Fri. Jun 21st, 2024
Colorful Hawaiian hibiscus in the garden

Come take a stroll through a tropical garden with us. In this list you will find a collection of exotic flowers to dazzle your senses. From the iconic hibiscus flower and unique heliconia, to rainbow plumeria and the tropical bird of paradise, these Hawaiian tropical flowers will lure you to an island paradise full of heavenly fragrances and beautiful color. We have paired gorgeous photos of these stunning flowers with images of my Hawaiian flower paintings. The exotic blooms found in Hawaii are a huge inspiration for my art. I am so excited to share my love of these botanical masterpieces with you. Let’s get started!

Rainbow Plumeria Hawaiian Tropical Flowers

“Tropical Delight” rainbow plumeria oil painting by Karen Whitworth.

#1 Plumeria Flowers – Rainbow Plumeria

Rainbow plumeria are among the most beautiful Hawaiian flowers. They are full of beautiful color and for lack of better terminology, are just plain dreamy. One downside of the rainbow plumeria flower however, is that it does not smell nearly as good as the other plumeria varieties. Can’t win at everything, I guess!

On top of just being a beautiful tropical flower, Plumeria are known in the Hawaiian islands for their use in lei making. Plumeria leis are treasured not just because of their incredible beauty and soft foamy petals, but also for their heavenly sweet fragrance. This scent is one of the most pleasant fragrances I have ever had the pleasure to experience. While a plumeria lei is usually more expensive than it’s orchid counterpart, it is for good reason. These flowers surround the wearer in a cocoon of tropical goodness. While the scent is very noticeable, it has soft notes of cotton candy and subtle hints of a sweet rose.

Hawaiian tropical flowers plumeria flower

Photo of plumeria flower by Eleonora Patricola

Plumeria flowers come in a broad array of different colors and grow on large deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the winter. This bare tree is a puzzling sight for many who expect the tropics to be full of flourishing vegetation no matter the time of year. If you want to see lush Hawaiian flowering trees, we recommend May through July for the best floral display.

Hawaiian tropical flowers plumeria painting by Hawaii artist Karen Whitworth

“Heavenly Scent”

Hawaiian plumeria painting by Karen Whitworth

Though not endemic (native) to the islands of Hawaii, these flowering trees are such a special addition to Hawaiian gardens and landscaping. They have adapted quite well into the local environment and have become quite special to local culture.

#2 Hawaiian Hibiscus Flowers

No list of Hawaiian tropical flowers would be complete without the Hibiscus. This flower has become synonymous with all things tropical. Below is a collection of hibiscus images to bring you a little bit of that Aloha spirit.

Hawaiian tropical flowers Hibiscus photo

Hawaiian hibiscus by Paje Victoria

From the deep red hibiscus, to the rainbow hibiscus, there is an endless spectrum of hibiscus plant varieties and colors. Master growers the world over are expertly curating their creations to bring our various traits and characteristics. Many of these can be found in the tropical gardens and landscaping in Hawaii. You can see one such specimen in the image below.

Hawaiian tropical flowers Hibiscus painting by Hawaii artist Karen Whitworth

“Radiance” hibiscus painting by Karen Whitworth

The State Flower of Hawaii

Pua Aloalo

Hibiscus brackenridgei

The yellow hibiscus is the official flower of the state of Hawaii. It can be found on all Hawaiian islands except Niihau and is especially noticeable on Kauai in the Hanalei valley as you approach town. It grows quite tall there and borders on what some would even consider a tree as it towers over the road and nearby Hanalei river.

“Past Present Future” Painting of Hawaiian Yellow Hibiscus Flowers by Karen Whitworth

#3 Protea Flower

Hawaiian tropical flowers king protea by Jelle de Gier

King protea picture by Jelle de Gier

From the time of the dinosaurs…

These prehistoric flowers are not endemic to Hawaii and are another transplant to the islands. The arid volcanic soil and high elevation of the island slopes are the ideal growing environment for protea. I love how unique these exotic flowers are.

Tropical Hawaiian flower painting of pink protea

“Sunlit Protea” painting of tropical protea Hawaii flowers by Karen Whitworth

#4 Bird of Paradise

Hawaiian tropical flowers bird of paradise photo by Lili Kovac

Bird of Paradise photo by Lili Kovac 

From another planet…

I remember being fascinated by these flowers when I saw them for the first time. They were so otherworldly that my brain could not fathom such a being existing here on earth. These beautiful flowers are a staple in many Hawaiian gardens and they even can be seen growing in the median of various highways in Hawaii. The sight of such a rare exotic bird in an incredibly pedestrian setting still amuses me to this day.

Hawaiian tropical flowers bird of paradise painting by Hawaii artist Karen Whitworth

“If looks could kill” Bird of Paradise painting by Karen Whitworth

Excellent Fresh Flowers

The bird of paradise flower is excellent for fresh flower arrangements. Tropical florists will often use these stunning flowers in a variety of their floral creations. One of my favorite tropical flower sellers is Blooms of Hawaii. They not only sell gorgeous tropical flower arrangements shipped fresh to your door, but they also allow you to buy the fresh tropical flower stems individually. One of the many flower varieties they carry is the bird of paradise. I am not affiliated with them, I am very much a huge fan of their flowers. Be sure to check out their shop!

#5 Heliconia Flower

Hawaiian tropical flowers heliconia painting

The lobster claw flower

Heliconia is another flower that seems so bizarre to those who are not familiar with exotic plants. It would feel almost better suited to an episode of Star Trek than someone’s flower garden. Heliconia come in many varieties. My favorite is the lobster claw. This chain of colorful structures descend from a lofty stalk that can measure up to 4 feet long!

“The Gift” heliconia painting by Karen Whitworth

Want to see these tropical flowers for yourself?

If you ever find yourself on Oahu, be sure to schedule in a visit to Koko Head Botanical Garden. It is a huge outdoor playground for tropical plant lovers. Acres and acres of exotic flowers, trees, and shrubs line the long pathways. For an insider scoop, check out this article about the Koko Head Botanical Garden by my friend Sarah Etinas, Hawaii expert and general travel goddess. She gives you pro tips on how to make the most of your visit, like what to bring, when to go, and more. She has also launched an excellent new website for Hawaii visitors.


By Lala