Creating a tropical feel in your outdoor space might seem tricky for those of us who live in colder climates. However, there are plenty of ways to bring about that sunny, exotic feel even if you’re a long way from the actual tropics. From choosing the right plants to adding finishing touches like ornamental features and furniture… let’s discover some awesome small tropical garden ideas to get you started.
Plants are VERY important in creating a tropical garden. We want to create a lush, green environment that feels vibrant yet natural and relaxing.
In order to keep that green feel throughout the year, we’ll need to start with some evergreen plants. While evergreens might not always look at their best through the winter, they will at least sustain a feeling of life and make the garden more inviting.
Bamboo can be great for adding some instant height and structure. It also acts as a nice screening plant, helping you to forget your immediate surroundings and transport you away. Also, look for varieties with interesting coloured stems – such as Phyllostachys Aureosulcata with its golden canes or Nigra, with its intense black canes.
Palm trees are another great starting point, and there are many that will be happy in colder climates yet still give that tropical look. The Washingtonia Robusta, Chusan Palm or Canary Island Date Palms are all good options. While palm trees can get very big, most are quite slow growing and can also be grown in containers in smaller spaces.
Ferns are another fantastic choice, which will add structure and interest all year round. Many ferns are even happy in shady areas, with their feathery fronds, which are often evergreen.
For a spectacle, specimen plant, how about a banana tree? Ok, so it’s unlikely that you’ll actually get any fruit in colder climates, but there are hardy varieties that give a great tropical look with their huge leaves – sometimes around a metre long.
Otherwise, look for plants and shrubs that have interesting shapes and textures and also deep green, glossy leaves that might not look out of place in the jungle. Things like Hostas and Azaleas are great in borders. Also, look out for Colocasia (Elephant Ears), Cordyline australis (Cabbage Tree), Umbrella Plants, Yukas and Canna Indica.
Once you’ve added plenty of greenery, it’s time to add some bursts of colour with tropical flowers. Of course, there are many ways to add colour with flowers, but what we’re really looking for here is some tropical ‘wow factor’.
African Lillies are herbaceous perennials that produce tall, violet blue flowers – sure to get some attention.
Bird of Paradise is another exotic stunner that is sure to be a talking point for guests, with its bright orange and blue flower – which literally resembles a tropical bird. Fine for the UK summer, but these will need to be brought indoors during the colder months though.
Passionflower is a spectacular climber – grow it up fences, walls or trellis and wait for the beautiful white or purple blooms.
Another good climber would be Morning Glory, although they can be a little tricky to get going. However, if you get a decent spell of sunshine then it’s well worth a try as they can bring some stunning colours and patterns to your garden.
It’s worth noting that you don’t actually have to choose flowers from far off lands for your tropical garden. There are actually many flowers that are native to colder climates that will look great. Just look for bright colours that contrast the surrounding green foliage and also interesting shapes and structures. Things like Fuchsia are hardy and stunning with pink and purple drooping flowers. Also, Clematis is a reliable flowering climber and comes in a huge range of colours.
Once you have a lush, green oasis and a selection of vibrant, exotic blooms, you might like to add some little extras to really set-off your tropical space.
In general, you might look at anything that wouldn’t look out of place in the jungle. So we’re talking about natural materials – stone, wood, rocks etc…
There’s nothing like the soothing trickle of water to ease your mind and help to make your garden space more immersive. Look for features that are natural in appearance – perhaps with a grey or brown stone appearance.
You could even install a small pond, which opens up a whole new world of design and planting possibilities. Make a mini wildlife pond for an easy, low maintenance option. If you’d like to really ‘push the boat’ out – sorry, pun intended! – then you could even make a small fishpond and adopt some Koi Carp.
You could add ornaments for extra interest in your tropical space, Look for wood carvings, stone sculptures or anything with an Aztec or even rain forest vibes. Bright colours can also work well, especially items that depict exotic creatures such as lizards, butterflies or humming birds.
How about this cheerful, yellow butterfly feeding station.
Once you’ve created your tropical garden, you’ll want to spend time immersing yourself and enjoying it. Don’t forget to add somewhere nice to sit and take it all in.
For a clean yet natural platform, wooden or composite decking is a great choice. If DIY is not your thing, then you could even simply place a few decking tiles on the ground.
Furniture is important too and if you want a consistent look then it’s worth shopping around for the right styles.
Besides finding some nice, comfy seating and a table to hold your cocktail, you might also like furniture for entertaining. Again, look for natural colours and style that wouldn’t look out of place in a jungle environment. You could accessorise with some funky cushions.
For a super relaxing, tropical experience though, how about a hammock?
Making your own tropical garden is a really fun way to theme your outdoor space – or even just part of it.
The main thing to get right is choosing the right plants. Once you’ve create a lush, green oasis with flowers that evoke a sense of the exotic, then you should be on the right track.
If you’re worried about plants that need a bit more protection through the colder months, then it’s also quite possible to use pots and planters. By creating a tropical container garden, you’ll be able to grow a wider variety of plants and still have to option to move them under cover when you need to.
We’d love to hear about your own tropical garden ideas. Have you managed to create an exotic paradise in your back yard? Perhaps you’ve even transformed a balcony into a miniature tropical jungle? Let us know in the comments below.