Flowers That Pack a Tropical Punch

Tropical flowers, sometimes referred to as exotics, are those that thrive naturally in tropical climates.  Favorite varieties include heliconia, ginger, pincushions, bird of paradise, orchids, anthurium and protea. These bright, eye-catching blooms make for unique arrangements that pack a powerful visual punch.

The Hula
This tall tropical beauty features ginger, heliconia, orchids and anthurium.

Unique Features

Tropicals are versatile flowers that make stunning arrangements on their own, or when combined with traditional blooms. As a rule, cut tropicals last longer than their more temperate relatives, usually 10 days to two weeks. Generally, tropicals feature bright colors and unique shapes not found in traditional varieties.

One of the most requested tropicals is bird of paradise. Aptly named, it resembles the plumage and beak of an exotic bird. It is sometimes confused with heliconia, particularly hanging heliconia. Both are staples in Lilium tropical arrangements, although heliconia is more readily available.

Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise
Hanging Heliconia
Hanging Heliconia
Heliconia is often thought to resemble lobster claws.

Anthurium is another favorite tropical. The heart-shaped, waxy leaf (spathe) surrounds a spike (spadix) that is actually made up of tiny flowers. The wide variety of color options range from white to green, pale pink to vibrant red.

Sourcing Options and Challenges

After extensive research and product testing, Lilium opts to purchase tropicals from growers in Hawaii. Compared with product from growers in Costa Rica, Columbia, and Indonesia, we have found Hawaiian tropicals to be fresher and longer lasting. In addition, Hawaiian farms focus on sustainable farming practices, including a state-wide ban on certain pesticides, to protect their natural resources.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature has targeted the Hawaiian islands in recent months, creating a major impact on their flower production. Lava flows from eruption of Mount Kilauea in May destroyed most of one of the largest orchid farms on the Big Island. Over 25 years of growth were quickly destroyed. Put into perspective, it takes an orchid two to three years to grow from a seedling to a mature plant. Recovery will take time.

As if the Hawaiian growers weren’t dealing with enough, Hurricane Lane is now bearing down on the islands. Rainfall to date is measured in feet, not inches. Maui, Oahu and Hawaii are being hardest hit, with flooding further damaging their flower farms.

What does that mean locally? Florists have had to seek out new resources. Some flower varieties, including tuberoses, are difficult to obtain at all. Of course, prices rise as the demand exceeds the supply. In short, tropicals are still available. We continue to receive shipments from Hawaii weekly. Be flexible, and allow the floral designers to create arrangements using the best florals and foliage available.

Orchids were among the crops hard hit by Hawaii’s volcano and flooding. Shown here, cymbidium orchids are paired with popular tropical protea and monstera leaves.

Versatile Use

Tropical flowers and foliage make beautiful vased arrangements, but why stop there? We love to mix and match tropicals with traditional blooms in a variety of designs. The completed look is always unique and eye-catching.

Tropical bridal bouquet
This one-of-a-kind bridal bouquet features plumeria, bird of paradise, ginger, pincushions and orchids, combined with traditional roses and greenery.
Sympathy easel sprays need not be traditional. This tropical spray features mokara orchids, ginger, anthurium, pincushions, oncidium orchids, monstera leaf and foxtail fern.

If a sunny tropical vacation is not in your immediate future, but you want to invoke the spirit of the islands, a tropical arrangement is a great option. Their unique shapes, stunning colors and fragrant blooms are sure to brighten your day.