Are tropical gardens high maintenance?
All gardens require maintenance. But tropical gardens need different care than temperate gardens. Plants tend to explode from the ground in hot, high-rainfall climates so they need regular pruning. Return all cuttings to the garden as happens in a natural tropical environment where the soil is layered with leaf mould. If your rainfall is not as regular and heavy as in the tropics, you need to water daily to recreate the environment.
How do you layout a tropical garden?
Create an over-storey of sun-loving trees – for example palms - as most tropical plants loves shade. A feature of tropical gardens is lush foliage rather than flowers. It should flamboyant and lively with the emphasis being on their size – lots of large-leafed plants – shape and texture. Make the foliage smaller along paths and entertainment areas.
Plant similar plants in groups of odd numbers (three, five and seven) as it broadens the brushstroke. For interest, put plants with contrasting foliage next to each other.
Don’t exclude flowering plants, but use them as bright beacons rather than as a profusion, for example, bromeliads, hibiscus, frangipani, gingers, canna lilies and heliconias.
- Water features are important in tropical gardens, be they a pool, a pond, a waterfall against a wall or a fountain within a pot.
- Contrast your wild-looking ‘jungle’ plants with straight formal paths. Use light-coloured stone with spaces between the stones for small ground-hugging plants.
- Include statues and other stone artwork.
- Add bold colours with cushions or other soft furnishings.
- Cover a pavilion, pergola or gazebo roof with thatch.
What plants are used in a tropical garden?
You’ll easily grow ferns in a tropical garden. They’ll unfurl their fronds in the damp shade, and happily adorn stone statues.
Planting tips for your tropical garden
- Choose statement plants that have big leaves and understorey plants that have interesting textures and bold colours.
- For drama, put plants with contrasting foliage – red, yellow, orange, pink or purple – next to each other.
- If drama’s not your thing because your garden is small, place coloured foliage strategically – one or two at ground level and another couple at eye level.
- Plant in groups of odd numbers, such as three, five or seven, for a more informal feel.
- Add potted palms and clumping bamboo to provide a rustle when there’s a breeze.
- If you’re transforming your courtyard or balcony into a tropical retreat, there are many dwarf varieties of palms and bamboo now available so you don’t overwhelm your space.
What is the best fertiliser for a tropical garden?
Your fallen leaves or recycled, shredded foliage is the best fertiliser. They contain the nutrients that are essential to tropical garden plants and, as they break down, these nutrients will return to the soil and be taken up by the roots. You can supplement this with organic manure each spring.
What kind of soil do tropical plants need?
Tropical gardens are naturally found in areas of high rainfall, so the soil needs to be very well drained. But it also means soil fertility is in just the top 5cm so needs to be constantly replenished by leaf mulch layering. That means fresh organic material (what you’d normally put in your compost bin) will become living, evolving, composting organic matter.
Are pandanus used in a tropical garden?
What about these thick stilt roots of the pandanus? They help support the tree as it gets top heavy with branches, foliage, huge fruit – and the epiphytic bromeliads.
Tropical garden plant list
Try these plants for a tropical look in an Australian garden.
- Canna lilies
- Clumping bamboo
- Crab’s claw or heliconia
- Crinum lily
- Elephant’s ears or taro
- Fijian fire plant
- Hawaiian hibiscus
- New Guinea impatiens
- Ornamental gingers
- Prayer plant
- Zebra plant
How to enrich the soil in your tropical garden
Tropical and subtropical soils should naturally be rich because organic material such as leaf litter breaks down quickly into organic matter that provides the nutrients required for plants to thrive. But, they actually tend to be nutrient poor because excessive rainfall in the regions causes the erosion of essential minerals. Liquid fish fertiliser, in the form of Charlie Carp, has both micro and macro nutrients that help produce long-lasting results in the colour and health of your garden or lawn. Available from a variety of nurseries and hardware stores, charliecarp.com.
A fish pond is a natural for a tropical garden, but you can only have koi in NSW or WA. There are other colourful fish you can buy elsewhere, such as goldfish, guppies and mollies.
What does a frog symbolise in Balinese culture?
In many cultures, including Balinese, frogs are auspicious, believed to bring rain, fertility and good fortune. Top a frog-engraved urn with dense clusters of bromeliads for their wonderfully coloured foliage.
Palms and bamboo are a must – be sure to choose varieties that suit your climate.
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