Tropical Garden Design Ideas

Tropical Garden Design Ideas...

We look at tropical garden ideas to bring a taste of the exotic to your own home garden.

Find out which plants give the tropical garden design look but will last the winter!

How to design a tropical garden....

A tropical garden style is a gorgeous, lush foliage garden - fantastically green with brilliant flashes of color.

It brings to mind exotic adventures and fantastic holidays in warmer climes - so, no wonder it's so popular all over the world!

tropical garden design - exotic, relaxing style

Tropical garden ideas bring a taste of the exotic right into your back garden!

This style is perfect for small gardens, and urban gardens, where the lush foliage quickly creates an oasis of green...

...and a real sense of privacy in your garden - perfect for total relaxation!

tropical garden design ideas - use bamboo as a hardy tropical garden plant

If you're lucky enough to already live in the tropics, you're probably not reading this page, as you already have a tropical garden!

If you'd love to design a tropical garden in a cooler climate this page is especially for you!

Don't worry - this is perfectly possible - there are lots of tropical garden plants which are hardy in cooler countries...

...and a very good selection which will also survive well with a little extra care and protection over winter, to create a stunning tropical garden design that's practical in your garden.

I actually love a tropical garden look - and my very first garden had a lovely little tropical corner, with:

  • a verandah built out of large bamboo poles and rush screening
  • tropical garden plants
  • a wicker chair to relax in

...mmm! A wonderful spot to relax amongst the foliage!

Yes! A tropical garden design is all about the foliage...

tropical garden design - create your own personal jungle

Tropical garden plants, and plants that look tropical, but will (hopefully!) survive the winter, are the very best ways to get the tropical garden design look.

You can also add some perfect tropical hard landscaping and accessories to bring your theme together...

We show you how...

Tropical Garden Plants

tropical garden plants

Top plants to design a tropical garden...

Tropical plants will survive best in sheltered and sunny spots in south-west facing corners of the garden... (in northern hemispheres - in southern hemispheres try north-western corners)

You may need to protect some with fleece, or bring them inside over winter.

Figures given below are estimates only. Do not rely on these figures. Seek further advice from plant suppliers and protect plants as they advise, in cold weather.

Click here to read more about the unpredictability of plant survival in cold weather...

Top plant picks for your tropical garden design:

  • Bananas - Musa species

    • Try Musa basjoo (Japanese banana) which is the hardiest and can withstand down to around -8°C (18°F). It may lie dormant underground in winter.
  • Fatsia japonica (False Castor Oil Plant)

    • Looks tropical but actually very hardy - mine survived -18°C in the garden last winter (although young plants I had of this did die)
  • Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan Palm or Chinese Windmill Palm)

    tropical garden design - try a Trachycarpus fortunei for an exotic look without the tender temperament

    Trachycarpus fortunei

    • Very hardy - can even withstand down to around -15°C (5°F). Mine died last winter (-18°C), though it had survived 6 or 7 previous winters, some of which were very cold, although not quite to those levels!
  • Chamerops humilis (Mediterranean Dwarf Fan Palm)

    • Can withstand down to around -10°C (14°F). Mine died right back, but did survive underground last winter see it, here...
  • Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm)

    • Pretty hardy - down to around -8°C (18°F) - but may require winter protection to survive.
  • Yucca filamentosa and Yucca gloriosa (Yuccas)

    • Can tolerate down to around -15°C (5°F)
  • Cordyline australis (Cabbage Palm or Torbay Palm)

    • Reasonably hardy but may not survive cold winters - mine didn't! Tolerates down to around -8°C (18°F)
  • Dicksonia antarctica (Tasmanian Tree Fern)

    • Hardy to around -5°C (23°F) or colder, but you should protect from frost around the trunk and crown with straw or fleece.
    • Dicksonia squarrosa is frost tender - so protect carefully from frost!
  • Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax)

    tropical garden plants - try Phormium tenax - New Zealand Flax

    Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax)
    In a contemporary setting

    • Hardy down to around -5°C (23°F). Mine didn't survive last winter - unsurprisingly!
  • Bamboo

    • Most (but not all) are hardy. All mine have survived the winter! Try:

      • Phyllostachys (especially Phyllostachys nigra - Black bamboo)
      • Fargesia murielae
      • Arundo donax
      • Nandina domestica (Sacred bamboo)
  • Gunnera manicata

    • Very hardy - down to around -20°C (-10°F). Likes moist spots and needs a lot of space but will reward you with huge 'jungly-looking' leaves.
    • Also try Gunnera tinctoria which is hardy down to around -15°C (5°F) and a little smaller than the Gunner manicata above.
  • Agave americana

    • Hardy down to around -8°C (18°F) - although may need winter protection, and variegated forms are less hardy.

    More Tropical Garden Plants

    Infill in your garden with tropical-looking planting - anything with large, lush, unsually shaped or colored foliage will work well, to create the tropical garden design look for you...


    • Ferns
    • Hostas
    • Heucheras
    • Bronze fennel
    • Angelica archangelica
    • Alchemilla mollis
    • Euphorbias
    • Miscanthus grass
    • Choisya ternata
    • Ricinus (Castor Oil Plant - tender - protect over winter)

    Exotic-looking Flowers

    tropical garden plants with brightly colored and extic looking flowers will really help give an authentic look to your tropical garden design

    Brightly colored or flamboyant flowers can really help give that essential tropical garden feel...


    • Euphorbia griffithii
    • Hemerocallis (Daylily)
    • Crocosmia
    • Canna Lily (protect over winter)
    • Brugmansia and Datura (protect over winter)
    • Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
    • Hedychium (Ginger Lily - protect over winter)
    • Eremerus (Foxtail Lily)
    • Clematis armandii
    • Passiflora caerulea (Passion Flower - may require winter protection)

    tropical garden design ideas - a Bird of Paradise plant makes a striking focal point for your design in summer (protect from cold)

    The Bird of Paradise Plant (Strelitzia)

    One beautiful tropical flower I think you really must include is the stunning 'Bird of Paradise Plant' (Strelitzia) - pictured above - it's not hardy, but keep it as a house-plant over-winter and bring it outside into your garden for its summer holidays!

    You will also find there are lots of gorgeous house plants that you can use in your tropical garden design over Summer, and bring indoors when it's turns cold.

    Tropical garden plants usually work best in very sheltered spots - if you need to protect plants over winter see the page on cold climate gardening tips and always check plant labels against your own predicted winter temperatures and gardening zones.

    Tropical garden plants also look great in very contemporary garden styles - click here for info on creating your own contemporary garden design...

    a contemporary look is a stunning partner for tropical garden design ideas - try bright colors and modern style

    Tropical Garden Ideas for Style

    A tropical garden design is really all about the plants, but if you take a bit of care with your hard landscaping, design and accessories, too, you'll get the look just right!


    • Informal style (although formal can work well too - particularly for contemporary styles)
    • No large open areas
    • Plant closely together - 'full' planting
    • Narrow, winding paths, for a true jungle feel.

    Hard Landscaping and Finishing Touches

    • Use natural materials:
      • stone
      • wood
      • gravel
      • bark chippings
    • Bamboo is excellent as a hard landscaping material to design a tropical garden - use bamboo screening, or strap large bamboo poles together to make structures...

      We created a small tropical verandah off our shed, with 2 tall and thick bamboo poles as uprights, and rush matting as the roof (held up with a wooden frame) and bamboo screening as walls...

      ...a lovely wicker chair beneath, and the scene is set for hours of peaceful comtemplation in the garden...!

    • Don't overdo the bamboo, though - too much means you run the risk of creating something too themed and tacky - here, less is more...

      Go for a suggestion, rather than looking like a bamboo warehouse, and concentrate on plants to bring the tropical style.

    • tropical garden design ideas can create a smart and relaxing patio area for you to enjoy

    • Look out for hard wood (teak) garden and patio furniture, or wicker furniture for your tropical garden design...

      You can now get wicker-look patio sets, that are actually made of plastic - so these are perfect for withstanding a spot of tropical rain!

    • Include a small, simple water feature somewhere - a large pond is not so suitable for this style, but the sound of running water, or a bubbling fountain, really complements your tropical garden design perfectly.
    • A few carefully chosen accessories will be the perfect finishing touch...

      Although the overall look is decidedly 'tropical', try not to mix too many different styles together - for example, choose 'Balinese' or 'Caribbean', but not both...

      ...and add a few beautiful accessories from just one tropical style, accordingly, to keep it simple and stylish.

      eBay is a great place to search for accessories for your tropical garden design look, that you might not find in your normal garden centers and stores...

      This is a live feed, direct from eBay and is constantly updated...

      Simply click on a product to see more details, or to bid or buy...

      Hope you find a tropical treasure!

    If any of the tropical treasures from eBay, above, interest you, please support my website by using the links on this page to buy.

    The price to you is always the same, but I will earn a small commission.

    This allows me to continue to provide you with the information on this website, all for free.

    Thanks for your continued support :)

    It's quite easy to design a tropical garden, with a little extra research into which plants give the look, but can still survive in colder climates...

    ...and the results will be well worth it, when you are able to lose yourself in your very own tropical jungle!

    And what a stunning garden to astound all the neighbors! They'll definitely be thinking you've a green thumb, with all those tropical garden plants surviving the winter!

    I hope you have fun with your tropical garden designs!

    More about gardening in cold climates and protecting plants in winter

    More about plant hardiness and gardening zones

    Real-life inspiration for a stunning tropical garden in Cornwall UK - our visit to Heligan's 'Jungle' garden and the famous Eden Project

    More about using tropical garden plants in a contemporary garden design

    Learn more about using color in your tropical garden

    Learn more about planning your planting

    Learn more about starting to design a garden

    Look for more garden design ideas, styles and inspiration

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