Tropical Containers Ideas: Easy Outdoor Tropicals

Tropical Containers Ideas: Easy Outdoor Tropicals
  • Posted June 1, 2015

Temperate climate gardeners seem to be addicted to tropical plants. They are big, bold and exotic. Of course, in climates where winter temperatures regularly go below freezing, tropical plants only thrive outside for part of the year, meaning most gardeners choose to grow them in containers.

Whether you bring them indoors for winter or not, growing them in containers allows heat-loving tropicals to get off to a fast start in spring. Potted plants warm up faster than plants in the ground, especially if they are placed in a sunny position on a concrete or stone patio, and the roots can establish themselves quickly in the loose potting soil, making the most of the limited growing season.

Angel's trumpet, orchids and hibiscus are some of the first plants that gardeners think of as embodying a tropical vibe, but these are not always the easiest to grow. If you're looking for a few 'just add water and fertilizer and watch them grow' plants, here are a few can't go wrong, knock your socks off tropical plants to consider for your container garden (they all start with C, so they're easy to remember):

Canna lilies

Canna lilies are not true lilies, but the blossoms vaguely resemble these temperate climate plants and they do grow from a tuberous root system (which is easy too overwinter indoors). Hot pink, lipstick red and neon orange are some of the most common flower colors available, though there are also more subdued shades of white and cream. The foliage is almost as colorful on some cultivars, with various shades of purple, yellow, chartreuse, orange and red available.

Calla lilies

Calla lilies are also completely unrelated to lilies, though their 6-inch diameter flowers with a prominent yellow stamen are slightly suggestive of some of the largest lily varieties. Like cannas, callas retreat to a dormant tuber in winter, making them easy to store indoors. Huge arrow-shaped leaves emerge on short stalks from those tubers each spring, creating a classic jungle look.


Coleus is usually grown as an annual, but is actually a tropical perennial. They're included here in part because they are nearly immune to pests and disease, but also because the sheer intensity of color exuded by every square inch of plant. Some varieties look like an exploded piñata even before their flowers have appeared.

Coleus paired with Angelwing Begonias

Canna lilies and Coleus mix
Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.

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Tropical Containers Ideas: Easy Outdoor Tropicals