How to create a Tropical Garden

Dreaming of a island paradise in your own backyard?

No matter where you live and in almost any climate; a lush tropical garden can be achieved with a bit of homework and thoughtful planning.

Whether you have a small apartment balcony or a sprawling backyard in the suburbs, your flourishing tropical-oasis can be realised!

Set the scene:

The first step is to assess your space.

Are you going to transform a balcony area or the entire yard? Remember, a backyard reno doesn’t have to be done over night – most successful gardens take years to achieve – but early planning is the key!

Establishing a canvas or backdrop for the garden is a good place to start. Painting timber fences or brick walls in a dark grey or charcoal will offset the vivid green of your planting nicely. If you want to make an impact with colour, this is a great time to do so. Hot pink or purple feature walls, can contrast beautifully against the bright greens of many tropical plants.

Decorative screens can add a focal point and are a great way to provide privacy on exposed balconies.


In temperate climates, tropical gardens will thrive and plant choices are not too difficult. In cooler areas, such as Melbourne, a little more thought will be needed when choosing plants.

Hint: A plant doesn’t have to be specifically ‘tropical’ as long as it looks the part!

El Arish Tropical Exotics has great suggestions for tropical plants in cooler areas.

Once you have your plant wish list, the fun shopping begins. Many nurseries or domestic garden centres will have a range of plants to suit the tropical style, but bargains can also be found on ebay and Gumtree.

When planting, it is important to incorporate a diversity of species to create a layered effect in the garden. This will help to establish a micro-climate and protect the smaller or more vulnerable plants. Large palms will instantly create a tropical feel, and serve a dual purpose by creating a protective canopy for the undergrowth from extreme weather conditions such as frost.

The dappled shade provided by the tall plants such Bangalow Palms and Bamboo will shelter smaller plants from harsh UV rays during summer.

Mid range plants such as Bird of Paradise, Cannas, and Cordylines will add colour and structure to the garden, while groupings of low growing species such as Bromeliads, Clivia, Mondo Grass, Liriope and Agarves will create a dense, jungle-vibe.

In smaller areas or rented properties, a layered look can be achieved by grouping

together an assortment of potted plants.


Furniture and decorative items will seal the deal. There are many great options available, depending on the function and size of your space. Outdoor furniture stores, retro furniture stores, op shops and ebay are all great places to start your search for that perfect hero piece!

Timber or bamboo furniture will add a touch of warmth to the area, creating a natural, organic vibe. Daybeds, hanging chairs or 3 piece balcony settings are ideal for smaller areas, while those with more space can indulge in cane lounge suites, thatched gazebos, a Tiki bar or teak dining settings.

Soft furnishings with tropical accents will add the finishing touch. Outdoor cushions in bright colours are a great way to instantly add a pop of colour and set the tone. Bamboo lanterns or fairy lights will add a whimsical feel at night, while tiki mugs and pink flamingos create a fun, kitsch vibe.

Water features can add a relaxing feel to your garden. There are many options available, ranging from in-ground fish ponds to small table-top fountains. Water pots look fab as a feature on balconies and decks. These can be purchased from garden centres, or you can make your own! Water plants like Lillies, Water Lettuce and Duck Weed enhance the lush tropical look.

Whatever your style: minimalist, beachside or vintage-kitsch; a tropical look in your garden is easy to achieve! Happy gardening :-)

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