Go 'troppo': bold tropical plants for a colourful garden

Tips for growing a tropical garden in any backyard

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A colourful bird of paradise. Picture: Shutterstock.

A colourful bird of paradise. Picture: Shutterstock.


The key to designing an exciting tropical landscape is through effective plant selection.


Tropical landscapes are quite easy to create even in a temperate climate and you don't have to play by the rules to achieve effective results.

The key to designing an exciting tropical landscape is through effective plant selection, which can be achieved without having to rely totally on tropical plants.

Go big and go bold by selecting plants with large vibrant leaves, bright flowers, and differences in foliage colour.

Plants with broad or strap like leaves, variegated foliage, coloured foliage, palm-like appearance and ferns can all add to the element of a tropical effect.

Large foliage plants create optical scale that feels tropical.

Try plants such as colocasia, also known as elephant ears, strelitzia nicholi, bird of paradise or ensete ventricosum "maurelii", also known as the red Abyssinian banana, with wonderful red tones on the leaf underside.

Most indoor plant species originate from sub-tropical regions, so they are perfect for creating a tropical effect in the landscape understorey. Codiaeum vareigatum, ctenanthe "silver star", Philodendron "Xanadu", Dracaena and Cordyline are excellent selections for a tropical landscape.

Tropical gardens also rely on colour to create drama. Bromeliads make the perfect choice as their bold foliage colour can be striking in the understory or mounted in the forks of trees for dramatic effect.

Iresine herbstii commonly called bloodleaf, is another beautiful foliage plant that can break up the hues of green amongst other foliage plant selections.

For something a little more unusual dichorisandra thyrsiflora the blue ginger from Brazil is perfect for those shady moist areas amongst ferns and palms.

The key to creating a lush tropical garden is by planting in layers and defining the living and entertaining areas of the landscape.

Tall plants mixed with medium size shrubs and a ground layer of plants will help create the desired effect.

In most tropical gardens palms form the structural element of the garden, but other plants are just as suitable such as clumping bamboos or small trees including frangipani and Queensland umbrella tree.

Let the imagination run and wild and go "troppo".