Seeing Red in the Tropical Fall Garden

Is any color better than red to evoke the tropics in a garden?  The color red screams loudly above all of the more civilized hues, grabbing your attention and holding it there.  It can be a little much for some gardens, but not mine.  When it comes to flowers, red is my color of choice!

I mean, just look at this emerging sleepy hibiscus bloom!  Not only are hummingbirds drawn to them, but so are painted buntings, and they're pretty colorful themselves!  I just have to add that none of these photos were altered, and they really are this vivid and bright.

How can you go wrong with flowers as saturated as this bottlebrush?  Well, besides the obvious appeal of red flowers, there are plenty of other reasons I mostly use this color.

In a rainforest, any plant that plans on getting noticed by pollinators had better stand out against the overwhelmingly green backdrop of the jungle.  While lots of colors get the job done, red must do really well if the amount of red flowers in the tropics is any indication!

Another thing about a real rainforest is that it really is mostly green, and not at all like what we would see in a garden.  Instead of massed 'paint by number' planting schemes, I think its more dramatic to let a bold and unique flower stand out against the lush greenness as an exclamation point.  I don't have a huge variety of flowers, but I feel that the ones I do have pack a punch.

I also want to note that while red is the predominant color right now in my garden, in early spring you would find the cotton candy pink of azaleas in the front yard and the crisp yellow of a tabebuia in the backyard, with no red to be found!  I think its important to plan your color schemes by season, remembering that different plants flower at different times of the year.  I especially like red for the summer, since the blaring mid day sunlight seems to wash out all the other colors.

Of course, its always fun to mix it up a bit with a complimentary orange hue here and there too!  I even use the purple of tibouchina at the edge of the garden so the cooler color recedes. 

So what are your favorite colors in the garden?


  1. Red is certainly a popular color in the garden. It's also popular with the bees. I have a few plants with red blooms, but there aren't too many, especially after one of my miniature roses died. Horribly.

    I decided on a silver, gold, and purple theme for my front garden since I can find a large variety of plants that fit into one color or another and still take the drought and heat. I could have used red instead of purple, but purple makes for a good complement to silver and gold which were the critical colors to use. I think yellow is probably my favorite color in the garden, but honestly, they're all good colors.

    Bright, warm colors definitely help with a tropical garden!

    Also, I was meaning to bring this up. I don't know if you've ever seen the episode of "Gardening by the Yard" where Paul James visits a tropical garden in Portland, OR. Here's a link to some of the plants used in that garden:

    The garden was pretty awesome and very smart. You might already know about all the plants, but after watching the episode, I badly want Echium pininana.

  2. Great photos of your tropical reds. My new bottlebrush has been growing like crazy but hasn't had blooms since mid-summer. I'm a little jealous:)

  3. Ok what's the plant in the 4th picture? Up against the wooden fence? I love it!

    As for my fav green and more green. But a bit of red and orange thrown in helps things pop!

  4. Notsoangryredhead:
    Your color scheme is a tried and true winner! Purple is complementary to gold/yellow, so it makes an awesome counterpoint. I don't have cable and have managed to watch a couple episodes on hulu, but I need to see if that one's online. I think echium is more appropriate to the northwest, maybe just because those are the only gardens I've seen it in.

    Mine has bloomed several times but I was never there to witness it... Gardening away from home has plenty of disadvantages. I hope yours blooms soon, and I think more green growth is better for the health of the tree anyway!

    Danger Garden:
    That's Russelia, or Mexican firecracker! I'm sure it would be a fit for your garden, and supposedly it comes back in zone 8. Mine didn't even flinch, maybe just because of its siting. I bet the fine texture would look great in your garden!

  5. What's the last plant? Some kind of bird of paradise? I love that color combination.

  6. Ryan:
    Love your blog's design! Anyways, the last plant is a heliconia "costa flores" that managed to overwinter the 20 degree nights this winter. It was planted against the house and I covered it with a tarp... and it came right back!

  7. thanks for the design compliment but I can't take credit, it's a canned theme. I like to think I know good design but that's about the extent of my visual design skill. I'm a programmer so for me good design is about architecture and relationships, contracts and communication. seems like that must be applicable to gardening somehow... crap, deep thoughts before bed time, I'm ruined.

  8. Ryan:
    Well, good taste in canned templates anyways! Wise words on blog design. I think a visually appealing blog is really important to initially appeal to people, but those virtues you mentioned are what make the site meaningful in the long term. Thanks for visiting!

  9. Red red red, definitely red for me too.

  10. wow these shots are awesome. I am thinking of planting some low growing red flowering plants in my succulent rock garden. They need to like to be dry and hot. Got any ideas?

  11. Evelyn,
    Good taste!

    I know I've seen salvia that can take it before... also, there are different types of erythrina or coral bean that would do well, though maybe they're not so low growing unless pruned.


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