Suitable Plants for Bali Gardens

In Bali, the outdoor environment is considered just as much a part of the living space as indoor rooms. Outdoor rooms, like walled courtyards, are seamlessly connected to living areas by wide sliding doors. Terraced pools and gardens adjacent to buildings stretch the living space out into the landscape. In Balinese gardens, plants are used architecturally, to define and enclose space. With their varied colors and textures, they are used to furnish living rooms in the landscape.


Plants used to define the walls and boundaries of Balinese landscapes include trees and shrubs. Palm trees are useful vertical accents which can suggest columns or corner posts when used in a formal design. The tall, graceful Manila palm is a common component of Balinese gardens. The red sealing wax palm is a clumping variety with bright red crown shafts, which is often used as an accent plant. Golden areca palms are medium to tall, clumping palms with dense, bushy fronds. These palms are frequently used as a hedge or windbreak. Rows of flowering trees, which suggest walls or boundaries, are common elements in many Bali gardens. Plumeria trees are small to medium trees with rounded canopies, which produce pretty blossoms in red, pink, white and yellow. These highly fragrant trees are also planted as focal points in walled courtyards. Dwarf ponciana is a familiar tree in Bali gardens, which produces masses of brilliant orange or yellow flowers on a small, compact tree. Shrubs with dramatic foliage like crotons are used in Bali gardens to enclose space with wall-like hedges. A hallmark of Balinese design is a layered planting composed of plants of different heights, colors and textures. Other shrubs used this way include beefsteak plant with blood red, curly, disk-shaped leaves, purple false eranthemum, with fine, dense foliage, colored maroon purple and many varieties of bamboo.


The ground plane is defined in Bali gardens by areas of closely cropped turf grass surrounded, and punctuated, by carpets of colored ground cover plants of various heights. Low growing, red ivy is a often used adjacent to turf areas and as a dramatic background for plants with contrasting colors. Joyweed, with bright pink, yellow, or white foliage is another plant used to create a tapestry of color on the ground. Aluminum plant, with light green and silver speckled leaves, adds a certain luminescence to shady spots and is an ideal plant for moonlight gardens.


Plants that define overhead planes in Bali gardens include large vines supported on trellises that shade entryways and patios. Brightly colored bougainvillea vines are a mainstay of the Balinese landscape. These everblooming beauties frame windows, entryways and lanais. Thumbergia, with flattened tubular lavender, yellow or pink flowers, is often used to cover overhead trellises. The spectacular blue jade vine, another favorite trellis plant, produces huge clusters of blue green flowers resembling bird's beaks which hang down from their supports like floral chandeliers.

Keywords: Bali garden plants, tropical gardens, Indonesian gardens

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.