Get ready for some real tropical eye candy at your local garden center…and then bring it to your garden! Every spring, Florida foliage and tropical-plant growers make a big splash when their plants hit the roads and gardening scene, featuring glorious, large-leaved, colorful tropicals that can take your breath away. (Close your eyes and think rain forest!)

Musa 'Siam Ruby'

Well-suited containers, Musa ‘Siam Ruby’ banana adds dramatic interest to any garden.

Photo Credit: Agristarts, Inc.

Colocasia esculenta 'Elena'

Make your beds or planters pop with the Colocasia esculenta ‘Elena’!

Photo Credit: Agristarts, Inc.

Alocasia lauterbaachiana

Alocasia lauterbaachiana is a great focal point in deck or patio planters.

Photo Credit: Agristarts, Inc.

Alocasia 'Sting Ray'

The cool leaf of Alocasia ‘Sting Ray’ entices young and old in the garden.

Photo Credit: Excelsa Gardens, Inc.

For all you zone 10 residents, you can think of these beauties as year-round outdoor landscape plants. And for those of us living everywhere else (USDA Hardiness zone 9 and colder), we can enjoy a temporary taste of the tropics during the summer months – then move our tropical lovelies indoors for the rest of the year. Let’s look at just a few examples of what you and your garden have to look forward to:

Ever grow a banana plant? Well, if you haven’t before, you’ll want to now when you see Musa ‘Siam Ruby’! Consider the dramatic appeal of this banana plant when it’s nestled in your landscape, showing off its large, red leaves splashed with chartreuse. Or try sinking pots of this beauty in your landscape beds for the summer. I can also easily imagine beautiful potted specimens of this plant decorating swimming pools and hot tubs. Colder climates (zone 9 and colder) can enjoy this tropical wonder indoors during fall through spring. Just make sure you have high ceilings – ‘Siam Ruby’ can grow to 8 feet tall – as well as lots and lots of sunlight!

Leaves, leaves and more leaves! Most tropical plants are easily recognizable thanks to their foliage – especially with Colocasia or Alocasia, also known as elephant ears. Here are a few to particularly be on the lookout for:

Colocasia esculenta ‘Elena’ has intense chartreuse leaves and lighter veins that seem to pop with color when added to landscape beds or planters. Another surprise with ‘Elena’ – expect purple markings in the leaves as the plant matures. To keep this tropical happy, provide sun to part shade and moist soil – not saturated! You can expect ‘Elena’ to reach heights of about 3 feet. If you want to keep enjoying this plant indoors during winter, provide ample sunlight.

It’s easy to take notice of Alocasia lauterbaachiana – the species makes a bold vertical statement in garden planters, thanks to its swordlike leaves. This Alocasia enjoys partly sunny locations and soil that’s kept barely moist. A trusted source tells me that it can grow to a height of 5-plus feet.

Alocasia ‘Sting Ray’ has the coolest leaves – they look like green floating sting rays with their taillike tips. If you’ve got kids, this plant could be very popular with your younger set...probably taller than them, too – expect a finished height of 6 feet! For best results, grow ‘Sting Ray’ in partial sun with moist soil.

Of course, this is just a mere taste of all the amazing newer tropical plants out there for home gardeners to try. Even better, it only takes a few to create that relaxing tropical getaway…right in the comfort of your own back yard!