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The Wonderful World of Tropicals

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Good morning, afternoon, or evening! Wherever and whenever this post finds you, we here at Swan's Water Gardens truly hope you are having a beyond exceptional day!

We wanted to start our blog off with a topic we know everyone is raving over this time of year- tropicals! There really isn't anything quite like bringing the tropics to your own backyard. Thankfully we have the ability to do that with our long, hot, and humid Summers.

The "George T. Moore" day-blooming tropical lily.

There is a wide variety of plants to choose from when building your tropical escape.

Although many of us strive to have perennial gardens in and outside of the Water Garden, we can't help but give our hearts to the tropicals. Their unusual colors, shapes, and textures win us over every time.

“Tropicals possess some very unique foliage and flower colors not found in hardy aquatic plants.”

One of the most exotic tropical marginal plants are the Taros. The best way to describe them is that Taros are the aquatic version of Elephant Ear plants. The size, shape, and colors of the leaves make them dramatic accent plants for any Water Garden. Taros are native to the tropics of Asia and prefer 65 degrees and warmer; they will grow in full sun but enjoy afternoon shade. They actually do better when they grow in the pond in the Summer, then are dried off and kept slightly damp indoors during the Winter. Taros prefer sand mixed with heavy clay, but will also grow along the edges of a stream planted in gravel. If you have the room, they are best planted in two or three gallon pots to maximize their growth. Special note: It is now found that Taros prefer to have aquatic fertilizer tablets each month; again to maximize their performance.

Black Magic Taro Silver-Leaf Taro Imperial Taro

  • The Violet-Stemmed Taro has green leaves with dark violet colored stems.

  • The Black Magic Taro has the most unique stems and leaves that are so dark they are almost completely black.

  • The Silver-Leaf Taro has green leaves and stems but develop silver veining in the large mature leaves.

  • The Imperial Taro has one of the most dramatic leaf effects; the variegated leaves are mixed colors of black leaves and green veining.


Sometimes known as the Indian Reed Flower, Water Cannas are specially bred to withstand being in water full-time. They are becoming more popular with the new variegated leaf varieties and the fact that they are repeat bloomers. They normally bloom from July to October and can be divided either in Fall before storing, or Spring before planting. You can cut off the spent blooms and they will bloom again and again!

Red "Endeavor" Canna Yellow "Native" Canna Bengal Tiger "Pretoria" Canna

  • Red "Endeavor" Cannas have dark green foliage topped with true red flowers.

  • Yellow "Native" Cannas have light green foliage topped with bold yellow flowers.

  • Bengal Tiger "Pretoria" Cannas have brilliant green and yellow striped broad foliage topped with beautiful orange flowers

  • "Watermelon" Cannas are dwarf versions with green foliage topped with pink flowers.


The Mosaic Plant is highly sought after for it's diamond-shaped foliage that forms a unique pattern floating on the water's surface, and can even produce small yellow blooms. They require very warm water and enjoy the heat of Summer.

Mosaic Plant __________________________________________________________________________________

The Papyrus plant is "old reliable" as they say, being exceptionally good at helping soak up access nutrients and prevent algae growth. They are easily maintained in pots without holes indoors during the Winter.

Papyrus Dwarf Papyrus Mexican Papyrus

  • The Dwarf Papyrus is 1'-2' of dense foliage above stiff stems. The golden green flower heads turn rusty bronze in the late Summer.

  • The Mexican Papyrus is 6'-8' and takes most of the Summer to achieve full height. Once grown it can be an awesome specimen.


The Umbrella Palm is another plant that is usually chosen for it's filtration qualities. It Winters indoors well in pots without holes by a sunny window. Can grow up to 4'-5' and features umbrella-like foliage above stiff stems. The Dwarf Umbrella Palm grows up to 1'-2' and is a small, narrow version with a more erect growing habit. It is compact and easy to grow. Both of which like partial shade and moving water.

Umbrella Palm Dwarf Umbrella Palm __________________________________________________________________________________ The Lotus' are a spectacular specimen featuring large vibrant blossoms and huge waxy green foliage. Revered in China as a food source and a sacred symbol. It's best to fertilize when it shoots upright leaves and continue until it's done blooming. Large 16"x7" pots make them easy to maintain and care for; they require shallow water in the Summer and deep water in the Winter. Sold as first year tubers and sometimes takes the second year to reach maturity. There are many varieties of Lotus, but here are some of our favorites.

Mono Baton Ben Gibson Albia Striata

Mrs. Perry D. Slocum Nucifera Pekinese Rubra

Rosea Plena Penelope

  • The Dwarf Lotus "Mono Baton" is extra small, it's leaves get 1'-3' tall and it blooms a carmine red double blossom (resembling a peony blossom); best suited for smaller water gardens or patio gardens.

  • The Semi-Dwarf Lotus "Ben Gibson" is medium size at 3'-4' tall with double pink flowers that lighten toward the middle of the bloom.

  • The "Albia Striata" Empress Lotus has large, unique white blossoms with pink-red edging and dark green contrasting foliage.

  • The "Mrs. Perry D. Slocum" has bold flowers that change gradually from rose-pink to yellow, held high above the foliage.

  • The "Nucifera" Hindu Lotus blossoms with creamy light pink petals edged with rose-pink held high above the foliage.

  • The "Pekinese Rubra" Red Lotus has unique cherry-red petals with white veining.

  • The "Rosea Plena" Double Rose Lotus has large double pink-red blossoms.

  • The "Penelope" lotus stands out with it's white-yellow bloom and dark green foliage.


Last, but not least, are the Tropical Lilies. They prefer warm weather and warm water.

Day bloomers open in the morning and usually stay open than hardies do in the afternoon. Night bloomers open in the evening and stay open until late morning. Both are great for day workers who miss out on their hardy lilies blooming throughout the day.

They usually have much larger leaves and blossoms compared to the hardies, but will not Winter over in the pond. They possess some very unique foliage and flower colors not found in hardies. Just like with the Lotus, there is quite the variety of tropical lilies, but we will highlight some of the top contenders.

Albert Greenberg Excalibur Green Smoke

Jack Wood Mrs. George C. Hitchcock Sturtevanti

Woods White Knight

  • The "Albert Greenberg" is a day bloomer that has light orange to apricot flowers that contrast with mottled light green foliage.

  • The "Exalibur" is a day bloomer that blooms profusely with long blue petals.

  • The "Green Smoke" is a day bloomer that has unique greenish, yellow flowers with purple tips.

  • The "Jack Wood" day bloomer has lime green foliage with fuschia/red blossoms tipped with purple.

  • The "Mrs. George C. Hitchcock" is a night bloomer that has hot pink , flat, large blossoms with bronze and green leaves.

  • The "Sturtevanti" is a night bloomer with huge intense pink blossoms that stand high above burgundy leaves.

  • The "Woods White Night" is a night bloomer that has large awe-inspiring pure white blossoms which contrast against bright green foliage.

_________________________________________________________________________________ Now that you have a decent idea of what kind of tropical plants are out there, we encourage you to pick your favorites and use them as an extension of your own personality and lifestyle. As we have witnessed first-hand, your pond is an every day player in the happiness and peace you experience, and the more personalized your pond becomes, the happier and more peaceful you will in-turn become.

Whatever you end up choosing for your water garden, any one of these magnificent tropical plants are sure to bring you hours of delight and beauty!

Above are examples of tropical aquatic plants, availablity can vary year to year.

Tropicals will be available at our retail garden center in Louisburg, KS serving the Greater Kansas City area. (Normally are available starting in May.) Call or text 913-837-3510 or email for availability and pricing. 3.21.23

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