Check the Great Plants for a Tropical Garden

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Tropical plants are all the rage this summer! Even in the cool temperate climate of the UK, it is easy to create an exotic paradise in your own garden. Choose your plants carefully for spectacular foliage, iridescent flowers and an evergreen structure to create the distinctive fluctuating canopy and leafy understory.

Try to combine plants with a sturdy structure with frosty beauties to develop a multi-layered jungle effect – be sure to bring the tender plants indoors for the winter to protect them from the cold. For more tips on creating a tropical planting scheme, check out our handy Blog.

Here are our Top 10 plants for tropical garden design in the UK.

1. Rustic palm trees and tree ferns

With their fan-shaped foliage, Hardy Palms provide a year-round structure – the bare bones of your planting plan! Choose Tracycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis, which remain evergreen and require very little maintenance.

Australian tree ferns are a great investment to create a real jungle feeling. Their giant fronds unfold every spring, reaching 1.5 m in length on mature plants. Although hardy down to -5C (23F), these prehistoric beauties are best reared in a protected Position. Wrapped in a cozy layer of straw and garden fleece to protect you from the worst winter weather.

2. Cannon

The exotic, striped, paddle-shaped leaves create a lush jungle feeling – but it’s the bold flowers that really convince! Majestically, the tall flower stem rise above the foliage, crowned with bright, fluttering petals in the brightest shades of Orange, red, cream and pink. Try the sensual dark foliage of Canna ‘Tropicanna Black’ or pinstriped ‘Tropicanna’.

Despite their tropical appearance, Cannas are surprisingly easy to grow. Lift and store the tubers in the fall to replant next spring – or simply pull them into a pot and place them in the conservatory during the colder months!

3. Musa

Imagine that you are on a desert island, the cosy touch of the sun and the rustle of banana leaves swaying above you. In fact, you don’t need to travel that far, because banana trees, especially Musa Basjoo, can be grown in the UK if they are protected from the cold in winter.

These majestic plants may seem tree-like, but they are actually herbaceous perennials, and this erect stem is made up of tightly curled leaves. Find a sheltered place away from strong winds that can shred the colossal leaves.

4. Caladium

The colorful tropical foliage is a must, and the caladiums provide it in abundance! These delicate perennials have taken British gardens by storm in recent years and have even been welcomed as an exotic houseplant on our windowsills.

The heart-shaped leaves are painted with stripes and spots, some with an alien and otherworldly appearance. For the color, look no further than Caladium ‘Cherry Tart’ or ‘Pink Beauty’. When more subtlety is preferred, “Fantasy” brings a luminous quality. The best part is that they like a shady spot, which makes them perfect for adding pops of color among the leafy undergrowth of your tropical garden.

5. Cichlid

If caladiums are a little too picky, you can achieve a similar effect with these easy-to-grow annuals! Coleus grows quickly from seeds or cuttings, so you can grow fresh plants every summer.

With funky foliage in every color combination imaginable, they are perfect for adding spice to the lower layers of your tropical scheme. Try Coleus ‘ Stained Glassworks Royalty’ for vibrant colors or the autumnal tones of ‘Walter Turner’. They are also versatile and thrive in the sun or in the shade – what more could a plant ask for?

6. Strelizia

The bird-like flowers of this well-known evergreen perennial are immediately recognizable. More often seen in British conservatories, but in summer, Strelitzia reginae can be woven into an outdoor display with great effect! The large leaves are gray-green, rising upwards on tall stems, creating the perfect backdrop for their extraordinary flowers.

Grow this plant in a pot that can be transferred to the winter garden in winter. It creates an exciting focal point for a sunny spot.

7. Gloriosa

This fascinating climber is perfect for making his way through your planting scheme. Its leaves are inclined with undulating tendrils that adhere to other plants or any other support it can find. The exotic summer flowers have reflective flame-shaped petals that add unexpected pops of color to a lush, green background.

Gloriosa superba is the most abundant and undoubtedly the most striking variety. But other varieties with paler flowers can also be found. Whether you grow it from a tuber or from seeds, you need to start your plants in cosy and comfortable conditions that mimic the tropical climate of your homeland in Asia and Africa.

8. Fatsia

It may be hard to believe that this glossy shrub with lush leaves can withstand a severe frost, but you will find that it is exceptionally hardy and reliable! Fatsia japonica is perfect for adding a permanent evergreen understory to your jungle garden.

Over the years, it will form a spectacular, spreading shrub that makes a great focal point. The white spider-shaped flowers in summer make this architectural plant even more interesting. If you are a fan of variegated foliage, try the speckled Fatsia japonica variety ‘spider web’.

9. Calla

Calla lilies, or Zantedeschia, to give them their real name, are a dazzling variety of tropical colors. Their striking petals make these perennials distinctive, but their shiny, silver-spotted foliage is just as attractive.

Although most need winter shelter, the Zantedeschia aethiopica species is more resistant to dazzling white flowers than most of the variegated varieties available. In a sheltered place, it often survives outdoors during the winter. Other varieties must either be moved to their pots in a frost-free place, or bred and stored in trays of dry, loose compost.

10. Passionflower

Passiflora caerulea is a well-known climbing plant in the UK. This exotic beauty is the perfect choice for covering unsightly walls, fences and sheds to give your planting scheme a truly tropical feel. This vigorous climbing plant produces a spectacular display of summer flowers followed by large peach-colored fruits. It is perfectly rustic so that you can enjoy it year after year.

If you want to grow your own passion fruit, opt for Passiflora edulis, which has a much better flavor. This is a frost-sensitive variety, so it is better to grow it in a heated greenhouse or a winter garden, where it forms a spectacular evergreen climbing plant.

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