Lush foliage, scented flowers and brilliant colors are trademarks of a tropical landscape. Most gardens are not in the tropics and have temperatures that dip far below what tropical plants could survive. You can create the look and feel of a tropical landscape, however, no matter where you live.
Turn any water feature into a tropical hidden grotto. Surround a pond with ferns, palm-like trees and vines. Keep the plants in their pots if they aren't hardy so they may be taken inside and grown as house plants if winters are cold. Sweet potato vine comes in both brilliant chartreuse and deep purple. It grows quite prolifically during warm months. Accent the pond's shady areas with bromeliads. These are true tropical plants--members of the same family as pineapples. The foliage is green with brightly colored bracts and flowers. It grows well inside under bright light. Finish the tropical look of the hidden grotto with cannas as a backdrop. Cannas grow from bulbs or may be bought as plants. They range in size from 36 inches to more than 5 feet. The leaves are large and oval-shaped and may be variegated, bronze or green. The flowers are full, resembling large gladiolus in bright colors of red, yellow and orange.
Choose a corner of the yard that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Cordon off the area on at least two sides with bamboo fencing attached to wooden posts for privacy and an air of mystery. If fencing already is in place, attach bamboo to the fencing with wire. Spread the area with white or light-colored sand. Place flat river rocks in dark colors in the corner to contrast with the sand. Grasses are often found in sand dunes and come in several sizes as well as colors of leaves. Place a large grass in the corner and two smaller grasses to each side. Scatter seashells on the river rock and a few in the sand. Add several pots of brilliantly colored flowers. Place a frond-covered beach umbrella on one side and two beach chairs below it for lounging.
Patio in the Tropics
Creating a tropical feel on a patio is a matter of color and lush plantings rather than just the plants. Use fabric in orange, yellow and red offset by lots of green and white. Large floral prints in vibrant colors evoke the feeling of the tropics. Use lattice work on two or more sides of the patio and train vines to grow onto it. Fast-growing vines include sweet potato vines and passion vine, which has the bonus of exotic flowers. If it's possible to plant the vines on the sunny side of the lattice work, you'll have more choices, such as trumpet vines, clematis, morning glory and jasmine. Use large house plants as accents on the patio. Orchids grow well outside during summers where the temperature doesn't get too hot.