Planting Ideas For A Tropical Style Garden

 In Garden Design, Uncategorised

Where better to relax on a hot summers day, than in a tropical style garden? Dan shares his recommendations for plants that will help you achieve the perfect look and feel for your outdoor space.

Tropical planting is all about making you feel as though Mother Nature has sent her favourite plants to give you a hug. It’s about height, lusciousness, big leaves, bold shapes and statement colours. Tropical planting creates cool, shady havens where humans and animals alike can escape from the beating sun and from chilly breezes. It basically, allows you to enjoy a luxurious, holiday vibe without having to catch a plane.

Layering the plants so that you have some tall, some mid-height and some at ground level ensure that you can be surrounded by profuse quantities of foliage. Mix and match. In a jungle garden there are few rules. Don’t be afraid to have some taller plants near the front of the border where you can appreciate their enormity.

Use winding paths and island beds to embrace the art of hide and reveal. By restricting the view from one end of the garden to the other, you get the feeling of more space.

So what plants are good at creating that tropical feel in a UK garden? Here are some of my favourites.

Clump Forming Bamboos

Bamboos are fabulously architectural plants that are just right for adding height and structure to a garden. Their densely packed stems will blur the boundaries of your garden, making it seem much larger.

Before investing in a bamboo or two, please be sure you are buying one of the clump forming varieties such as Fargesia Black Pearl. Running bamboos are devilishly invasive and have been known to sneak under fences and pop up in the neighbouring gardens.

If you’re at all worried, you can always sink a large container into the ground and plant your bamboo in that.

living wall system with water blade installed by SilverBirch Gardens of Somerset

A living wall is a great addition to a tropical style planting scheme. This one incorporates a water feature for wonderfully atmospheric sound effects.

The Japanese Banana (Musa basjoo)

For majestic foliage and impressive height, invest in a japanese banana plant. One of these can easily set the mood in your garden. They are evergreen perennials with the potential to grow up to 5 metres in height. The leaves are up to 3 metres long and arch gracefully to shade the ground and provide privacy.

If you want to control their size, plant them in a large pot. They’re great plants to have on your patio or beside a swimming pool.

These beauties are frost hardy to -15 degrees, so in Somerset’s mild climate probably won’t need winter protection. They will appreciate a good mulching though.

Top tip: Be careful where you plant them. The neighbours won’t thank your for blocking out their light.

Tree Ferns

Tree ferns can knock a bit of a hole in your budget, but in my opinion they are absolutely worth it. They offer height, texture, shade and have an almost primeval feel about them.

They’re incredibly easy to care for. All they want is damp soil and shelter from bright sunlight and drying winds. Come the winter, they’ll be grateful for plenty of insulation around their crown. Stuff hay or straw into the crown and wrap the trunk in layers of fleecy blankets and hessian to keep them cosy.

impressive lighting for a front garden with tropical planting scheme

Garden lighting can certainly accentuate that tropical look and feel. Take care to use warm coloured lights and then dim them and direct them carefully so as not to impact upon wildlife. The lower your garden lights, the better you will be able to enjoy the night sky.

Fatsia Japonica

I simply adore the shiny, hand-shaped leaves of Fatsia japonica. In fact you’ll often see these featuring in my tropical themed gardens. These evergreens are hardier than they look and will tolerate nearly every kind of weather the UK can throw at them.

Fatsia is a mid-height plant, normally reaching around 3 metres after 10 years. They are superb at shading the ground and allowing other exotics to thrive beneath their leaves.

Trachelospermum Jasminoides

I know, I know, the name is a bit of a mouthful but the plant is so worth it. This is an evergreen climber with deep green waxy leaves and a profusion of scented white flowers in summer time. Use it to disguise walls and fences, or train it over an archway or an arbour.

Canna Lilies

Wonderful foliage plants that die right back for the winter but spring up again once the soil starts to warm up. Lovely wide leaves that help create that lush, jungle look. As an added bonus, canna flowers are highly colourful and very exotic looking. They can be sensitive to frost so be sure to mulch them well in winter time.

Acanthus (Bear’s Breeches)

Another big-leaved plant with distinctive dark green foliage. What I love about these plants are their flower spikes. Reaching up to 6 feet tall with lovely purple flowers that are irresistible to bees. If you want your tropical style garden to resonate with the sound of happy insects, then Acanthus needs to be on your planting list.

Nandina Domestica Lemon-Lime

Also known as Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina is ideal for the base layer of your tropical style garden, this beauty grows to around 70cm in height and has zingy lime coloured leaves. 

beautiful garden

Vary the colours and textures in your border to maximise interest.

Viburnum Davidii

New planting schemes will, of course, involve spending money. So it’s good to mix and match a few investment plants with some that are equally lovely, but somewhat less exotically priced.

Viburnum davidii is available from most garden centres and grows will in almost any garden. It has deep green, waxy leaves and provides the perfect background to tropical style planting.

Choisya Ternata

The Mexican Orange Bush is another fuss-free evergreen shrub that complements tropical style planting beautifully. Wonderful foliage is adorned by fragrant white flowers in May. Underplant it with crocosmia tubers or colourful heuchera to accentuate that jungle lushness.

More Inspiration For A Tropical Themed Planting Scheme

Take a look at, or better still visit the Desert To Jungle nursery in Taunton where you will be amazed at the choice of plants available to you.

For a jungle themed garden makeover, I’d love to help you design a layout and planting plan. And if you are Somerset based, it would also be an honour to build it with you.

Call or email me to arrange a consultation.

Further Reading

Designing Tropical Themed Gardens

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sparrow drinking from a garden pond installed to help garden birds