5 ways to have a tropical garden wherever you live

 1.  Evergreens
Nothing can shatter the illusion of a tropical getaway faster than a garden full of dead plants in winter!  By using evergreens like magnolias or hollies, you not only provide winter interest but also give your tender plants more protection from frost and drying wind.  If your zone is too cold for broad leaved evergreens, even conifers will do the trick.  Some recommended evergreen trees are pine, holly, feijoa, bottlebrush, magnolia, anise tree and wax myrtle.  For groundcovers try mondo grass, juniper or liriope. 

2.  Tropical tubers and bulbs
Even the coldest climates will provide a season for tropicals!  After the danger of frost has passed, plant tropical tubers like cannas, elephant ears and gingers in the ground until the next deep freeze.  If the ground doesn't freeze you can even leave many bulbs in the ground through the winter!  Plus, there are so many types of tropical tubers to choose from you're sure to surprise your neighbors! 

3.  Container gardens
Grow a portable tropical garden by using containers!  This way you can move your most tropical plants indoors when freezes threaten and enjoy them indoors too, so long as you give them a shady spot where leaves won't get burned.  You can even try sinking pots of bromeliads or succulents in the ground, covering the rims with mulch and popping them back out when it gets too cold.

4.  Iconic tropical plants
You know the ones; hibiscus, palms, monstera (pictured to the right), orchids, bromeliads, or bananas.  Use the plants that instantly make people think "tropical" and put them in prominent locations where they'll steal the show, or choose cold hardy substitutions.  Incorporate windmill palms in your garden, plant Chinese ground orchids or make a grove of Japanese fiber bananas.

5.  Cold hardy varieties
In South Florida you can grow weeping bottlebrush, australian tree ferns, bromeliads, parlor palm, philodendrons and tons more tropicals.  Why not grow their cold hardy counterparts like stiff bottlebrush, tasmanian tree ferns, Aechmea distichantha, radicalis palm and split leaf philodendron?  Rather than running outside every night to protect them from frost, you just get to relax and enjoy the show. 



  1. Great advice Rainforest Gardener. I like idea #3, especially the part about sinking them into the ground or in between other plants. I love the 1st photo. I enlarged it so I could drink in the simple beauty of the landscape...it's a very peaceful garden.

  2. I love the first picture too! Live oak tree, bromeliad, mondo grasses, ... fit together so nicely.

    Thanks for listing those plants in #4 and #5. That gave me something to think about when planning new plants in my garden.

  3. Great ideas. I love giving the tropical look to my garden too. We build portable "greenhouses" for our most tropical plants. Our birds-of-paradise survived this harsh winter with the aid of Christmas lights.

  4. What a great post. Thanks for wonderful ideas to still have a tropical look in the garden and yet be prepared for the occasional cold snap.

  5. #3 saved most of my tropicals and bromeliads from the freeze this year. Sometimes it is difficult to have a tropical garden even close to the tropics.

  6. Enjoyed it as always! For some variety in our selection of evergreens Simpson Stopper is a great shrub north of its native range along the coast.

  7. Thanks guys! I'll continue to post tips like these, since I have too many to put into one readable post. Owen, are you growing simpson's stopper up there? I've been looking for one but to no avail...

  8. Great tips! Along the lines of #4, I think that bold leaf shapes go a long way toward giving a garden a tropical look, which means plants that aren't technically tropical can play the part (ex: windmill palm).

  9. And here's a topical article by Tony Avent, proprietor of the fabulous Plant Delights Nursery: http://www.plantdelights.com/Tony/tropicals.html.

  10. I have a balcony and a terrace and that is where i do my gardening..Container gardening is what I mostly do.

  11. Thats Where I do a lot of my gardening too! Containers are also pretty manageable since you can move them around and hide them from the cold. :)

  12. Very excited about finding your blog and facebook page! Always loved tropicals but getting into them greater since moving from our farmhouse and the world of perennial gardening, to our condo/small garden and patio living!
    Mary Ellen in PA


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