How to Landscape Yards With Tropical Plants


Tropical plants are a natural addition to yards in subtropical and tropical climate zones, such as the very southern areas of the United States, Hawaii and other regions around the world. Because they're frost tender, they are not as suited to year-round growing in more northerly areas. But there are ways you can trick Mother Nature so your yard can have that tropical look and feel. Some plants that look tropical are relatively frost hardy and you can grow many tropicals in containers--keep them outdoors in the warmer months and move them indoors for the winter.

Step 1

Research your climate zone. If you live in USDA climate zone 8, for example, you'll have success with the Mexican fan palm, which is hardy down to 18 degrees F. Research the climate needs of tropical plants you like to determine if they might be good candidates for planting outdoors in your yard.

Step 2

Plot out the areas of your yard where you want to plant your tropical plants. Measure these areas and make a planning map of your yard on paper.

Step 3

Purchase tropical plants, or plants that have a tropical appearance, that will grow tall and others that will remain shorter. For example, palm trees generally grow tall in time, while hibiscus and gardenia bushes are shorter. Plan to plant your taller plants toward the rear of your property with the shorter plants in front of them.

Step 4

Dig compost into your planting areas at a ratio of one part compost to four parts topsoil. Follow your planning map and set your plants into planting holes slightly larger than their root systems. Be sure to leave enough space between plants, based on the size they will reach at maturity.

Step 5

Plant frost tender tropical plants such as orchids in pots with drainage holes. Use a standard potting soil for most plants, but choose orchid bark for those flowering tropicals.

Step 6

Spread a thick layer of mulch on the soil around your outdoor plants before cold weather arrives to keep the soil as warm as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Climate zone map
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil and paper
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Pots(s) with drainage hole(s)
  • Potting soil
  • Mulch


  • The Garden Helper: Average Date of Last Killing Frost
  • Sunset Magazine: Great Garden Features
  • Going Bananas

Who Can Help

  • Aloha Tropicals: Plant source
Keywords: tropical plants, landscape design, frost tender, hibiscus palm

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.