Check out our resources for tips, tricks, and information on gardening with tropical and rare plants. The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) has more than 50 years of experience and expertise in propagating and caring for the world’s rarest plants. Learn from the experts and find out why choosing native plants for your home landscape saves plants, and people.
Help increase awareness about what threatens native flora and learn how we can save plants and people together. Read stories and explore free resources to get involved, or further critical plant conservation efforts with a gift of support.
Click below to open the plant care fact sheets for quick tips and guidance on growing tropical and rare plants at home. Native Hawaiian Plants:Brighamia insignis (Alula)Dodonaea viscosa (Aalii)Pritchardia hillebrandii (Loulu)Native Florida Plants:Eugenia rhombea (Red Stopper)Erythrina herbacea (Coral Bean)Cyrtopodium punctatum (Beeswarm)
Download this journal for general plant care tips and tricks. These excerpts are from our bi-annual member publication, The Bulletin Green Thumb Journal
Native plants! The best tropical or rare plants to add to your landscape are always those that are native to your area. Native plants require less water, pruning, attention and other resources than non-native, ornamental species. They also support local ecosystems and boost biodiversity by providing food, water, and shelter for other native species. If you choose to add non-native plants to your home garden, be sure to research the species beforehand to avoid planting something invasive or damaging to your local ecosystems. Check out our Plant Care Fact Sheets for some suggested species native to Hawaii and Florida.
According to the USDA, a native plant is “a plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem.”
The Hawaiian Islands are famous around the world for the high level of endemism—plants and animals found only in a specific location and nowhere else. Of Hawaii’s roughly 1,300 native plants, 90% of them are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Many are single-island endemics, for example, found only on Kauai or only on Maui. Others are restricted to a single valley, ridge, or other small geographic area.
Start with your local nursery. Ask them where you can find native species. Requesting and purchasing native plants increases the demand and likelihood our local nurseries will carry these important species. The more native plants nurseries supply and display, the more likely more people will choose native plants for their home gardens! NTBG’s gardens also host local plant sales, which are a great place to find plants native to Hawaii and Florida. Check out our events page for future plant sales.
Gardens absorb heat, helping to cool the area around your home during summer months and reducing your energy use. They also act as a sponge by absorbing stormwater runoff which can reduce the effects of flooding and erosion. Your increased greenery absorbs both sound and carbon dioxide, reducing noise and air pollution. Planting native plants attracts native animals like butterflies and birds by providing species with food, water and shelter. You can even add some vegetable crops to your garden and further reduce your carbon footprint.
Start small! Begin by choosing one section of your yard to convert. Come up with a plan. Map out the area and decide how many, and what kinds of plants you need. Head to your local nursery and ask them about their native plant section or research plants native to your area on-line. You’re creating a mini-ecosystem so choose plants that grow well together and serve different purposes.
Native plants grow well in Hawaii and are always the best choice for your yard. Other good choices include what we commonly refer to as ‘canoe plants.’ These plants were introduced by Polynesian voyagers and are well adapted to Hawaii’s climate. Their cultural significance and nutritional value also make them worthwhile additions to your home garden. Canoe plants include kalo, banana, coconut, sugar cane, turmeric, uala (sweet potato) and more. Check out our Plant Care Fact Sheets for some recommended native species to add to your home gardens or browse the list below.
Ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha)
Akia (Wikstroemia uva-ursi)
Wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis)
Pili Grass (Heteropogon contortus)
Ilima (Sida fallax)
Palapalai (Microlepia strigosa)
Pohinahina (Vitex Rotundifolia)
Pua Kala (Argemone glauca)
Akulikuli (Sesuvium portulacastrum)
Aalii (Dodonaea viscosa)
Tropical plants are plants found in tropical ecosystems across the world. Because of tropical regions’ warm climate and extended growing seasons, tropical ecosystems are some of the most biodiverse in the world.
NTBG’s Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the North Shore of Kauai is one of the most biodiverse valleys in the Hawaiian Islands. Home to dozens of endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on earth, Limahuli Garden and Preserve highlights native and culturally-significant species in an authentic Hawaiian landscape.
Here’s a list of native Hawaiian plants that do well in full sun:
Here’s a list of native Hawaiian plants that do well in full shade:
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