8 Tropical-Looking Flowers for Cold (& Hot!) Climates
Make Your Garden a Stay-cation Destination
Longing for a vacation to a tropical oasis? No need to book a flight when you can bring the vibrancy and magic of the tropics to your own backyard! These 8 perennials and shrubs may have exotic blooms, but you won’t have to worry about the cold stopping their show year after year. With these curated picks, you’ll think you’ve been transported to someplace tropical with just a step outside your door.
Massive satellite-dish-shaped flowers, vibrant colors, and a prominent staminal column look like they belong on a tropical island, but you’d be surprised to learn they are native to North America! Perennial hibiscus (swamp mallow, or Hibiscus moscheutos) grows in wet soils in the Eastern and Southern United States. They are one of the latest perennials to emerge in spring, but watching them transform from tiny buds to big, healthy plants in a matter of weeks is nothing short of delightful.
Rose of Sharon
Similar to perennial hibiscus, rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) boasts vibrant blooms in the summer that attract pollinators. The biggest difference between the two? Rose of Sharon is a woody shrub, so it doesn’t die back to the ground each year. Instead, these mighty shrubs grow to form a massive wall of flowers that serve as a perfect backdrop to your pool or tiki party.
Red Hot Poker
Nothing says tropical like flaming torches, and that’s exactly what red hot poker (torch lily, or Kniphofia) brings to the garden. Spikes of vibrant flowers bloom in the summer, boasting hues of yellow, orange, or red. Native to South Africa, red hot poker is no stranger to heat, humidity, and bright sun. However, many varieties are cold-hardy as well, surviving winters in zone 5! Let red hot poker warm up your cold climate garden as it returns year after year.
The tropical colors and succulent foliage of ice plant (Delosperma) may have you believing it only grows in heat, but fortunately, you’d be wrong! Hardy ice plants can survive cold winters in zones 5 or 6, then return for a fiery display in summer. All summer long, you can expect hundreds of flowers to bloom against the small succulent foliage. Choose a juicy orange, vibrant yellow, or ruby-red for a punch of color in your garden.
Lily-of-the-Nile blooms with clusters of true-blue or white blooms in the summer atop mounds of neat, strappy leaves. This unique, hardy to find, and hardy perennial grows even in zone 6. They are outstanding as a cut flower and in the garden, and you’ll have plenty to enjoy, thanks to its super long bloom time.
This award-winning perennial commands attention with fiery red blooms and elegant form. Abundant tubular flowers on ‘Lucifer’ Montbretia set the mid-late summer garden ablaze in vivid color. Pollinators love this plant, especially hummingbirds and butterflies! When the flowers aren’t in bloom, the dramatic upright leaves take center stage. It grows well in hot and humid areas, but is also reliable in gardens in zone 5!
Vibrant blooms and dark foliage on cardinal flowers add a tropical flair to every garden! This native perennial handles troublesome wet soils with ease. If you have a bog or rain garden, plant it near the edge. Blooms appear in midsummer and last until fall, drawing hummingbirds and butterflies in to drink its uncommonly sweet nectar. Commonly found in the southern US and Mexico, cardinal flowers also handle cold winters in zone 6 with the help of extra mulch around the roots.