Most of Florida is home to a warm climate that will get you the lush tropical landscaping look.
Some customers may want us to design a tropical oasis to remind them of their favorite vacation destinations in Hawaii or the Caribbean, while others may want to create a tropical vibe at home because their busy lifestyle does not allow for visiting these distant locales. Others may simply want to feel like they are living in their own private paradise every day.
If you are looking to incorporate tropical garden ideas into your landscaping design, here are some basics you need to know to help you along the way.
10 Tips for Designing a Tropical Landscape in Florida
1. Go big, go bold.
Tropical gardens are defined by plants with large, vibrant leaves and bright blooms. Palm trees, birds of paradise and alocasias are good examples of tropical plants to include in your backyard oasis. Carry the bright colors beyond the blooms to include teal cushions or a hot pink side table in your decor.
2. Control the chaos.
A wild, jungle or rainforest look is part of creating a tropical vibe, but you don’t want your guests to need a machete to make their way to your outdoor living areas. Keep the larger plants and palms close enough to walkways and patios to create an enclosed, canopy feel without having them so close that you have to push huge leaves out of the way to walk by them.
3. Define outdoor living areas.
When you are creating a jungle, rainforest or other tropical feel, make sure you do not let it overwhelm your entire yard. Define your outdoor living areas with low-growing borders or ground covers that create space between seating areas and larger plants. You might also consider smaller tropical plants in containers to act as a border to define entertaining areas.
4. Buy native Florida Plants.
Most tropical plants cannot tolerate heavy rain, so purchase your plants as close to home as possible to make sure you are getting plants that can survive and thrive where you live.
5. Include palm trees.
Palm trees are readily available, thrive in Southern California and are essential to tropical landscaping. They are so common in Southern California that you may already have some to work with. If you are lucky enough to have established palm trees in your yard, this will save you money and give you landscaping features to plan your design around.
6. Consider water features.
An ideal backyard oasis includes water features with a tropical vibe. If you have the space and budget, this might be a pool with a beach entrance, Baja shelf and waterfall. The more you can make your pool look like part of the natural landscape, the more successful you will be in creating a tropical vibe in your backyard. If your space or budget does not allow for a pool, consider adding a pond or a smaller water feature with a waterfall.
7. Use bamboo as a backdrop and privacy screen.
Fast-growing bamboo is a good choice for tropical backyards where you need a privacy screen or want to block views that take away from your personal oasis. Bamboo is also an easy way to fill in spaces and provide a backdrop on which to feature various tropical garden ideas.
8. Choose your hardscapes carefully.
Bricks are too traditional, and concrete is to stark and modern. Neither of these are ideal hardscape choices for walkways nor patios in a backyard with a tropical theme. Paving stone walkways and patios and wood decks are better choices that will complement a tropical garden.
9. Incorporate lava rock.
Incorporating lava rock is an easy way to carry your tropical theme into your ground covers. So, if you have areas of bare dirt or some spots that are looking a little sparse, easy-to-find lava rocks are the perfect landscape rocks for the job.
10. Carry your theme into your décor.
Tropical landscaping provides the foundation for your backyard paradise, but it is the decorative details that will define your outdoor living spaces as tropical oases. From the color of your cushions to the shape of the string lights you hang along the edges of your patio, every detail should exude the feel of island décor. Hang a hammock between two sturdy trees, incorporate tiki torches in your landscape lighting design, and choose patio furniture made from teak, rattan or wicker.
If you have the space, include a tiki bar under a palapa or erect smaller palapas around your pool for your guests to enjoy.
6 Tips for Saving Water with Tropical Landscaping
Customers who want a tropical backyard in Southern Florida need to consider the water needs of most tropical plants. While there are some tropical plants that are drought tolerant once established, for the most part, plants native to tropical regions require irrigation equivalent to the amount of rain received in tropical areas. Drought-prone Southern California receives far less rain than most tropical plants prefer, which means your tropical backyard is going to require regular irrigation.
Depending on our current drought conditions and the municipality in which you live, you may be limited to watering only certain days of the week or you may have a limit to the units of water you are allowed to use each month before being fined for excessive water use. Even when Southern California is not in a drought, residents here must always consider water conservation efforts both to save money on their water bills and to do their part in helping us avoid water restrictions during our next drought.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot use your favorite tropical garden ideas in your landscaping, but it does mean that you may want to work water conservation into your design to balance out your property’s irrigation needs.
To help you achieve the tropical garden of your dreams without wasting water, here are six tips for saving water with tropical landscaping:
7 Drought-Tolerant Plants and Low-Water Tropical Plants for Tropical Landscaping
Although it may seem impossible, you can have tropical landscaping and still meet your water conservation goals. To accomplish this, you simply need to include tropical plants that happen to be drought tolerant and drought-tolerant plants that look like they could be from the tropics.
To get you started, here are seven plants to consider:
1. Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise are a quintessential feature plant in tropical backyards, so it is fortuitous that they also happen to be drought tolerant. You will need to water these regularly until they are established, but once they get going, you will enjoy showy spring blooms with minimal irrigation requirements.
Choose pink or orange lantana for a drought-tolerant ground cover you can use in borders around your tropical garden. The vibrant flowers and rich, green foliage will hold their own against showier tropical plants while allowing you to save water without giving up your dream of a tropical backyard.
3. Palm Trees
Palm trees are one of just a few trees you find both in tropical vacation destinations and thriving in the desert. So, if you are looking for something that will remind you of your first trip to Hawaii or your last stop in the Caribbean, palm trees might be the way to go. Like most plants and trees, palm trees will require regular irrigation until established but, once established, will be drought tolerant. Talk to your local garden center to make sure you choose options that are known to thrive in your area.
Many daylily varieties prefer moist soil, but some are quite drought tolerant, thanks to their ability to store extra water in their root system. Aside from helping you save water, daylilies are a good fit for tropical landscapes, because their big, showy, colorful blooms will fit right in. No one short of a botanist should question their right to reside among your tropical plants, so this perennial is a solid choice. Talk to your local garden center to determine which varieties are the best options for your area.
Plumerias are tropical plants that can be grown as shrubs or small trees. They will need full sun if you want to enjoy their hot pink or yellow and white blooms and are not cold tolerant, so only plant these if you live in an area with mild winters. The fragrant flowers are most aromatic at night, so plant your plumerias near outdoor living areas where you host parties or your bedroom window to enjoy the scent after dark.