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10 Full Sun Tropical Plants for Australian Gardens

More and more Australian gardeners are looking to incorporate tropical plants into their landscapes. They are a great way to add an exotic feel to your outdoor space and many are fairly easy to care for.

These plants are particularly popular in the subtropical regions of Australia, where they are often planted around water features, ponds, and swimming pools.

However, with a bit of care, many of these plants can also be grown in cooler parts of the country.

Mandevilla

Mandevilla | Plant varieties
Mandevilla

This hardy vine has showy trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of red, pink, apricot, and white, which bloom in summer.

It will add a tropical feel to your garden and can be successfully grown in a large pot as long as you provide some climbing support.

Mandevilla can be grown in most parts of the country but should be protected from frosts. There are now many new cultivars that are even suitable for growing in hanging baskets.

Backhousia citriodora (Lemon myrtle)

Lemon myrtle Backhousia citriodora | Plant varieties
Backhousia citriodora / Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

The lemon myrtle is one of our all-time favourite plants. It makes a great feature plant in your garden and nothing beats the lovely citrusy scent as you brush past its glossy green leaves. It also puts on a stunning display of large white pom-pom-type flowers.

It needs well-drained soil and protection from heavy frosts but it will tolerate light frosts. You can grow this gorgeous tree in full sun or part shade. 

The lemon myrtle is a small to medium tree growing in height from 3 to 20 metres. However, it will rarely get to its full height when grown in a suburban garden.

In general, most rainforest trees will only reach around a third of their maximum height when cultivated in home gardens.

Hymenocallis (Spider Lily)

Hymenocallis caribaea | Plant varieties
Hymenocallis

Spider lilies are unique tropical plants that have gorgeous white fragrant flowers and strappy green foliage. They grow from bulbs and are perennials.

In warm tropical and subtropical climates, they’ll remain green right throughout the year while in colder climates, they’ll go dormant through autumn and winter.

Choose a nice sunny spot for your spider lilies if you want a great floral display. These plants are ideal for planting in drifts or along borders for a spectacular display. However, they will tolerate some shade but you might not get as many flowers.

Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm)

Cycas revoluta Sago Palm | Plant varieties
Cycas revoluta

If you’re looking for a maintenance-free plant with enormous leaves, the sago palm will definitely fit the bill. It has a delightful shape with long leaves growing outward from a woody crown.

Cycads are generally quite slow-growing but make excellent specimen plants and can be grown in full sun. This palm also needs well-drained soil to avoid fungal problems such as root rot.

Yellow Calla Lilies

Yellow Calla Lilies | Plant varieties
Yellow Calla Lilies

We love seeing the leaves of our Yellow Calla Lilies pop up in spring followed by those lovely yellow lily flowers. The leaves are quite large and dark green with white speckles. 

The trick with these is to keep them moist during summer. Otherwise, they’ll go dormant if left to dry out but you’ll see them pop up again the following spring.

Unlike the more common white lilies, these won’t take over your garden but will come up again in the same spot that you planted them.

Austromyrtus dulcis (Midgenberry)

Austromyrtus dulcis Midgenberry | Plant varieties
Austromyrtus dulcis / Photo by Zaareo / Wikimedia (cropped) / CC BY-SA 3.0

If you have an interest in bush tucker plants, then you should definitely grow a midgenberry.

This plant is a small shrub that only reaches a height of around 1 metre. The lovely glossy green foliage and reddish new growth will add a lushness to your garden.

In early summer, the plant produces a mass of pretty white flowers. These are followed by small berries that are edible and sweet-tasting. 

This is a low-maintenance plant that can be grown in full sun or part shade. It likes well-drained soil that has been enriched with organic matter.

The plant will tolerate light frosts and should be given a light trim after the berries have been harvested or taken by the birds.

Hymenosporum flavum (Native frangipani)

Hymenosporum flavum Native frangipani | Plant varieties
Hymenosporum flavum / Photo by Tatiana Gerus / Flickr (cropped) / CC BY 2.0

There’s no doubt that the heady fragrance of frangipani is a welcome addition to any garden and our native frangipani is no exception.

It has large leaves and stunning white and yellow flowers in spring and summer.

The native frangipani is a small tree growing to a maximum height of around 7 metres. It will grow happily in full sun or light shade.

Being a fast-growing tree, it will establish itself quickly in your garden if you plant it in well-drained soil and mulch heavily after planting. 

In southern gardens, the tree needs to protected from frost until it reaches a height of around 2 metres.

This rainforest tree requires very little maintenance and heavy pruning should be avoided as this will damage its pyramidal shape.

Pandorea jasminoides (Bower of Beauty)

Pandorea jasminoides | Plant varieties
Pandorea jasminoides

Also known as the Bower Climber or Bower Vine, this popular native climber has a vigorous, spreading growth habit.

It grows naturally in subtropical and tropical rainforests in eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. However, it can be grown successfully in southern states as long as it receives enough moisture and is protected from frosts while young.

The climber has glossy dark green leaves and really pretty pale pink trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in Spring.

Because this is quite a vigorous climber, it’s perfect as a screening plant to cover a fence or ugly wall. The bower is a tall climber that will clamber up trees, fences and other supports to grow more than 3 metres high.

Pandorea pandorana (Wonga Wonga Vine)

Pandorea pandorana Wonga Vine | Plant varieties
Pandorea pandorana / Photo by John Tann / Flickr (cropped) / CC BY 2.0

This is another Australian native climber with glossy green leaves and huge clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers in white, cream, or yellow.

It flowers mainly in spring and is suitable for growing in temperate and tropical regions around the country.

It will adapt to most soils as long as they are free-draining and can handle a light frost. This climbing plant will even grow in semi-shade.

It’s a vigorous climber and needs to be pruned regularly so that it doesn’t invade areas where it’s not wanted. 

Chonemorpha fragrans (Climbing Frangipani)

Climbing Frangipani 1 cropped | Plant varieties
Chonemorpha fragrans / Photo by JMK / Wikimedia (cropped) / CC BY-SA 3.0

Climbing Frangipani is actually a tropical vine and not a true frangipani although the sweetly scented white flowers with yellow centres do look very much like frangipani flowers.

Although it’s a tropical plant, it can grow successfully in cooler climates as long as it’s protected from frost.

Keep in mind that this flowering vine doesn’t have the capacity to cling to walls or other solid surfaces. Therefore, it needs a strong trellis that it can climb up.

Photo of author

Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY and is always looking for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking meals with produce harvested from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.

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