Living in the northern parts of the USA and Canada goes without saying that winters are harsh, and often, we look to sneak away to warmer destinations. But, since traveling isn’t much of an option right now, a lot of us are looking for ways to find outlets to quell our wanderlust — all while staying local.
Sure, living far from the equator certainly doesn’t mean that our summers aren’t fabulous — far from it; But, there’s something about the tropics that’s just so appealing (in my opinion anyhow). So, why not bring a bit of the tropics to us?! After all, It’s certainly a great time to dive into hobbies and for all of us green thumbs, what better way than through the pleasure of growing a dreamy, tropical infused garden.
Looking for a bit of an escape, I recently took a walk through a local botanical garden, and fell in love with how they seamlessly pulled together elements of the tropics with local plant varieties, for a lush, heavenly feel, that drew upon the senses. This got me thinking about how anyone can draw inspiration from travel to create a garden retreat that feels far away (even if it’s not).
So, armed with a creative outlook, and with these inspirations in mind, let’s look at how we can create a tropical paradise garden.
Designing your garden
Get online, pull out some old travel books, or browse through your travel photos for inspiration — ideas can come in all forms, so go wild and dream big. From there, you can scale back your plans or expand upon them depending on the amount of space you’re looking to transform, as well as your budget — just remember, no matter how big or small your space or budget is, creating a green space that’s both tranquil and paradise-inspired is always possible. So, work with what you have, and the outcome will be nonetheless fantastic.
Think about buying a mix of different pots in varied sizes, designs, and colors to create a layered feel. I like clay pots since they seem to drain best and retain moisture as needed — they also just look great, and last a long time.
If you feel like splurging, go for some striking ceramic glazed pots for a lavish feel. For budget-minded folks, buy some simple terracotta clay pots — if you want, you can paint them to add an eclectic feel, or leave them neutral for a more polished look.
By using pots, it’ll be easier to rearrange your space as you like, and is also practical if you live in an area that gets cold winters.
This leads me to point out a bit of an obvious note — Winterizing! If applicable to you, it’s important to bring any traditionally warm-climate plants such as Hibiscus, inside once summer’s over, that is if you hope to enjoy them in the future (otherwise, you’ll have to accept that when summer’s over, they’re kaput).
Remember, not all your plants necessarily need to be potted. In fact, there are a striking variety of hardy plants that can be planted in-ground and withstand most mid-range winters (just be sure to check your gardening zone for specifics), whereas, other plants, although annual, do very nicely outside of pots, but will naturally only live for one season anyhow, making winterizing pointless.
When selecting greenery, go for full, leafy plants paired alongside vibrant florals to evoke that paradise feeling.
Nothing’s more tropical than the soothing sound of trickling water, so think about adding a water feature to your space. Try digging a small pond, and filling it up with koi or goldfish, alongside some water lilies and other greenery. Alternatively, a fountain will attract birds and will add a Mediterranean feel. Working with balcony space? Try adding a small-scale watering feature atop a table, or set one on the floor in an attractive container — There are lots of options!
Remember seating! After all, you’ll want to have a spot to relax and enjoy your creation. String up a hammock to laze away the day in; or, get a few comfy chairs, and add a variety of cushions in leafy patterns and colors to create a corner perfect for sipping umbrella cocktails and engaging in lively conversation.
For a splash, throw in a tiki umbrella, some matching tiki torches, or even a few atmospheric string lights.
There are tons of options to choose from for your tropically-designed greenspace, but let’s take a look at a few obvious choices to start with:
Available in an array of colors, these relatively hardy flowering trees provide that quintessential tropical look and do quite well in large pots, and with a long flowering season, you’ll enjoy their large, flashy blooms from spring to early autumn.
Place in a sunny spot, and ensure to bring indoors once the weather gets cool.
Elephant Ears —
With their massive leaves, These stunning plants are perfect for adding lush, dramatic foliage to any garden.
Not only do they come in a variety of greens, golds, and reds, they are also relatively easy to take care of, successfully able to grow in pots as well as in-ground — Just be sure that they get plenty of water, and are planted in semi-shade for best results.
Come the cold weather, you’ll need to winterize them indoors, so if you’ve planted them in the ground, you’ll need to cut them back before the frost comes, and dig them out to store inside for next season.
A flashy shrub that can grow to a great size, these flowering plants are native to South America, and usually come in shades of hot pink (most common), white, orange, and pale pink.
Preferring a dry, sunny environment, it’s important to only water these beauties when their soil is quite dry, and they appear to be wilting – that is when you want to shock the plant with a good soaking to maintain it’s blooming power.
If you live in an area that gets frost, it’s best to keep Bougainvilleas in pots, since they do not like the cold one bit!
With so many varieties available, you’re sure to find a few that do well no matter what growing zone you’re in. Adding an excellent cover of green, these plants not only look tropical when paired with bright blooms, but they also do wonderfully in hanging baskets, pots, and in-ground, so long as they are kept in the shade, and watered regularly.
Depending on the type of fern, some can remain outdoors throughout winter — Just ensure you cut them back, and add a layer of mulch to protect them until the spring comes.
Banana Leaf —
Preferring plenty of sun, these tropical plants also enjoy a humid environment, but with good drainage. With towering leaves shooting out of a central stem, these plants are certainly show-stoppers, and will instantly bring the tropics right to your green space.
They do not do well in winter, however, and will need to be transplanted to an indoor space once autumn comes.
Passion Flowers —
Often available in shades of purple and blue, these impressive vine flowers easily add a beautiful touch to any space.
Find a sunny spot, and grow along a fence or trellis for a wall of incredible blooms. Surprisingly, this delicate-looking plant can withstand most reasonable winters up to zone 6 and can be cut back and protected in mulch come the colder weather.
Add a mix of potted palms to your garden for a beachy look. With so many options, you’re sure to find an interesting combination to suit your space. Ridiculously easy to care for, you’ll just need to ensure to water them occasionally, and place them in a sunny spot. Conveniently, these plants do well outside in pots and are equally happy inside once winter comes.
Every gardener’s go-to, this plant has a surprisingly tropical look! Add a few in a nice shady spot for fantastic ground coverage. Hardy as heck, these plants will come back every year with little care. Add a layer of mulch to protect them in the winter, and sure enough, they’ll return in the spring.
With unique leaves coming in green and red, their flowers are available in a dizzying number of colors, making for an exceptionally exotic-looking addition to any garden. Plant an assortment of these blooms for a pop of color and creative flair. Once the weather turns chilly, and the flowers die off, dig out the bulbs, and store in a cool, dry place until spring, when they can be replanted.
With so many options available, the list of plants you can use for your tropical-inspired oasis goes on and on. So get out there and have some fun selecting the perfect mishmash of plants for your patch of paradise!
And, whether you’re going big, and working with an entire deck and yard space, or going small with a corner of your balcony and a few potted plants and a comfy chair, you’re sure to create a space that eludes to the warm, lush feeling of the tropics.