Being on holidays during summer is more than just having time off. It’s about soaking up the laid back atmosphere of summer: spending time sitting under a shady tree, lounging beside a pool, chilling at a holiday house or zoning out at a lush resort. The plants that surround you become part of the summer holiday and can be the key to extending that holiday feel into the rest of the year.

Plants that form the backdrop to a summer holiday are usually lush and often colourful foliage plants. Introduce a holiday feel into your garden by planting these types of plants either in the garden or in large containers on a balcony or patio. Add a water feature in the form of a pond, pool or fountain and comfortable chairs and you can be on holiday in your own garden all year round.

Top choices

The following plants tick the boxes when it comes to tropical holiday feel but are not necessarily tropical plants. They grow well in warm, frost-free gardens. Use the larger plants (small trees and tall shrubs) and climbers to create a canopy of sheltering growth and to screen out boundaries, then add a selection of smaller shrubs and perennials to give that lush feel.

Trees and tall shrubs

Frangipani (Plumeria rubra) A small succulent-stemmed tree with white or sunset-toned fragrant flowers. Just one whiff says summer holidays. Frangipanis need a warm, sheltered, frost-free location. Although best in the ground, they can be grown in large containers in a sunny spot. Frangipanis are leafless in winter.

Murraya (Murraya paniculata) Choose this dense, evergreen shrub as a screen or hedge. After rain expect masses of cream, highly fragrant flowers to appear. Grows in sun or shade but flowering is better in full sun.

Lady palm (Rhapis excela) A small, mulit-stemmed palm that gives a lush holiday feel whether planted in the ground or in a large pot. Give this one a shaded location.

Port wine magnolia (Magnolia figo syn. Michelia figo) This tall, evergreen shrub has light-green leaves and tiny but highly fragrant cream flowers.

Viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum) Usually seen as a hedge, this viburnum can also be grown as a large-leafed tall shrub. It has clusters of tiny cream flowers.

Clockwise from left: Port wine magnolia, Murraya, Viburnum

Small shrubs and ferns

Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium australasicum) Select this lush bowl-shaped native fern for a feature plant in a shaded spot in the ground or a container.

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) A tropical shrub with large and boldly coloured leaves, crotons need a warm, sheltered spot over winter as they don’t like the cold.

Gardenia (Gardenia florida) This familar evergreen shrub with its creamy, fragrant flowers brings a lush tropical look.

From left: Bird’s nest fern, Croton


Mandevilla (Mandevilla spp.) There are many forms of these vigorous climbers including varieties with red, pink or white flowers. Train mandevillas over an arch, along a screen or up a pole.

Stephanotis (Stephanotis floribunda) Clusters of fragrant cream flowers are a stand out on this tropical climber. It grows the ground or a large pot and provided with a warm, sheltered spot and a support to climb.


Blue ginger (Dichorisanda thyrsiflora) Cane-like stems with spires of violet blue flowers are a feature of this shade lover.

Flamingo flower (Anthurium andraeanum) Enjoy shiny red, pink or white spathe-shaped flowers set among glossy leaves.

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) With dark green leaves and white spathe-flowers this small plant thrives in shade. Peace lilies are often sold as indoor plants but also add to the lush feel in a sheltered outdoor spot. Look for large-leaved varieties for impact.

Other lush foliage choices for a holiday feel: bromeliads, cordyline, dracaena, native ginger (Alpinia caerulea), never-never plant (Ctenanthe oppenheimiana), Philodendron ‘Xanadu’, renga lily (Arthropodium cirratum).