Susi Torre-Bueno's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Sub-Tropical Plants for the Coast of Southern California.
Many hybrids and a few species available. Long-blooming, easy, good for cut flower arrangements, no insect problems. Tricolor is especially good with white flowers on tall stems.
Hawaiian Bamboo - Bambusa vulgaris vittata
A tall clumping bamboo with cream-striped green culms. Grows quickly in full sun and is very tropical looking.
Powder Puff Tree - Calliandra surinamensis
Surinam Powder Puff - great description in our tree book (photo is from my old house!). Blooms virtually every day of the year with red-tipped white flowers that look like pink puffs; the buds look like raspberries, and the new foliage is a lovely bronze shade.
Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus
The ancient Egyptians made paper from this tall reedy perennial. Can grow to 12' tall in full sun with lots of water, but adapts to drier conditions, too. Elegant, unusual, and very good in flower arrangements.
African Tulip Tree - Spathodea campanulata
African Tulip Tree - great description in our tree book. The amazing flower buds are filled with water and if you pinch off the tips they delight young and old alike when squeezed like a squirt gun. The open flowers are stunning, tree blooms when young and can be pruned to bloom low on the tree so the flowers are within reach and easy to see. Both orange and gold forms are available.
Princess Flower - Tibouchina urvilleana
Hawaiian Princess Flower has large violet flowers and fuzzy green foliage. Very tropical looking shrub for full sun to light shade near the coast.