Plants for a Tropical Garden

Tropical gardens are a colorful many textured delight for the eye. The secret to that seductive tropical look is in selecting the right combination of plants. Even if you don't live in the tropics, you can create a seasonal tropical garden by selecting plants which can be grown in containers or dug and stored over the winter.

Tropical Trees

Bananas (Musa spp.) are some of the hardiest tropical plants and can be grown in containers in areas with cold winters. The fiber banana is the hardiest of the species and can be over wintered outdoors where winter temperatures remain above 0 degrees F, with a deep layer of protective mulch, The flowering banana is an exotic looking small banana, which produces upright flowers in shades of pink, purple and red. Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) is a small tree native to Mexico, which produces pendant, sweetly fragrant, bell shaped flowers in yellow, pink or white. This tree thrives in full to partial sun in moist, rich soil and can be grown in large containers where winter temperatures are below 25 degrees F. Because it is mildly toxic, this plant should be kept away from small children and pets.

Tropical Shrubs

The versatile croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is an indispensable part of every tropical garden. This colorful shrub needs full sun, well drained soil and consistent moisture for optimal growth. Crotons can easily be grown indoors in containers in bright light. Many cultivars are available in different colors and leaf forms. New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) is a striking, colorful plant, with spikes of leathery, upright foliage. Cultivars are available in colors ranging from blue green to purple, and heights from 2 to 6 feet. The foliage of some varieties is beautifully variegated. New Zealand flax is hardy down to 40 degrees F and grows best in moist, well drained soil, in full sun. It can be grown in containers if kept slightly dry over winter.

Tropical Groundcovers

Caladiums (Caladium spp.) are low growing plants with brightly colored heart shaped leaves. They are ideal for tropical gardens in cold areas because their bulbs can be dug up and stored over winter. Caladiums need shade, shelter from hard winds and ample moisture. Varieties are available in many color combinations, including pink, white, green and red. Alocassias (Alocasia spp.) are low growing herbaceous plants with spectacular, large arrow shaped leaves. Cultivars are available in bronze, green and purple, and some varieties even have raised white veins and leaf margins. These shade loving beauties need partial to full shade in a sheltered location, rich soil and ample moisture. Some varieties have leaves up to 3 feet long. Alocassias grow from tubers, which can be dug up and stored in a warm place over winter.

Keywords: tropical garden, tropical look, tropical landscape

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.