partial, 6+ hours
  • Water: Thoroughly whenever dry

This tropical variety is truly no fuss and can twist and trail up and around almost any surface it touches. Mandevilla will grow anywhere form 10 to 20 feet in vine length but can be pruned back if the growth is too much. Newer Mandevilla varieties include smaller, bushier style plants that are great for hanging baskets and cascading out of smaller pots. The typical vining variety is a great addition in landscapes when placed by entrance-ways, close to porches or gazebos that it can climb up, or in any sunny spot in your landscape with well drained soil. Overall this is gorgeous vine tropical does no disappoint with its numerous blooms and easy care.


Mexican Petunia

Originally Native to Mexico and South America, the Mexican Petunia or Mexican Bluebell is beloved by many gardeners for it profuse flower production, bright colorful buds and sleek foliage, and easy maintenance. This variety can do well in hot heat and dry climates and even in humid, shady conditions. Mexican Petunia can be a great addition to your spring and summer landscape by adding height to perennial borders and color amongst plain shrubbery. 

Quick Facts:

  • Height: 3 to 4  feet
  • Spread: 2 to 5 feet
  • Bloom Color: Most Common Purple, also available in Pink and White
  • Bloom Span: 2 to 3 inches
  • Bloom Form: Trumpet Shaped
  • Light: Part Shade to Full Sun
  • Water: Drought Resistant, Will produce more blooms when watered regularly

The Mexican Petunia is a bit of a chameleon for where it can be planted and the type of growing conditions it can tolerate. They prefer wet or marshy soils, such as moist woodlands or the edges of ponds and lakes, but can withstand drought and even full sun in drier soils. This tropical variety produces a succession of profuse two-inch flowers daily from spring through fall. The flowers typically only last 24 hours before falling off, so similar to how Hibiscus flowers become slippery when wet, be cautious when planting this variety next to walkways or sidewalks that are used frequently. Mexican Petunias do benefit from pruning, especially if they’re grown as a hedge. Cutting back the stems after flowering will encourage new growth and even more blossoms. Watering your plant regularly will help it produce more blooms and keep the stems from drooping. Mexican Petunias are easy to maintain, lovely when blooming, and a great choice for a variety of landscapes!



If you’re looking for a tough tropical vine that will add lots of color, height, and width to your landscape then look no further than the Bougainvillea! These are vigorous-growing plants that can quickly take over a wall or garden area, but can be trained and maintained to fit a desired setting.

Quick Facts:

  • Bloom Color: Red, pink, orange, yellow, and white
  • Bloom Span: 2 to 4 inches
  • Bloom Form: Paper-like leaves hide the small trumpet blooms
  • Light: Full sun to partial, 6+ hours
  • Water: Moderate

Bougainvillea are thorny, tropical vine that blooms late spring into summer, and their colorful flowers are actually modified leaves called bracts. The bracts surround the actual tiny, white, trumpet shaped flowers. The Bougainvillea will thrive best and produce the most blooms in a sunny spot, as true with most tropicals. This variety does not like to stay overly wet, so well-drained soil is also necessary for this plant to thrive. When planting Bougainvillea in your garden, be sure to think thought the location well! Bougainvillea’s woody habit and vigorous growth means they can be manipulated and trained in a variety of ways, and will show off their blooms beautifully when climbing walls and trellises.


Banana Trees 

If you’re looking to add some height and texture to your garden, the a classic Banana Tree might be the right look for your landscape! Banana Trees are excellent choice for gardeners that like foliage to be the main focal point for a plant, as Banana Trees boast large, lush leaves!


Macho Fern with shade loving Torenia hanging baskets in front!

Tropical Ferns

Tropical ferns are an easy, excellent choice for adding dimension and texture to your landscape! Kimberly and Macho ferns are 2 tropical varieties we love and will share about. Visit our previous post, Growing Tropical Ferns, to get a more in depth look at growing these beauties.

Kimberly Queen Fern

Quick Facts:

  • Height: 3 – 4 feet
  • Spread: 3 – 4 feet
  • Foliage Color: Light to Dark Green
  • Light: Part Sun to Shade
  • Water: Lots!

The Kimberly Queen Fern is a bold and beautiful plant native to Australia that is characterized by large, gracefully arching fronds (the foliage or leaves ferns grow). Ferns in general, the Kimberly included, require sufficient moisture in order to thrive and their well-drained soil should never be allowed to dry out completely. This fern can take a good amount of sun, if provided with enough water.  Kimberly ferns are fast growing and easy to maintain if placed in the right environment, meaning big dimension in your landscape for little effort!

Macho Fern

Quick Facts:

  • Height:  4 feet
  • Spread: 4- 6 feet
  • Foliage Color: Bright Green
  • Light: Part Sun to Shade
  • Water: Lots!

While the Kimberly Fern may be the more classic image for a fern with longer, more wispy fronds, the Macho is a fun and thick variety that can add bright green color and texture just as easily to your shaded landscape. This burlier fern forms a large clump of fronds that are smoother in their midsection with their ends looking somewhat like parsley. This variety also prefers shadier landscapes and will be scorched if in too much direct sunlight. The Macho fern prefers to be moist and well watered and could be good border or accent around a pond or water feature.



Use BR-61 for blooming tropicals, and Fish Emulsion for ferns!