How to Spruce Up a Summer Garden with Tropical Plants

Palm plant in summer garden
‘Majesty Palm’ (Ravenea rivularis) adds beauty to a summer landscape.

As the summer heats up, consider adding some tropical plants to your garden for a splash of luxury. The large, waving foliage and lush growth habits add a cool, inviting touch, and the plants themselves are naturally tolerant of the heat and humidity of summer.

Gardeners in sub-tropical or non-tropical regions have to be a little more careful with these plants as temperatures cool, but any garden can enjoy the beauty of a tropical paradise.

Choosing Outdoor Tropical Plants

  • Move Houseplants Outdoors: Give your houseplants an outdoor vacation! Palms, philodendron, peace lilies, ferns, and other houseplants will thrive in a sheltered location outdoors for the summer.
  • Plant Tropical Bulbs: Tender tropical bulbs, such as elephant ear, taro, and amaryllis, are great choices for summer gardens. These plants go dormant for the winter, and the bulbs can be dug up and stored to be replanted year after year. Check out our article How to Store Tender Bulbs Over the Winter to find out how.
  • Plant Tropical Annuals: Consider the tropical plants that are commonly sold as annuals in cooler climates. Caladiums, mandevilla, and tropical hibiscus can be overwintered or purchased fresh each year.

Designing with Tropical Plants Outdoors

Here are some tips on how to add tropical plants to your yard or garden to give it a lush, summer look.

  • Tropical Plant Containers: Create containers of tropical plants that can be easily grouped or moved around for parties or during weather changes. In the fall, you can simply bring the pots indoors, or take cuttings from them to root for next year.
  • Tropical Hanging Plants: Add some hanging houseplants to your porch or covered patio.
  • Bury Tropical Pots: For a more tucked-in look, bury the tropical plant pot up to the rim in your planting bed. Add some mulch, and your landscape looks seamless! In the fall, it will be easy to pull up the pots for winter storage indoors.
  • Wintering Tropical Plants: Over the winter, tropical houseplants will need to be stored at temperatures over 55° F, and a sun porch or decorative indoor location works great for this. Dormant bulbs and roots will need cooler temperatures in the 40s—a garage, shed, or basement can provide this.
  • Hardy Tropical Looking Plants: Give a tropical touch to any garden with ordinary, hardy garden plants. Choose plants with large leaves, plants with palm or fern-like foliage, and plants with large, colorful blooms. Hardy hibiscus and perennial ferns give a tropical feel without special care.


  1. I will be new to hibiscus plants this year and I live in Delaware. I have what I believe is swamp mallow growing in various ditches just off the bank next to slowly moving water. Can I dig these up and transplant them at home, which has a very sandy soil? Can I transplant now in late July, and what can I do with the sandy soil to make this work?

  2. Thank you for all the information it was very very helpful. Hopefully I can resolve the problem with my hibiscus. We do have eight hibiscus but only a problem with one. Some of the others are still recovering from Winter. We did pull up a couple dead ones and put in new ones and that’s the problem I’m having with one of them called big red


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