8 Ways to Give Your Garden a Tropical Look

Transform your garden into a lush tropical paradise with these simple tips.

We can’t all escape to tropical islands every summer, but we can create gardens with a tropical look. Get the setting right, and you can imagine yourself in a paradise that’s all your own – and you can even achieve this look in colder climates. But before you settle on your lounger with a cold cocktail and let your daydreams take over, you need to get the look. Here’s what you need. 

1. Choose The Right Furnishings

Modern outdoor rattan furniture is great for adding a touch of the tropics. You can carry the theme through to indoor areas overlooking your garden too. Add pops of color with tropical print throw cushions, ensure that there are handy side tables for those summer cocktails or mocktails, and get your hands on a hammock to complete the look and get ready to lounge the summer days away.

One trick: Ferns smell like a tropical rainforest! Try planting some close to your outdoor seating area to complete the look of a tropical paradise.

2. Plant Shady Trees

In winter, you want to make the most of what sunshine you get. In summer, you’re glad to escape into the shade. Overcome the challenge by choosing deciduous trees. Yes, they do drop leaves in autumn, but evergreen trees also drop leaves. It’s almost preferable to have them all come down at once so you don’t have to deal with the mess all year. 

Whatever you choose, try to get a good balance between sun and shade. Trees will be the backbone of your tropical garden. They will protect the plants from strong winds, which can make them look raggedy quickly. Palm trees, ferns, and, of course, banana plants are all great for creating an exotic feel in your garden. Mix things up by including bold-colored flowers too. Don’t forget to add height with large specimen plants, especially evergreens, to get that tropical feel all year.

3. Big Leaves and Exotic Extras

Plants with large leaves are very helpful in creating a tropical ambiance. While some of them are, indeed, tropical plants, you may find some hardier species with large leaves that don’t necessarily need a hot climate. There are even several relatively cold-tolerant palm trees that you can use to create an unmistakably tropical look. 

In warm climates, you can let your imagination run wild with orchids, bromeliads, and tropical foliage plants. But even in colder ones, potted tropicals that come out in summer and are moved to protected areas in winter or plants that go dormant in winter and sprout in spring will add to your repertoire. Don’t forget to add a few tufts of bamboo or bamboo-like plants.

Living in a dry climate? You might be surprised by how tropical succulent plants and other drought-tolerant species can look. Be environmentally appropriate. It will save you a lot of hard work!

4. Garden Statuary and Other Details

Once you’ve chosen a tropical theme, keep it consistent. Natural-looking water features and oriental-style statuary will help to reinforce the look you’re trying to create. If you find this a little too limiting, you can always create separate, differently themed areas. For example, your classic-themed rose garden or formal garden can occupy a different area from your informal tropical summer garden. 

To finish off your tropical look, you can accessorize with artworks (think tribal masks), rattan sculptures, tiki bars, colorful bird feeders, and wind chimes that remind of faraway places. These will bring your tropical paradise to life!

5. Add a Pergola or a Gazebo

A pergola draped with climbing plants or a permanent gazebo that serves as a decorative focal point and garden entertainment area are practical and attractive options to consider. The pergola can serve as a “gateway to the tropics,” and the gazebo gives you a “destination” for your at-home getaways with friends and family.

6. Pave the Way

How people access your garden can be just as important as what’s in it. Give yourself a sense of entering a different world by creating pathways, stairs, and other features that provide access to and through your tropical paradise. Make sure they’re wide enough for wheelchairs and strollers, if needed. Pathways are practical, but they also add visual interest – so use them to create curves or borders and transition between different areas of the garden.

7. Add Water Features

Nothing beats the sound of running water for creating a soothing atmosphere in your garden. Whether you choose a large fountain or an intimate pond, the presence of water can turn any garden into an oasis. Small ponds are especially useful in creating a tropical atmosphere and can be populated with fish and aquatic plants to add even more interest.

8. Finish With Lighting

Lighting is essential for outdoor living in summer – you don’t want your tropical experience to end when darkness falls. You don’t have to invest in an outdoor lighting system to create a tropical feel. Also, the right lighting in the evening can make or break the mood and atmosphere. You can pick from a variety of styles and colors, but all outdoor lighting must be waterproofed for safety. Solar lights are ideal for illuminating pathways, while tiki torches and paper lanterns give your garden that extra touch of paradise.

In Conclusion

Whether you go all out for a resort-like feel or just create a tropical corner for reflection, remember that plants are only the frame for the setting in which people will live, laugh, and relax. Design your spaces for people first, and for plants second!

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