How to create a tropical garden
Want to make every day a holiday? Palms are a sure-fire way to recreate your favourite tropical destination, on your doorstep. To help you bring your exotic escape to life, we’ve rounded up a list of four plant-worthy palms, which you can successfully grow in Sydney. Throw in some colourful flowers and foliage and before you know it, you’ll be drifting off to the Pacific isles.
Palms of paradise
The secret to creating that lush look is to use different-sized palms to create a three-tiered effect. For a tall palm, you can’t look past an Alexander or Bangalow. Majestic palms are a happy medium, while Cascade palms are great for completing the lower parts of your tropical garden.
This fast-growing native features lush foliage and produces large creamy-white flowers and small red fruit in autumn. Alexander palm fact sheet
Another fast-growing native, this palm’s shallow roots make it perfect for planting near pools. Hanging bunches of mauve flowers and fruit appear summer through to autumn. Bangalow palm fact sheet
This Mexican shade-loving palm is hardy and happy indoors and out. Perfect for under planting to fill out your tropical garden. Cascade palm fact sheet
With its bright green symmetrical leaves and slightly swollen base, this fast-growing Madagascan palm is right at home in Sydney. Majestic palm fact sheet
Say it with flowers (and foliage)
To really give your garden that tropical touch, mix it up with exotic, vibrant foliage and flowers, which will add bursts of colour and create contrast and drama. There are many colourful plants that love shade but we’ve hand-picked the best of the bunch.
Heliconia & ginger
These colourful and reliable tropical plants provide brightly-coloured flowers in many shapes and sizes - plus, you can even find some varieties with colourful foliage! Certain varieties are ideal for temperate Sydney climates. Heliconia Hot Rio Nights is a large and popular red-flowered version, while Heliconia Sassy provides spiky blooms in shades of orange and pink. On the ginger side, Alpinia zerumbet is a shell ginger with pendulous blossoms in shades of cream or pink, and there's even a variety with boldly-patterned yellow and green leaves.
Cordylines are a tough plant that will enhance the tropical flavour of your garden. You’ll be tickled pink by the fuchsia shades of cordyline rubra and cordyline fruticosa ruby. Or for a splash of lime, try the cordyline fruticosa kiwi.
With their symmetrical foliage and multitude of colours, bromeliads make for fascinating plants. They don’t even have to be planted in the garden - they’re equally happy attached to tree trunks or in pots. Guzmania will give you a beautiful flower or if it’s wow-factor you want, plant the giant bromeliad, alcanterea.
If you’re looking for a colourful flowering plant for your tropical garden, clivia should be at the top of your list. Its orange trumpet flower will brighten your garden from late winter to early spring.
In spring, plant New Guinea impatiens or regular impatiens in your tropical garden. Their big flowers will give your tropical garden a pop of colour right through to autumn.
Caring for your palms
Preparing the soil
Dig through a planting compost like Flower Power Supersoil Composted Cow Manure.
Establishing your palms
They key to establishing lush, happy palms (especially in autumn and winter) is to keep their roots warm with layers of mulch and manure. Palms love organic matter, so for best results mulch with enriched cow manure, tea tree mulch or Organic Active 8 Soil Improver and Planting Mix.
Fertilise fortnightly from spring to autumn. Use a liquid organic fertiliser such as Nitrosol Liquid Plant Food Enriched with Organic Blood and Bone. Bigger palms can be fed organic, slow-release fertilizer such as Dinofert Concentrated Organic Fertiliser Pellets.
If you live an area with heavy frost, while your palm is establishing you may need to protect it with a cover, or just hose it off in the morning.
Give any dead leaves a snip. Recycle the leaves by shredding them and use as mulch for your palms.