10 Tropical Trees in Florida for a Lush, Jungle Vibe

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Written By Kenique Ivery

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Home » Florida » 10 Tropical Trees in Florida for a Lush, Jungle Vibe

This article is perfect for you if you are a landscaper or tree admirer in Central or South Florida. For those in North Florida, we have another article just for you on this site. 

Living in Central and South Florida means turning your entire landscape or just a part of it into your miniature jungle. Benefiting from many months of hot and humid weather each year – you can grow many tropical trees with jaw-dropping aesthetics in these regions. 

My favorite on this list is Ylang-ylang. This tree’s flowers have one of the most beautiful aromas in the world. As a plus, it produces flowers year-round. The flowers’ potent essential oil is in many perfumes and candles.

I believe this rapidly growing tree with lush, tropical-looking leaves should be in every Central and South Florida landscape. 

10 Amazing Tropical Trees You Should Plant Today in Florida

1. Banana Tree (Musa spp.)

Banana trees
Images by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Banana trees provide a classic lush jungle vibe because of their large fleshy leaves and fleshy trunk. Also, its unique attention-grabbing flowers and fruit that hang offer an exotic touch. Unfortunately, you cannot always guarantee that your banana tree will make fruit. It needs months of heat and sun for that. 

Banana trees make excellent borders and work well near other plants with bold foliage, such as canna lilies. Both are moisture-loving plants. For a more powerful visual impact, pair banana trees with fine-leaved bamboo. Also, banana trees look fabulous planted in multiples.

Banana trees grow well in full sun to partial shade. For best results, I recommend fertile and moist soil that drains well. They will die back in North Florida with a good freeze, but you can protect the roots with plenty of mulch.  

USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11 (depending on variety)

Average Size at Maturity: 2 – 30 feet tall and 1 – 15 feet wide (depending on variety)

Flowering Season: Spring to early summer

Available at: Nature Hills & Fast-Growing-Trees

2. Dragon Tree (Dracaena spp.)

Dragon Tree
Image by Michael Coglhan via Flickr

The dragon tree is a popular houseplant. The Madagascar native has green sword-like leaves with red edges. The tree has a long, thin trunk that looks like a slender palm tree.

The dragon tree is a slow grower. The slow growth frustrates some gardeners as it seems like the tree stays the same height year after year. Also, lucky you may find some tiny white flowers in the spring. I’ve never seen them. I think it is better to focus on appreciating this tree for its amazing and unique foliage and not to expect the flowers.

When growing this tree outdoors, you want to plant it in a spot that gets indirect light but not direct sun. Too much sunlight sometimes destroys the foliage, but too much shade can stunt growth. I recommend using an essential fertilizer ever couple of weeks for faster growth and more lush greenery. Otherwise, the slow growth may frustrate you.

Other Common Names: Canary Islands Drago Tree; Drago

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 12 (Zone 9 with some winter protection)

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 feet tall and 3 – 10 feet wide

Flowering Season: Spring

3. Schefflera (Heptapleurum actinophyllum)

Queensland umbrella tree (Heptapleurum actinophyllum formerly Schefflera actinophylla)
Images by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Like the dragon tree, Schefflera is a common houseplant that Florida landscapers can bring outside for a lush, tropical vibe. The tropical tree is native to Australia, New Guinea, and Java. In its natural habitat, it thrives under other large trees.

Schefflera’s popularity comes from its large compound dark green leaves. You can plant the trees under shade trees, providing them with indirect sunlight. The trees will give the landscape a rainforest vibe during the summer rainy season.

Schefflera does will any light exposure from full sun to full shade. For best results, it needs rich, moist soil with lots of organic material.

Other Common Names: Australian Palm Ivy; Octopus Tree; Umbrella Tree: Queensland Umbrella Tree; Amate

USDA Growing Zones: 9B – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 40 feet tall and 10 – 15 feet wide

Flowering Season: Summer

4. Koa Tree (Acacia koa)

Koa Tree
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Koa tree is a legendary Hawaii native and is a famous tree for woodworking. There is a misconception that the tree only does well in higher elevations, but that is not true. It thrives in Florida despite its low elevation. The hot and humid Florida summers are great for these trees. 

The exotic tree is suitable for providing shade with its umbrella-like canopy. The Koa tree looks excellent in a tropical-themed landscape, including palm, banana, and red flowering trees

Koa trees do not require much care. But growers should ensure that it gets adequate moisture. 

Other Common Names: Acacia Koa

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 feet tall and 20 – 40 feet wide

Flowering Season: Occasionally or year-round

5. Breadfruit Tree (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit Tree
Image by Scot Nelson via Flickr

Through the Caribbean and Oceania, people prize breadfruit trees. The tree’s fruit provides a reliable source of healthy carbohydrates and is easy to grow. Many nostalgic Floridians with tropical roots attempt to grow this generous tree with varying degrees of success.

But you don’t have to grow breadfruit trees for their food; it makes a lovely landscape tree. It is incredible if you get some breadfruits from it, but you won’t regret having it in your tropical landscape. The breadfruit tree boasts enormous dark green leaves that are shiny, leathery, and thick.

Breadfruit trees need a lot of humidity. Such will not be a problem in Florida, especially from May through October. Also, they do better in good quality, rich soil that drains well. Breadfruit trees like moist soils. If your soil is on the sandy side, which is common in Florida, adding lots of compost to the soil will help.

Other Common Names: Kamansi, Camansi

USDA Growing Zones: 9B – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 70 feet tall and 20 – 30 feet wide

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

6. Noni Tree (Morinda citrifolia)

Noni Tree
Image by Scot Nelson via Flickr

Noni tree is common in tropical zones because of their health benefits. I selected this tree because of its extensive, lush, glossy, and beautiful foliage. But, unfortunately, it produces a fruit with a horrible vomit-like odor.

If the smell does not bother you, then you will not be disappointed by this easy-to-grow and visually attractive tropical tree. You can use noni trees for hedging or as a specimen trees.

Noni trees can tolerate a wide range of soil types. But it needs full sun for the best growth and fruiting. Deep shade will decrease flowering and fruiting. But that is not entirely bad if you are not interested in the stinky fruit.

Other Common Names: Great Morinda; Indian Mulberry; Beach Mulberry; Cheese Fruit

USDA Growing Zones: 11 – 12

Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 20 feet tall and 10 – 20 feet wide

Flowering Season: Year-round

Available at: Nature Hills

7. Cassia Tree (Senna polyphylla)

Cassia Tree
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Cassia tree is an excellent flowering tree that offers a lush tropical vibe to the landscape. It produces lots of bright yellow flowers for many months. The flowers come out in spring and then again in fall. Besides its flowers, the green compound leaves are eye-catching.

You can use a cassia tree as a centerpiece if you have a circular driveway. But that isn’t the only spot for it. Use the cassia tree as a specimen to liven-up up any site with plenty of sunlight.

Cassia tree needs watering once or twice weekly during the first year. After that, it will do fine with only rainfall. Just make sure that the top three inches of the soil remain moist.

USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 12 feet tall and 10 – 12 feet wide

Flowering Season: Spring and Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

8. Seagrape Tree (Coccoloba uvifera)

Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera)
Images by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Seagrape is a beautiful small tree with large, thick, rounded leaves. In addition, it produces clusters of red, grape-like fruits. Though the fruits are not actual grapes, they are edible and have a sweet taste similar to muscadine grapes. 

Seagrape is native to the coastal areas of Central and South Florida. The tree is so valuable that the Department of Environmental Protection prohibits destroying or consuming those growing on the shoreline. 

You can use seagrape to add texture and color to the landscape. The young growth is red, and the mature bright green foliate has red veins. The tree also features small cream-colored flowers which bloom in long clusters. 

Seagrape requires little maintenance. As it is native to the coastline, it is tolerant of salt. The tree does well in sandy, well-drained soil and needs full sun. 

Other Common Names: Baygrape

USDA Growing Zones: 10A – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 35 – 50 feet tall and 20 – 30 feet wide

Flowering Season: Spring to early summer

9. Ylang – Ylang Tree (Cananga odorata)

Ylang Ylang
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

Ylang-ylang is one of the most fragrant tropical trees you can grow in Florida. The beautiful and soft fragrance of its yellow flowers will make you want to spend a lot of time in your landscape. The creamy scent is like a mixture of jasmine and sweet custard apple. I recommend planting it near a window or patio to benefit from the aroma. It takes about 3 to 4 years before trees start to flower.

Ylang-ylang features a thick canopy of lush and dark green leaves. The color is stronger after prolonged rainfall, creating a jungle vibe to the landscape. Its fast growth is another significant benefit of planting ylang-ylang. It can grow over five feet each year.

This tropical tree enjoys regular watering. You should keep the soil moist, down to 2 inches, but never saturated. You can plant it in full to partial sun. Finally, the heat and humidity of Florida will allow this Southeast Asian native to thrive in most Central and South Florida landscapes with few setbacks.

Other Common Names: Cananga tree

USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 feet tall and 30 – 50 feet wide

Flowering Season: Year-round

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

10. Graceful Bamboo (Bambusa textilis gracilis)

Graceful Bamboo
Image by NatJLN via Flickr

Bamboo is the quintessential jungle tree. Add them to the landscape to create a tropical or Asian vibe. They thrive on neglect and give far more than they take. Graceful bamboo is relatively cold hardy, so North Florida landscapers should also consider growing it.

Graceful bamboo offers the landscape a lush, green natural screen. You can use it to block out noise or unpleasant views. As the tree matures, it develops a graceful arching habit – hence the common name.

One fantastic feature of graceful bamboo trees is their rapid growth. It will reach 25 feet tall in two to three years. Few other trees can do this.

Graceful bamboo does well in full sun. A mixture of sand, silt, and clay is excellent for its growth. Young trees need a lot of water to fuel their rapid growth. I’d recommend watering it every other day during the first year.

USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11

Average Size at Maturity:  20 – 25 feet tall and 4 – 8 feet wide

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

The Most Interesting Tropical Trees for Florida

This list is perfect for you if you want a lush tropical vibe in your landscape. This list has 11 distinct tropical trees with different features and offerings. 

The breadfruit and banana trees are tropical fruit staples but offer remarkable and dramatic foliage. But also, my favorite, Ylang-ylang, has hypnotizingly fragrant yellow flowers and lush dark-green greenery. 

Also, in much of Florida you can plant outside reliable houseplants such as schefflera and dragon tree. They will grow much taller than indoors and will give your landscape a tropical feel.

All these trees will grow well in South Florida and just some in Central Florida. If you don’t already know Florida’s USDA cold hardiness zones, I recommend that you figure out which one is yours so your plants will thrive year-round.  

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Kenique Ivery

Global Green Thumb

Kenique grew up in Florida and currently lives in southern China. Before China, he spent many years in Portugal and the Caribbean. He studied economics and is a teacher, entrepreneur, and writer. Since he was knee-high, he has been gardening and was an active member of FFA (Future Farmers of America). He is his best self in a densely wooded forest or park. Depending on the day, you can find him reading, hiking, traveling, exercising, sipping lots of tea, or eating everything in sight.

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