It doesn’t take a professional landscaper to see why tropical gardens are currently all the rage. After all, who wouldn’t want their backyard to feel like a tropical island getaway 24/7?
But giving your garden a tropical vibe isn’t as simple as planting a few palm trees and calling it a day.
Creating one of these gardens requires an eye for design. As well as a basic understanding of what makes tropical plants different from other ornamental species.
Ready to transform your garden into a private oasis? The tropical garden ideas below will give you all the inspiration you need to get started.
You don’t need to have a huge space to enjoy the peaceful aesthetic of tropical garden design. With the right plants and design elements, you can create a tropical paradise in your own backyard.
While some plant species are tropical by their very nature, the options are practically endless. As long as you fill the space with lush foliage no one will care if your backyard features warm-weather or cold-hardy tropical plants.
Of course, you still want your backyard to be functional. Cut through your tropical foliage with stone pavers or relaxing patio space. You can even pair tropical landscaping with turf for the best of both worlds!
Balinese garden design comes from Indonesia. This island nation is one of the most popular tropical destinations in the entire world.
The use of resort-inspired elements is what sets Balinese gardens apart. So if you’re searching for a tropical theme that feels like a personal getaway, look no further!
Many Balinese gardens are planted in courtyards with plenty of comfortable seating provided. Other key elements of Balinese design include natural stone, sculptures, and water.
Many of our favorite ornamental garden plants come from tropical regions. Members of the Bromeliad family live in rainforests around the globe. The Canna Lily is another tropical flower found in countless landscapes.
Tropical plants make wonderful annual additions to any garden bed. If you live in a very warm (or naturally tropical) climate, you may even be able to plant these species as perennials.
You don’t need to be a professional landscaper to appreciate the impressive variety of tropical plant life. Even if you don’t plan to transform your entire backyard into a tropical escape, incorporating exotic plant species can be a great way to bring more color and texture to your landscaping.
Contemporary gardens feature some of the trendiest plant species and landscaping elements. And right now, few gardening styles are as popular as tropical design.
For your own contemporary garden, focus on making your backyard feel like a proper living space. Fill your garden beds with densely planted trees, shrubs, and flowers. Ensure your beds have distinct borders and contrast against the rest of your landscape design.
While plants are important, prioritize space for a patio, walkway, and outdoor furniture. Use smaller containers to bring some of your favorite tropical foliage onto your patio or porch.
Florida is one of the few places in the United States where tropical landscape plants grow with ease. Many species are even native to the southern tip of the state!
Florida gardens range from entirely tropical to traditionally southern. You can borrow elements from either style to suit your home and personal taste.
No Florida landscape would be complete without a palm tree (or two). But don’t forget to explore the many unique plant varieties suitable for your local climate. While the Florida heat won’t faze your new garden design, keep an eye on the moisture levels to ensure your plants continue to thrive.
Most backyard landscape ideas rely on planting directly in the ground. But if you’re looking to add tropical foliage to your patio, balcony, or rented outdoor space, digging might not be possible. Fortunately, many tropical plants do extremely well in containers.
Raised planters can accommodate all different flowers and colorful foliage. You can even grow tropical tree species in containers as long as the pots are big enough!
Keeping your tropical garden in containers also means being able to customize the layout as you please. You can easily rotate pots to ensure each plant gets plenty of sun. You can also move more tender plants indoors when the weather gets unexpectedly cold.
Geographically, a Mediterranean climate and a tropical climate are not the same things. In the landscaping world, however, these two regions (and the native plant life) overlap quite a bit.
The Mediterranean aesthetic is ideal if you live somewhere arid like the American Southwest. Give your garden a sub-tropical vibe with plantings of succulents, Yucca, and hardy Fig Trees and Fan Palms.
The key difference between the Mediterannean and the tropics is that the former experiences very dry summers. This means that Mediterannean plants are much hardier in drought-like conditions while still tolerating intense heat.
In other words, Mediterannean landscaping is more sustainable than tropical-style gardening.
Modern landscape design is all about interesting shapes and textures. All you need to do is look at the average tropical-looking plant to understand how these two things fit together so perfectly.
While flowers are a big part of any garden, you should pay close attention to your plants’ leaves as well. Tropical foliage features all sorts of unique patterns, shapes, and colors (just take your standard fern or palm tree for example!).
For even more intrigue, include some cultivars with variegated foliage in your tropical garden design.
Filling a narrow garden bed can be quite frustrating. This is especially true if the space also needs to be a functional walkway. So why not lean into the cramped aesthetic with a tropical vibe?
Most tropical plants used in landscaping come straight from the earth’s rainforests. You can borrow this overgrown look for your own backyard by planting species like Musa basjoo (Banana Tree), Alocasia macrorrhiza (Giant Taro), and bamboo.
Select plant varieties that grow upward rather than out for your narrow garden idea — not all tropical species respond well to aggressive pruning. Prevent root systems from spreading into your lawn or walking path by using borders along the edge of each garden bed.
We tend to associate tropical garden ideas with lots of bright sunlight. But a large number of tropical species are adapted to partial or full shade. This is great news for homeowners with shady backyards!
When picking plants for your garden, look for species that live in the lower levels of the rainforest. These plant varieties are used to having the sun blocked by the tree canopies above.
Ferns are an obvious choice for any shade garden. For some height, go for a variety of tree fern. Other shade-loving species include elephant ears, hostas, caladiums, and bird-of-paradise flowers.
Plants are just one fact of great tropical garden design. If you want your property to have an authentic tropical look, you also need to pay attention to factors like hardscaping, bed layouts, and water elements.
One of the most difficult parts of planning a tropical garden is often the balance between letting things grow wild without getting out of control. Structured garden beds can help keep your landscape looking clean while still allowing for dense planting.
Many tropical plant species survive by climbing up larger trees. Training vines to climb up a wall or privacy fence will add plenty of foliage color to your space. It will also be quite the conversation starter!
Planting a tropical garden is one thing. Creating an entire tropical yard is another entirely. Yet if you live in an area with heat and humidity year-round, it’s a lot easier than you probably think.
A well-planned landscape requires variety. Not just in plant species but also in terms of height, color, and texture. Replace deciduous shade trees with palm species like cycad or Trachycarpus fortunei. Plant the space below with shorter fan palms, ferns, and tropical flowers.
Unfortunately, living in a true tropical climate can also make it near-impossible to keep traditional turfgrass alive. Instead, fill your lawn with ground cover like mini mono or temple grass.