Bring Bali to your home with a personal, tropical oasis.

While vacation season is upon us, there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars or more in escaping to a tropical shore for the week. Instead, you may want to invest in a tropical garden right in your back yard where you can enjoy the summer weather all season–or even longer!

Are you intrigued by the promise of a backyard oasis? Here’s some tropical inspiration for your garden.

What to Know While Starting Out

Rest assured that in the case of a tropical garden, less is more. Many of these plants feature large leaves and vibrant colors, and too much can overwhelm the senses quickly. When considering the design and size of your tropical garden, think of tropical solutions to accent your garden instead of growing a full-fledged jungle.

Also note that while some plants native to the tropics can live perfectly fine in other climates, some are unable to last through cold winter climates without being moved indoors, and others require a little bit of research even in temperate climates. We’ll give you everything you need to know about specific plants’ needs, but be aware of the shade available in the space your working with as well as the composition of your soil, such as the nutrients and drainage it can provide for your plants. Once you’ve done your research and have carefully prepared, tropical gardening is hardly different or more difficult than plants you may be used to working with.

Do some garden planning before beginning. It’s easiest to start with a color palette before selecting plants: do you want blues and violets, or something warmer such as yellows, oranges or reds? Don’t forget to plan around an area for sitting, as the best part of having a tropical garden is to bask among the colors and the sun. If your plants require shade, also plan around a tree or consider a pergola or awning that can serve as a canopy.

Plants to Take You to the Tropics

Here’s a selection of plants that are great for giving your yard a tropical feel. Some of these are perfectly happy indoors, and some are pretty low-maintenance and work great for those whom are testing the waters with growing tropical plants. Not all of these plants are native to the tropics, but their bright colors will compliment the feel of their tropical neighbors to pull off that tropical look.

Elephant Ears — This plant gets its name from its large leaves in the shape of (you guessed it!) elephants’ ears. They are fine among many climates and landscapes, though if the temperature drops below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time, you’ll want to move the plant inside or dig up the roots to store for replanting when it’s warm again. Because of the large leaves, elephant ears make a great backdrop for your tropical display.

Caladium — Like the elephant ears, caladium are characterized by their large leaves. But unlike those of elephant ears, these leaves are brightly colored with red, pink or white accents. They also work well in shady, humid environments, and can survive colder climates than elephant ears.

Plumeria — Plumeria is used as both a house plant as well as a tropical addition to many gardens in warm climates. They feature beautiful, soft flowers that come in a variety of colors such as white, yellows, pinks and oranges.

Tillandsia — Also known as “air plants,” these leafy plants require very little maintenance and grow in seemingly any environment. They can also be found in a variety of sizes, growing both short and long. Tillandsia are able to survive droughts, but thrive best with a regular misting. Note that this plant absorbs waters on the leaves and plant itself, and the plant must dry out before watering again or else it may rot (this means they are best used in dry climates). Tillansia may be hot glued to a tropical accent–such as bark or a lava rock–to form a natural sculpture to your garden. They may also grow unique, colorful blooms.

Canna Lilies — These lilies love moist environments, and their warm palette of red, yellow and orange give them an exotic look. Because they do so well in moisture, canna lilies are great for gardens making use of water features, such as a small pond.

Orchids — It’s no secret that orchids come in a variety of beautiful, colorful and exotic shapes. What’s lesser known is how to properly care for them. Prone to over-watering, orchids require a lot of drainage. If putting one in your garden, be sure to use a special orchid mix instead of your regular soil. Orchids also thrive on a cooler nightly environment–by about 15 degrees–so put an ice cube or two with your orchid if it remains warm in the night.

Extra Tips

  • Remember to do your research into the needs of the plants you are thinking of adding to your garden. Assess the proper sunlight, temperature and water your plant needs, and assign them a place in the garden–or in the home–accordingly.
  • If putting a plant in a container, wash the container out thoroughly beforehand. There may be bug eggs waiting to hatch.
  • A tropical garden isn’t complete without some added features! Consider lava rocks, sculptural accents, water features and the obligatory tiki torches for final touches to your garden.


Listen In for more tips on creating a Tropical Oasis:

This post is adapted from the May 31, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes June 4, 2014. You can find this segment during hour two of the podcast.