How To Create A Tropical Garden

Want to make every day feel like a holiday? Spend plenty of time outside in a shady spot, with only the sound of native wildlife and the crash of a wave on a distant reef to distract you? With a few simple tricks this tropical feel is possible in any home, no matter how far away it is from the beach. Palms are a perfect way to recreate your favourite tropical destination. Big leaves of over-reaching plants will create a cocooning canopy and hug any seating area. Throw in some colourful flowers and foliage and before you know it, you’ll be drifting off to the Pacific isles.

Take a look at the elements of a tropical style and incorporate one or more into your garden.[/vc_column_text]

Timber deck with built-in fire pit; daybed by the pool; water feature
Establish Your Outdoor Oasis

To help you bring your exotic escape to life use plenty of timber. Australian hardwood timber is a durable and attractive flooring solution for outdoors. It requires minimal maintenance and lends a tropical feel to any outdoor room. Warm, natural brown hues also look stunning when paired with lush green foliage.
A blissful scenario can be created by simply setting up an outdoor living room on your deck or patio. Low-slung seating will set a casual tone for informal parties and gatherings, especially if teamed with a mix of floor pillows and chairs to lounge about on. If there is limited space, consider hanging a hammock under a swaying palm to create an instant holiday feeling. Use timber or cane-framed mirrors to amplify the light. If a mirror can reflect palm fronds and other foliage so much the better.
Water in any garden has magical visual and soothing auditory qualities but if you don’t have space for a pool and ocean views aren’t your reality, add a water feature surrounded by tropical gardens. The tranquil sound of trickling water is a soothing addition to any tropical abode.

Palms of Paradise

The secret to creating a lush look is to use different-sized palms to create a three-tiered effect. For a tall palm, you can’t look past an Alexander or Bangalow.
Alexander palms are fast-growing natives, feature lush foliage and produce large creamy-white flowers and small red fruit in autumn. Bangalow palms are fast-growing natives as well, their shallow roots make it perfect for planting near pools. Hanging bunches of mauve flowers and fruit appear summer through to autumn.
Majestic palms are a happy medium with bright green symmetrical leaves and slightly swollen base.
Cascade palms are great for completing the lower parts of your tropical garden. This Mexican shade-loving palm is hardy and happy indoors and out. Perfect for under planting to fill out your tropical garden.

Extra Tip: They key to establishing lush, happy palms (especially in autumn and winter) is to keep their roots warm with layers of mulch and manure. Palms love organic matter, so for best results mulch with enriched cow manure, tea tree mulch or Organic Active 8 Soil Improver and Planting Mix. Fertilise fortnightly from spring to autumn. Use a liquid organic fertiliser. Bigger palms can be fed organic, slow-release fertiliser. Give any dead leaves a snip. Recycle the leaves by shredding them and use as mulch for your palms.

Say It With Flowers And Foliage

To really give your garden that tropical touch, mix it up with exotic, vibrant foliage and flowers, which will add bursts of colour and create contrast and drama. There are many colourful plants that love shade.

Cordylines are a tough plant that will enhance the tropical flavour of your garden. You’ll be tickled pink by the fuchsia shades of cordyline rubra and cordyline fruticosa ruby. Or for a splash of lime, try the cordyline fruticosa kiwi.
With their symmetrical foliage and multitude of colours, bromeliads make for fascinating plants. They don’t even have to be planted in the garden – they’re equally happy attached to tree trunks or in pots. Guzmania will give you a beautiful flower or if it’s wow-factor you want, plant the giant bromeliad, alcanterea.
If you’re looking for a colourful flowering plant for your tropical garden, clivia should be at the top of your list. Its orange trumpet flower will brighten your garden from late winter to early spring.
In spring, plant New Guinea impatiens or regular impatiens in your tropical garden. Their big flowers will give your tropical garden a pop of colour right through to autumn.

Add scent

Heady perfumed flowers are an intrinsic element of subtropical gardens and can be extremely evocative. The sweet summer scent of the frangipani is unmistakeable and is an iconic symbol of tropical gardens around the world, including Australia.
Other popular scented flowering plants include gardenia, jasmine and ginger, but don’t just think flowers when considering scent in your garden. The leaves of plants, such as cardamom, lemon-scented myrtle, lavender and rosemary, are a fragrant treat when planted along pathways.


  • 06/11/2020

    Juliet Thomas

    Hi there – I’m rather taken with your Bellvue Hill project that has been featured in Houzz and Inside Out. I’m trying to figure out what species you have planted in front of the wooden screen, adjacent to the fire pit. It looks like it could be a Phormium (Houzz mention Phormium Bronze Warrier), but it looks more upright and stiffer than most flaxes I have seen. Can you advise what it is please?

    • 10/11/2020


      Hi Juliet, yes that’s a fantastic project.
      These plants are actually Dracaena marginata.
      Let us know if you have any more questions.
      Kind regards
      The Growing Rooms Team

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