Tropical Landscaping Design Ideas

Tropical landscaping ideas for colorful yards in warm climates.

Tropical Water Feature

Tropical Water Feature

A water feature is an exotic element in this tropical backyard. The family and guests can dine under the tiki hut with views of the pond and koi.

Photo by: Barry Fitzgerald

Barry Fitzgerald

Here for tropical landscaping design ideas? Lucky you. If you’re reading this, you likely live in a warm climate that can support tropical plants and flowers that bloom year-round. Paradise can be yours, but only if you’re willing to devote the time and effort to designing a tropical landscape plan that provides the perfect balance between beauty – and maintenance. 

While many tropical plants are self-contained (meaning they’re not vines or ground cover spreaders), yards in humid climates need extra attention, because plant life reproduces and grows faster with abundant sunshine and rain. Unfortunately, that means weeds in warm climates grow as fast or faster than their well-mannered (and prettier) counterparts.

When designing a tropical garden or yard ask yourself, “Where do I not want flowers and plants?” Often, this question is more pertinent to your landscape design plan than any other, since the hallmarks of tropical landscape design are density and lushness!

If you’re designing a tropical landscape for a front yard, save space for a walkway and be sure to define your front porch or patio. A lawn bordered by plants and flowers can be a clean approach. If you’ve got a screened porch or lanai, plants that desire partial sun work well in these spaces. Arabian jasmine makes a wonderful porch pot. 

It’s important to keep in mind that, while tropical landscape design styles are more free-form than modern landscaping or traditional gardens, you still need to be aware of the amount of sunlight the plants you choose need. Ferns and orchids like filtered light, for example. Hanging flowers create a canopy for seating areas and add color to hardscapes such as pergolas and archways. Bougainvilla can be potted or planted along a wall or trellis as a blanket of color and scent. Begonias and hibiscus are additional tropical favorites.

Your soil quality is key. Soil that’s too sandy, too marshy or not well drained will produce limp and ailing plants. Plants started in pots and moved to ground may need fertilizer. And tropical plants won’t withstand frosts or freezes, so be sure to check with your local garden center about the compatibility of your plant and flower choices with your microclimate and soil.

All you coastal dwellers take note: soil, heat and sun conditions can change rapidly as one moves inland, even as little as a few miles, so it’s best to go hyperlocal on as many plant choices as possible.

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