Planting a Garden With Purple Tropical Flowers

Updated on April 25, 2019
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The author lives in a quiet rural community in lower Puna on the Big Island. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.

Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia sp.) flowers in various purple color phases.
Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia sp.) flowers in various purple color phases. | Source

Purple is a fascinating color! It exudes mystical, sensual energy, yet signifies power, wisdom, and creativity. Artistically, it’s the combination of the two primary colors red and blue. Depending on how much red or blue is in the mixing, there’s an infinite number of purple shades: lilac, mauve, amethyst, violet, lavender, etc.

Gardeners also have an astounding array of purple flowers to choose from for planting. Roses, tulips, irises, pansies, wisteria, and hydrangea are some garden plants that are well-known (and beloved!) for their purple variation.

When it comes to tropical flowers, however, purple is somewhat a scarcity! Most tropical plants produce flowers in red, pink, yellow, or even white, but rarely in purple. Nevertheless, there are a few extraordinary purple tropical flowers that you can plant in your garden. These purple beauties are not only unique but also stunning to look at!

The photos in this article were taken at the author's and other private gardens located in the lower Puna district on the Big Island of Hawaii (USDA plant hardiness zone 12b).

Clockwise from left: Purple Vanda orchid, Zygonisia 'Blue Birds' orchid, Cattleya 'Blue Hawaii' orchid.
Clockwise from left: Purple Vanda orchid, Zygonisia 'Blue Birds' orchid, Cattleya 'Blue Hawaii' orchid. | Source

Orchid, Vinca, and Wishbone

Of all the tropical plants in the world, orchid takes the lead for having the most numerous purple varieties. Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, and Cattleya orchids are known to have beautiful, long-lasting purple blooms.

For bedding or groundcover planting, vinca and wishbone flower are the best choices. They look fantastic when planted together, creating a spectacular carpet of contrasting pale violet and dark purple.

Wishbone Flower (Torenia sp.) 'Ola'a Beauty' is a perfect choice for planting beds or borders.
Wishbone Flower (Torenia sp.) 'Ola'a Beauty' is a perfect choice for planting beds or borders. | Source
Clockwise from left: Vinca or Madagasca Periwinkle (Catharanthus sp.), Chinese Violet (Asystasia sp.), Mexican Petunia (Ruellia sp.) all have lovely purple varieties.
Clockwise from left: Vinca or Madagasca Periwinkle (Catharanthus sp.), Chinese Violet (Asystasia sp.), Mexican Petunia (Ruellia sp.) all have lovely purple varieties. | Source
Blue Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) loves moist, shady areas. Its bluish purple blooms make long-lasting cut flowers.
Blue Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) loves moist, shady areas. Its bluish purple blooms make long-lasting cut flowers. | Source

Sandpaper Vine and Purple Passionflower Vine

For trellis and fences, sandpaper vine is a must! In the summer, it blooms profusely and covers the whole trellis/fence with clusters of dainty lavender color flowers. Another excellent choice is the purple passionflower vine with its heavenly scented blossoms! But beware, like most passionflower vines, it is a prolific climber and will quickly take over anything it can reach, including nearby trees, rooftops, power poles, etc.

Sandpaper Vine (Petrea volubilis) is native to tropical Americas. It's also called Purple Queen's Wreath Vine.
Sandpaper Vine (Petrea volubilis) is native to tropical Americas. It's also called Purple Queen's Wreath Vine. | Source

Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow, Bougainvillea, and Hibiscus

For hedges, the Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow is an attractive shrub. Its name is inspired by the flower’s life-cycle colors. When it first blooms, the flowers are bluish purple, then gradually change to various shades of violet, then becoming pure white before falling off the branches.

Bougainvillea and hibiscus are other tropical plants ideal for creating a "green" privacy fence or border (as seen in many gardens in Hawaii). Hibiscus has dozens of cultivars that produce large, showy purple flowers, blending with other exotic hues on their petals.

In Hawaii, purple plumeria is quite rare and not commonly seen in home gardens or parks. There are a few hybrids that produce exquisite lilac purple flowers. They are highly sought after by plumeria enthusiasts and collectors.

Hibiscus 'Voodoo Doll' has pale violet petals with yellow fringe and burgundy center.
Hibiscus 'Voodoo Doll' has pale violet petals with yellow fringe and burgundy center. | Source
Bougainvillea is a sun-loving shrub, good for planting as a hedge.
Bougainvillea is a sun-loving shrub, good for planting as a hedge. | Source
Bromeliad 'Blue Tango' produces a tall flower stalk with grape color blossoms.
Bromeliad 'Blue Tango' produces a tall flower stalk with grape color blossoms. | Source

Patios, Terraces, Water Gardens, and Fish Ponds

For the patio or terrace, bromeliad, ti, anthurium, and coleus can be planted in pots or containers. Many of these typical tropical plants have striking leaf patterns and pretty flowers in light to deep violet colors.

For the water garden or fish pond, hardy waterlily comes in many different purple hybrids. Water hyacinths are also a great choice, as they are known for their delicate pale lavender flowers that resemble irises. These aquatic plants are easy to care for and can live happily in just a large pot filled with water!

Anthurium 'Purple Heart'.  Anthurium is the most favorite shade garden plant in Hawaii.
Anthurium 'Purple Heart'. Anthurium is the most favorite shade garden plant in Hawaii. | Source
Waterlily (Nymphaea sp.) attracts bees and dragonflies to a water garden.
Waterlily (Nymphaea sp.) attracts bees and dragonflies to a water garden. | Source

Some tropical plants are famous for their gorgeous purple foliage instead of flowers! Persian Shield is an example. Their shiny silver-purple leaves will brighten up any corner of the garden. Calathea is another species known for their beautiful white, green, and purple variegated leaves. These shade-loving plants are low-maintenance and often used as houseplants.

As a houseplant, Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) prefers bright, filtered sunlight to keep its foliage color.
As a houseplant, Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) prefers bright, filtered sunlight to keep its foliage color. | Source
Clockwise from left: Elegant foliage of Calathea 'White Tiger', Princess Flower (Tibouchina sp.) in royal purple, Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) blossoms last only one day.
Clockwise from left: Elegant foliage of Calathea 'White Tiger', Princess Flower (Tibouchina sp.) in royal purple, Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) blossoms last only one day. | Source

Did You Know?

  • Because purple is a composite of red (power) and blue (royalty), it has always been associated with nobility, wealth, and privilege.
  • Purple is a “cool” color. So planting purple tropical flowers in a sunny, hot area will visually reduce the sun intensity and give the garden a cooling, soothing effect.
  • Mixing purple tropical flowers with other flowers in "cool" colors like white or blue will magically transform the garden into a dreamy, romantic landscape, especially in the evening before sunset.
  • Purple, yellow, and orange are complementary colors. Grouping flowers in these colors together will make the garden looks more vibrant and eye-catching.

If you live in a temperate climate, all the purple tropical flowers and plants featured in this article can be grown in pots/containers, so that you can move them indoors for protection during the cold winter season.

Tropical flowers prefer well-drained, humus-rich soil and plenty of moisture. Regular feeding and watering will keep them blooming again and again.

Left: Giant Spider Lily (Crinum sp.) with their  extremely fragrant reddish purple blooms. Right: Angelonia (Angelonia sp.) flower looks like orchid and smells like jasmine.
Left: Giant Spider Lily (Crinum sp.) with their extremely fragrant reddish purple blooms. Right: Angelonia (Angelonia sp.) flower looks like orchid and smells like jasmine. | Source

What image comes to your mind when you hear the word "purple"?

See results
Purple passionflower vine (Passiflora sp.) is a fast grower that can cover an entire trellis in a very short time! The alien-looking flower emits a strong, exotic perfume to attract pollinators.
Purple passionflower vine (Passiflora sp.) is a fast grower that can cover an entire trellis in a very short time! The alien-looking flower emits a strong, exotic perfume to attract pollinators. | Source

All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and an iPhone 6.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Viet Doan

    Comments

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      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        2 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hello, Viet, actually. But these can not equate the natural organic scents. I am also afraid I'll get cancer of the nostrils by smelling these chemicals! Lol! And enjoy the week.

      • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

        Viet Doan 

        2 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

        Aloha Elayne and Miebakagh! So glad you're enchanted by the purple tropical flowers. Wish you could smell the incredible fragrant on some of them! May be one day in the future, with advanced technology, we can actually "smell" flowers on our computer screen!

      • elayne001 profile image

        Elayne 

        2 months ago from Rocky Mountains

        My favorite color! Love the purple hibiscus! Very beautiful pictures and great article.

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        2 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hello, Viet, with such beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing a lovely informative article. Enjoy the week.

      • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

        Viet Doan 

        2 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

        Always good to hear from you Liz! Oh yes, Provence's lavender fields come to my mind too! But I also dream about the purple flowers in your neck of the woods like allium, larkspur, delphinium, aster. I imagine those are a must in any UK cottage garden. Happy spring!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        This is a beautifully illustrated article. You are very fortunate in living in a climate where these flowers flourish. Purple for me brings to mind fields of lavender in Provence.

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