Tropical Flowers To Satisfy Your Need For Exoticism

How can you resist the exotic elegance of tropical flowers? They offer the possibility of personalizing your outdoor space by bringing a touch of originality that you will not find everywhere.

Originally from Africa, Asia, or Central America, tropical plants delight us with their lush foliage, flamboyant often unusual, and intoxicatingly fragrant blooms in vibrant colors, ranging from pink to purple, passing through white or orange.

You’ve probably heard that you can’t grow tropical flowers if you live in colder regions? You’ve heard wrong, there are tropical gardens even in rainy Scotland.

Even though not all of these plants will survive outdoors through the winter, some will surprise you with their beauty and their resistance to frost or drought. If you live in warm climate zones, you can enjoy them outdoors in summer as annuals, then dig up the bulbs, rhizomes, or tubers and replant them in the spring.

But in cooler climates, you need to help these tender tropical blooms survive the winter by bringing containers inside, before the first frost of autumn.

To help you make your choice, here are 20 bright and exuberant tropical flowering plants that will make your head spin and burst with beauty in your little corner of greenery!

With practical tips on how to grow them, now you can enjoy their exotic blooms…

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20 Tropical Flowers To Satisfy Your Need For Exoticism

From the the queen of tropical flowers Hibiscus to the dramatic birds of paradise, these exotic flowers come to us from distant lands, bring a touch of exoticism to your themed garden, a real invitation to travel.

Browse through the different types of tropical flowers below.

1. Passion Flower (Passiflora)

Passion Flower (Passiflora)
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This wonderful and hardy tropical flowing purple vines takes its name from the fact that its originally shaped flower reminds us of the crown of thorn that was placed on Jesus’ head during the Passion.

Most species come from South America and Mexico, and the most famous, Passiflora caerulea, is known as blue passionflower for its color.

Passiflora is excellent on trellises, for gazebos and to cover fences with its rich foliage, its stunning flowers and, let’s not forget, even its delicious edible fruits. It is fairly easy to grow and also to find in many garden centers or online.

  • Hardiness zones: 5 to 10.
  • Light exposure: full Sun to part shade.
  • Soil needs: this plant will adapt well to most soil types, with pH between 6.1 and 7.5
  • Flower colors: blue, white yellow, purple, aquamarine, red and pink.
  • Other needs: keep it sheltered from winds; keep the soil moist for better blossoms.

2. Lotus (Nelumbo and Nymphaea ssp.)

 lotus flower blooming

Among all tropical flowering plants, lotus has a special place. This is not just because it has wonderful flowers of many colors, because it also has beautiful, round and waxy leaves and it grows in water… Lotus is also a spiritual symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism.

So, if you have a pond, and you want it to blossom with flowers that can turn any garden into an exotic paradise, lotus may do for you.

Not all lotus species and varieties are good for temperate climates: most need hardiness zones 8-10 and up to 12, but some can grow even in colder zones, like Lotus Pekinensis Rubra (zones 4-11), Lotus alba (7-11) and Lotus ‘Thousand Petals’ (4-11).

But there’s also an alternative: some Nelumbo species, or Indian lotus, are hardy to US zones 4-11 and it has many species.

  • Hardiness zones: 4-12, depending on the species.
  • Light exposure: they prefer full Sun but they can stand some shade.
  • Soil needs: lotus plants want a well drained light soil; this means with little organic matter, a mix of sand and clay would be ideal.
  • Flower colors: white, blue, pink, cream, yellow, purple, orange and red.
  • Other requirements: lotus grows in water; you will need to plant the tuber in the soil under at least 2” of water to germinate. To blossom, it needs between 6 and 12” of water. The water will also be a protection against freezing in winter if it is deep enough.

3. Jasmine (Jasminium ssp.)

Fragrant white flowering jasmine in garden
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What’s better than the sweet scent of jasmine when you pass by a hedge or carpeted wall? This beautiful long flowering tropical plant of Arabian origin, whose meaning is “gift from God”.

And its lingering and unmistakable scent is certainly a gift for your garden as well as passers-by.

Original of tropical and subtropical regions of Eurasia, but also Oceania, this plant is easy to grow and propagate, and it can turn even the most boring spot or wall into a perfumed Milky Way of flowers carpeting the lush leaves of a vertical garden.

  • Hardiness zones: mostly zones 6-9, but some varieties may stand zone 5.
  • Light exposure: jasmine likes full Sun but can grow well in light shade too. At least six hours of sunlight a day are necessary.
  • Soil needs: it needs well drained porous soil, the pH needs to be between 6.1 and 7.5 and it should be fairly fertile. Using some peat, bark and similar material can help.
  • Flower colors: usually white, and in fact this flowers is synonymous with whiteness, but some varieties are yellow, yellow and white and even pink.
  • Other requirements: plant it in a sheltered position and always keep an eye on your plant. It is easy to grow, but neglect can cause serious problems.

4. Magnolia (Magnolia ssp.)

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The elegance of magnolias, with glossy leaves and scented flowers mixes an exotic touch to your garden to that elegance that shouts out, “Japan!”

It is hard to find a tree that has such a distinctive look and such defined Eastern look that, even on its own, it can bring a touch of the Empire of the Rising Sun to any garden.

These plants are very generous with their blooms and, if you don’t have a huge garden, there are even small and dwarf varieties you can grow.

They have what is known as a “disjoint origin” as they grow spontaneously in parts of the world that are not connected.

Primarily, they come from Southeast Asia, but some species are native of South and Central America, the Caribbean Islands and even some regions of Eastern North America, like Florida.

  •  Hardiness zones: 5 to 9.
  • Light exposure: magnolia trees will grow in full Sun but they can tolerate light shade.
  • Soil needs: magnolia will grow well in most types of soil, especially once it has established itself, from clay to loam and even sand. It will, though, not tolerate badly drained soil.
  • Flower colors: white, cream, pink and pink-purplish.
  • Other requirements: it is best to plant magnolias at the beginning of fall; this way, it will allow your plant to develop its roots before winter comes. Find a place that is not too hot in the Sumer season and at the same time not very wet in winter.

5. Hibiscus (Hibiscus ssp.)


A tropical plant we associate with Hawaiian hospitality, generous with its flowering and very easy to grow, hibiscus has become one of the most common exotic plants in gardens all over the world.

You can keep your hibiscus as a small tree, as a shrub or even as part of a hedge.

These beautiful, iconic flowering plants will regale you with large, brightly colored flowers with those long pistils we have all come to know and love.

They are easy to find in flower shop and you can even grow them from seed or cutting.

Closely related to common mallow, Malva, its exotic cousin, hibiscus, can also be used for teas as this plant has medicinal properties that lower blood pressure and sugar levels.

The most common varieties in gardens are Hibiscus syriacus and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, but there are 200 species to choose from!

  •  Hardiness zones: most species require zones 9-11, but hardy varieties can grow even in cold zone 5 climate.
  • Light exposure: hibiscus needs about 6 hours of sunlight a day to be happy; however, studies show that even with only 2 hours in good climate it may still blossom.
  • Soil needs: loam and sandy loam are the best types of soil for hibiscus. It needs to be well drained, as water logging ca seriously damage your plant.
  • Flower colors: white, yellow, orange, red, pink. violet, blue and multicolored.
  • Other requirements: the best temperature for hibiscus to flower is between 60 and 90oF, or 16-32oC. During the bloom, increase watering, but then reduce it when the temperature drops.

6. Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae family)

Exotic tropical bromeliads
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Bromeliad is a flowering succulent plant that’s enjoying a worldwide revival. Now, there are even bromeliad gardens around the world. 

Bromeliads are loved for their colorful and originally shaped brats, those modified leaves at the top of the plant that look like otherworldly exotic flowers. However, they also flower regularly, both outdoors and indoors.

Bromeliads are a large family of plants, known as Bromeliaceae, comprising 3590 different species, and hailing from tropical and subtropical America, with one exception, Pitcairnia feliciana, which is native of west Africa.

These plants are epiphytes and lithophytes, which means that they grow on tree branches and on rocks. This makes them ideal to decorate old trunks, stone features, walls, and to grow out of even very small spaces.

  •  Hardiness zones: most bromeliads are better grown indoors, unless you live in a warm country, as they are suitable for zones 10 and 11. Tillandias, however, can grow also in zone 9.
  • Light exposure: most bromeliads do not like direct sunlight; they are plants that come from tree canopies and dense forests. Too much light will make them scorch and also lose color.
  • Soil needs: bromeliads need soil which has excellent drainage, like two parts of potting soil, one of perlite and one of bark (like for orchids); alternatively, one part of sphagnum peat moss (or similar), one of perlite and finally one of fir bark.
  • Flower colors: both brats and flowers cover literally all colors of the rainbow. They are usually very bright as well.
  • Other requirements: although they are succulent, they need regular watering; they cannot stand both overwatering and underwatering. Usually once a week is fine, but you may need to water your bromeliad more often. Make sure drainage is perfect and give your plant only moderate quantities, even better if it is rain water. If, and only if, they have a leaf tank, do water in there too.

7. Cilia (Clivia miniata)

Exotic tropical Pot with clivias planted in the home gardens
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How can you resist the bright red and bell shaped flowers of Clivia miniata, and her long, elegant and glossy leaves? This flowering plant from South Africa is now a household name in gardens and as a houseplant all over the world.

Because it likes to be in the fresh open air during its dormancy, people tend to keep it outdoors before it blossoms, than thane it indoors.But in some areas, you can even grow it as a garden plant.

  •  Hardiness zones: outdoors, it can live in zones 9-11.
  • Light exposure: no strong light for Clivia miniata, it likes part shade and dappled shade instead.
  • Soil needs: this plant likes rich and well drained potting soil.
  • Flower colors: yellow, orange and bright red.
  • Other requirements: clivia usually blossoms in late winter, but it won’t unless you let it rest in a dry and cool place for about two months prior to this.

8. Calla (Zantedeschia)

Zantedeschia Exotic tropical
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The elegant spathes, or colored and modified leaves that surround the actual inflorescence, or spandix, of calla, its ornamental broad leaves and the fact that it is easy to grow have made Zantedeschia, as botanists call it, a very popular tropical flower indeed.

Even if you can find it in gardens and as a houseplant in many temperate regions, Zantedeschia is actually from Africa. 

It is easy to care and to bring to bloom. And it has also become one of the most popular cut flowers.

  • Hardiness zones: Zantedeschia is hardy to zones 8-10.
  • Light exposure: it will adapt to full light (better indirect if indoors) to part shade.
  • Soil needs: well drained, loose and porous soil is what this plant needs.
  • Flower colors: white (the most common), cream, yellow, orange, pink, purple and dark purple.
  • Other requirements: keep the plant way from pets; it is toxic to them when ingested. If the plant produces lots of foliage and few flowers, it is because the soil or fertilizer you use are too rich in nitrogen.

9. African Lily (Agapanthus ssp.)

African Lily (Agapanthus ssp.)
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The lily of the Nile, as Agapanthus is also called produces large, round inflorescences that grow on long stems rising from rich, thin and long leaves.

So, its decorative value comes from both flowers and leaves.

The Agapanthus africanus species has many hybrids and cultivars now, so, the choice of varieties of this plant is fairly large. 

It can grow well in gardens, borders and flower beds, and it is a very easy tropical plant to grow.

  • Hardiness zones: from 8 to 11.
  • Light exposure: it needs between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight every day, but it will grow better in part shade in very hot countries.
  • Soil needs: fertile, moist and well drained soil rich in loam (sandy loam, for example) is best for the lily of the Nile.
  • Flower colors: blue, white and violet.
  • Other requirements: divide the clumps when they grow too thick, and use them to propagate your plant.

10. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia Exotic tropical
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If you want a flowering plant with a uniquely exotic flower that can make any green space look tropical and you live in a fairly warm region, then think seriously about Strelitzia, or bird of paradise.

The name of this African plant comes from the fact that the flower resembles the famous bird, but it’s long, fleshy and waxy leaves too add an architectural dimension to any garden.

It has now become common in outdoor gardens in California (it is the floral symbol of Los Angeles), the Mediterranean and other warm regions of the world.

There are five species of this genus: Strelitzia reginae (the most famous), Strelitzia caudata (white with some blue), Strelitzia alba (white), Strelitzia nicolai (blue and white) and Strelitzia juncea (orange and blue flowers, like reginae, but with long, spear like leaves).

  • Hardiness zones: you will need to live in zones 10 to 12 to grow this wonderful plant.
  • Light exposure: full Sun to part shade.
  • Soil needs: Strelitzia can manage different soil types, but the best is fertile, well drained soil with lots of organic matter.
  • Flower colors: white, orange and blue, white and blue.
  • Other requirements: shelter your bird of paradise from wind; it can literally beak the leaves and ruin your plants.

11. Bougainville (Bougainvillea ssp.)

Bougainvillaea blooming
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Bougainville is sun loving tropical flowering vine which can carpet whole walls and tall fences with its bounty of flowers for long periods. It is a climber, a vine actually, from South America that can grow to a whopping 40 feet (12 meters) in height, and it has become ubiquitous in Hispanic, South American and Mediterranean gardens.

In fact, it has become an almost symbolic flower of the Mediterranean, even if it is not native there.

It is a very strong plant that will grow with little care, and it is even perfect for urban spaces; you will, in fact, find it climbing walls, framing grand entrances to villas and bringing colors and vibrancy in public gardens.Of course, it is far too big to grow indoors, but it is excellent for large terraces, gazebos etc.

  • Hardiness zones: zones 9b to 11 are suitable for Bougainvillea,
  • Light exposure: it prefers full Sun, and at least 6 hours of full sunlight every day.
  • Soil needs: it likes slightly acidic soil, with pH of 5.5 to 6.0; it also wants it well drained and fertile.
  • Flower colors: bright purple-pink, pink, red, violet, orange and yellow and white.
  • Other requirements: once it has established, it becomes very strong and tolerant to drought, and you can even water it every three to four weeks. You will need to train the plant and give it some strong support.

12. Indian Shot (Canna indica)

Red blooming Canna indica
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Having Indian shot in your garden is like having a painter of tropical colors to liven up your flower beds every with exotic leaves and bright and bold flowers.

In fact, the lines, shape, colors and general complexion of this plant bring to mind the paintings of Gauguin, or the abstract Nature depicted in L7M’s street art…

Canna indica is yet another easy to grow tropical flowering plant which has spread from Central America, Mexico and the West Indies to many gardens all over the world, and it has even naturalized in many continents.It will soon grow into large clumps of great architectural beauty and lively colors.

  • Hardiness zones: Canna indica can grow in USDA zones 7 to 10, so even in fairly temperate areas.
  • Light exposure: Canna indica prefers full Sun; it can manage dappled shade and even light shade, but in this last case, the blooms will be less generous.
  • Soil needs: it is suitable to most types of soil, from sandy to clay via loam, as long as it is well drained. It is also tolerant to light acidity and fairly alkaline soil types.
  • Flower colors: yellow, orange, red and pink. Some plants also have burgundy colored leaves that are stunning.
  • Other requirements: divide the clumps when they get too thick, or thin the edges, removing offsets to plant for new groups of plants. The rhizomes need to be about 4”, or 10 cm under the surface.

13. Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens) 

Flower bed of Salvia Splendens
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If you want purple dashes of color in your garden, this Brazilian cousin of common sage is perfect for any corner of your garden that needs a lift.

Also known as tropical sage, it comes from high altitudes in the South American country, which makes it fairly hardy and suitable for temperate gardens.Scarlet sage is easy to grow and you can use it as a carpeting plant as it will spread fast. Ah, I was forgetting… it will bloom from spring to fall!

  • Hardiness zones: 10 to 11, but there are reports of it growing well also in zone 9.
  • Light exposure: this plant likes full Sun, but it will also stand a sunny to lightly shaded position.
  • Soil needs: tropical sage will tolerate most types of soil, even from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (6.1 to 7.8).
  • Flower colors: purple, and the brightest hue of this color you can imagine!
  • Other requirements: water this beauty regularly, but do not overwater.

14. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Zingiber spectabile flowers
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We all know ginger as a spice, or food, but it is also a stunningly beautiful tropical flowering plant. It has been known to the West since before the Romans, but it originates from Southeast Asia.

The flowers of the ginger plant are of various shapes, according to the species, but always exotic looking and original. So, beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabile) has this name because…

Well, you guessed it, its flowers look like a beehive. Indian ginger’s flower looks a bit like a purple pine cone, Hawaiian ginger’s like a feathered plume…

  • Hardiness zones: 7 and higher will be fine for some varieties, though lost will need 9 to 12.
  • Light exposure: this plant comes from shaded forests, so, plenty of light but avoid direct sunlight, as it may ruin it.
  • Soil needs: the soil needs to hold moisture well, but also have good drainage; sandy loam is ideal.
  • Flower colors: white-pink, pink, yellow, orange, red, crimson and light purple.
  • Other requirements: always keep the rhizomes above 43oF, or 6oC. Mulch in winter if there is a risk of the temperature dropping to these temperatures.

15. Bat Plant (Tacca integrifolia)

White bat flower (Tacca integrifolia)
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Are you ready for a crazy looking exotic plant with unbelievable flowers? If you want a special tropical plant and you live in a warm region, then have a look at Tacca iegrifolia, called bat plant because its flowers look like bats to some people, and, trust me, they are like no flower you have ever seen.

It is from subtropical Central Asia, originally (Thailand, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka etc…)

This plant’s flower has two huge bracts, which look like petals, or the lids of Nepenthes, above the actual flowers, that turn into berries and have long filaments, like the whiskers of cats, that fall from them.

The vivid purple color of the flowers is partly taken up by the bracts, which then turn white towards the margins. Just stunning!

  • Hardiness zones: bat plant needs a warm climate, zones 10 to 12.
  • Light exposure: it doesn’t like direct light; part shade indoors, and a sheltered position outdoors.
  • Soil needs: it likes acidic soil, well drained and fertile. It also needs to be constantly moist as it is not drought resistant.
  • Flower colors: purple and white.
  • Other requirements: this is mainly a houseplant, but if you grow it outdoors, careful never to allow the soil to become completely dry.

16. Protea (Protea cynaroides)

King Proteas
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With a very exotic and tropical look, Protea cynaroides is a great plant if you want that “original” touch in your garden, on your terrace or even at home.

The flowers of this plant are amazing, looking a bit like that of the thistle, but at the same time unique and out of the ordinary.

This flowering plant comes from South Africa, but, despite the fact that it has a very tropical and sunny feel to it, it tolerates both low temperatures and spells of drought, so, it has the best of both worlds.

  • Hardiness zones: 9 to 12, but if well sheltered and heated, some gardeners report zone 8 too.
  • Light exposure: protea prefers a full Sun exposure, where it can have light all day long.
  • Soil needs: well drained soil is essential for this plant; it would also be light (not rich in organic matter) and acidic; this plant can grow even in very acidic soil. Cactus potting soil is adequate.
  • Soil needs: well drained soil is essential for this plant; it would also be light (not rich in organic matter) and acidic; this plant can grow even in very acidic soil. Cactus potting soil is adequate.
  • Other requirements: never leave any water on the surface; this can cause the roots of your protea to rot.

17. Curcuma (Curcuma longa)

turmeric flower
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The flowers of curcuma, mainly known as an exotic spice, are just stunning; they grow on long stems and are sheltered by colorful bracts that may remind you Chinese pagodas, at least they do to me.

The plant too is very decorative, with broad, ribbed and lanceolate leaves; this plant will form clumps of lush green with exotic and brightly colored flowers rising between the leaves. The tropical look is guaranteed with Curcuma longa, a famous Asian plant.

  • Hardiness zones: Curcuma longa can grow in USDA zones 8 to 12.
  • Light exposure: this plant likes sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon.
  • Soil needs: curcuma likes very fertile soil, loamy, rich in organic matter but also well drained.
  • Flower colors: the bracts can be white, green-white, pink or purple; the flowers themselves are orange to yellow usually.
  • Other requirements: keep the soil moist in summer; it likes heat and humidity. The rhizomes should go 4” deep (10 cm) and, in case, mulch them in the cold season.

18. Rose Grape (Medinilla magnifica)

Showy Medinilla
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This tropical flowering plant from the Philippines will blow your mind, with its long, beautiful grape shaped inflorescences, large, ribbed and oval leaves and absolutely stunning presence…

The flowers come in long “grapes”, called panicles, up to 12” (30 cm) in length cascading from large pink bracts. This plant is so beautiful that it won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of garden Merit in 2015.

  • Hardiness zones: rose grape is hardy to USDA zones 10 and 11.
  • Light exposure: it is better if you protect it from direct sunlight; it will stand some morning Sun, but by all means keep it sheltered from sunlight in the afternoon.
  • Soil needs: a normal potting mixed with good drainage is fine for Medinilla magnifica.
  • Flower colors: pink to coral red.
  • Other requirements: rose grape likes lots of air humidity, the soil too should be kept moist at all time, but not wet, so water little but frequently.

19. Blood Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus)

Blood lily red flower
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If you want a lesser known tropical plant that produces beautiful red “balls” of flowers, then blood lily is a great choice for your garden.

This plant from Sub-Saharan Africa forms globe shaped umbrels of up to 200 flowers each, of a very bright scarlet red color, and they can be up to 6” in diameter (15 cm).Clumps of blood lily in your garden will give it an elegant but exotic look.

  • Hardiness zones: blood lily can grow in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
  • Light exposure: it likes full Sun to part shade exposure.
  • Soil needs: the soil needs to be rich in nutrients and well drained, a rich in peat soil is ideal.
  • Flower colors: scarlet red.
  • Other requirements: keep it moist but never wet, and avoid disturbing the bulbs and roots, as it does not like it.

20. Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia ssp.)

Gaillardia Aristata Blanket Flower
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Related to the common aster and sunflower, Gaillardia is a genus of plants from North and South America which brings to mind the blankets of Native Americans…

In fact, these flowers are good in beds, pots and, in some cases, also as small shrubs.

They are very easy to grow and they have a wide range of colors too.

  • Hardiness zones: blanket flowers can be very hardy, depending on the species, and can grow in USDA zones 3 to 10, so, they are good also for quite cold regions.
  • Light exposure: blanket flowers love a lot of light in full Sun.
  • Soil needs: the soil needs to be well drained and you should not grow Gaillardia in clay soil.
  • Flower colors: yellow and red are the most common colors, often together, but sporangia and purple are possible too.
  • Other requirements: usually water once or twice a week.

A Tropical Corner in Your Home or Garden

There’s something special about the “tropical look” of plants and flowers: they are bold, original, eye catching… But they also give a sense of abundance, of the generosity of Nature…

So, it is only natural that you want to have tropical plants near you, maybe in your living room, or on your terrace and, why not, even in your garden.

Not all tropical flowering plant will grow everywhere, but some are quite hardy indeed and, with a vast range to choose from, you can certainly find one that is good for you!

Amber Noyes

Written By

Amber Noyes

Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.

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