How to create a tropical resort-style garden at home
For those missing the annual de-stress of a holiday at a tropical resort, there’s a simple solution... and it’s closer to home than you may think. With a few props, clever plant choices and a spade, you can give your own backyard a resort feel – all for less than the airfare. Here's how.
Think about the features that make a tropical resort look and feel so appealing: lush foliage, fragrance, space in the shade for a sun lounger and a side table for that all-important tropical drink. Add the splash of a water feature, some gentle wind chimes and ornaments in the background, and you could be in Bali while you are still in your suburban backyard.
To surround yourself with a home-made and home-grown tropical resort, bring in a selection of plants that have a tropical feel, but can flourish in less-than-tropical climates. These can be grown in containers, planted in the garden among existing plants or introduced into extended garden beds.
Use the new plantings to screen out your boundary with the neighbours and give a backdrop of lush green with wafts of tropical floral fragrance.
Laying it out
The easiest plan is to mark out a broad, deep, curved garden bed around a central lawn, paved area or to edge the deck. This open space only needs to be big enough for a table and chairs, sun lounge or a day bed, while the rest can be filled with lush plantings.
If possible, curve the bed so that it sweeps around to block out the neighbours, and even the rest of your backyard, to enclose you in your personal resort space. Arrange taller plants in clumps at the back of the bed, but allow some to intrude into the space. This will provide filtered sunshine and also allow you to see beautiful greenery when you look up.
Fill in the rest of the space with lush foliage plants. Add texture and contrast by choosing a mix of leaf shapes, sizes and colours, and include a few shrubs for tropical flower colour and fragrance to trick your senses. Some tropical flowering plants – such as hibiscus and frangipani – need full sun to bloom, so grow these plants in a sunny spot or put them in a container placed in a sunny position. Cold-sensitive plants should be kept in containers and moved to sheltered spot over winter (such as a deck or porch).
Get the look
Mix and match from the list below to get that tropical look in your garden. To get plants off to a good start, dig in well-rotted organic matter such as compost before planting and install a watering system so you can holiday at home! Don't forget to surround the new plants with organic mulch - this will both keep weeds at bay and help to keep soil moist and cool.
Tall and lush for height and privacy
- Giant white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)
- Clumping bamboo (best contained)
- Lilly pilly
- Medium-sized palms (Kentia palm, rhapis palm)
- Native frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum)
Shrubs and perennials for texture and colourful flowers
- Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
- Canna lily
- Mondo grass
- Moses in the cradle (Rhoeo)
A touch of fragrance
- Ginger lily (Hedychium – prune after flowering to stop seeds forming)
Foliage for interest, colour and contrast
- Canna ‘Tropicanna’
- Cordyline (range of colourful cultivars)
- Ferns (best in shade)
- Ornamental ginger (including Alpinia and Heliconia)
- ‘Zanzibar Gem’ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zanzibar Gem’)
Climbers for extra excitement
Good in containers
- Bamboo (select dwarf or clumping varieties)
- Dwarf hibiscus
- Dwarf frangipani
- Dwarf bougainvillea (Bambino Series)
- Indoor plants
- Rhapis palm, lady palm (Rhapis excelsa)