To create a really low-maintenance garden in a shaded area, one of the best themes to go for is tropical, where lush multi-hued foliage creates a landscape that looks good all year round. Make sure you thoroughly remove the old vegetation, turning over the soil well and adding compost and extra soil mix if needed. Then start arranging your plants in layers, with taller types to the rear, followed by medium-height species and bordered with low growers. Here, we’ve gone for a lovely mix of foliage stars, with just a splash of red flowers thrown in.
1. Looking for colour? The handsome, sword-like foliage of Phormium ‘Jester’ fits the bill perfectly. Its leaves are striped in bright pink to red, cream and green tones, and provide a fabulous colour contrast against a background of lush greenery. It grows into a small, clumping plant up to 1m tall, and does not need much attention to thrive. Position in full sun or part shade.
Golden cane palm
2. The graceful, swaying green-yellow fronds of the golden cane palm are perfectly suited to ‘tropical’ garden scenes. It grows well in subtropical and temperate climates, reaching up to 6m in height and making it an excellent screening plant and small shade tree. Position trees along the back of the garden bed – this will add height and leave plenty of room at the front for medium- and smaller-sized plants.
Variegated mondo grass
3. Great in full sun or partly shaded spots, variegated mondo grass is a popular choice for planting at the front, along edges, or as a filler between plants in garden beds. This attractive evergreen perennial forms dense, compact clumps with thinly striped foliage.
4. With its dramatic lobed leaves, Philodendron ‘Xanadu’ is ideal for re- creating a tropical landscape. It grows into a tight compact dome, 50cm-1m tall and wide, and will flourish in the dappled sunlight under larger trees or palms. Try planting it in drifts for a gorgeous display of green, removing spent foliage to keep it smart.
5. An outstanding foliage plant, Alpinia ‘Pinstripe’ adds lovely form, colour and texture to a tropical garden bed. This ornamental ginger is an attractive plant, with glossy green and cream finely striped leaves, and in late spring or summer it produces beautifully perfumed white and red flowers. Plant in full sun or semi shade and ensure the soil is moist and enriched with plenty of organic matter. It can grow up to 1.5m tall, so it’s best to plant it towards the back of the garden bed.
6. A pretty flowering vine, mandevilla has vibrant flowers that look right at home in a tropical garden setting. It flowers profusely from spring, with large trumpet-shaped blooms in white, pink, red or orange that look fantastic against a sea of glossy green leaves. Grow in semi shade to full sun and train vines to grow over fences, pergolas and archways, or as groundcover in garden beds.
7. Also known as the cast-iron plant, aspidistra is a truly robust plant. Once established, its dark green, leathery leaves are tolerant of heat, cold, periods of drought, low light and neglect. It can grow up to 60cm, but its slow-growing nature means it can take a while to reach full size. Plant in semi shade, water once in a while and occasionally remove spent foliage to keep the plant looking its best.