What is a Tropical Garden?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Mystic glades filled with drifting mist, rushing waterfalls surrounded by exotic blooms, the appeal of a tropical garden can be felt by anyone with a flare for adventure and a love of dramatic settings. Tropical gardens make use of the thousands of plants and flowers native to the warm, humid climate of the tropics. Though these gardens may take some extra care to maintain in temperate climates, they can turn an ordinary yard into a verdant grotto.

The flora of a tropical garden can range from island blooms to deep rainforest foliage. Ferns are often an excellent choice for even a novice gardener, as many varieties are hardy and can stand cooler weather. Papaya and banana trees not only create vertical space and tropical splendor, they can also produce delicious fruit for breakfasts and desserts. Vivid pockets of color can be created by judicious plantings of spectacular flowers and blooming bushes, such as hibiscus, jasmine, lantanas, and the strikingly vivid bird of paradise.


Water is often an important element of a tropical garden. Not only do most tropical gardens thrive with a good irrigation system, water features can go a long way toward setting the mood and atmosphere of a sultry jungle paradise. Ancient-looking stone or resin fountains can add contemporary drama to a tropical garden, but consider adding in-ground water features that contribute to the naturalistic setting. Using a shovel, plastic pool liner, and simple filtration pump system from a garden supply store, a lily-covered pond or waterfall cascade can be built in a matter of hours.

Tropical gardens are traditional in many different cultures; garden accessories and statuary can help define a Balinese lagoon from a Hawaiian patio. Central American inspired gardens may have mosaic tile patios and furnishings, and contain statuary or accessories that represent the ancient Mayan, Incan, and Aztec cultures. Hawaiian style gardens might include a whimsical surfboard bench, hand-carved wooden tikis, or a coconut husk windchime. Looking into the art and architecture of different tropical cultures can be a good way to get ideas about how to decorate.

With such a fabulous tropical garden to visit, it is natural to set up an entertaining space for relaxing or dining al fresco. Continue the tropical theme by building a roofed garden hut that can hold a picnic table, bar, or even hot tub. Understanding the architecture of the tropics can help narrow down design styles; Indonesian-style huts might have a traditional octagon shape, while a thatched roof with bamboo posts may evoke a Caribbean vibe. Huts can be built from do-it-yourself blueprints or even simply ordered online. For the minimalist, a simple lounge chair may be all that's needed to relax amidst the tropical splendor.


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