Tropical Garden Plants

Brendan shows how easy it is in the tropical parts of Australia to create a tropical garden in your own backyard, with some easy tips to create a cool, luscious garden paradise.

A tropical garden means succulent palms, cool ferns, bright flowers and plenty of shade. The key is the combination of three different groups of plants – palms, big fleshy foliage plants, and coloured foliage plants.

Palms give you an instant association with the tropics and provide the all-important canopy for the shade underneath. Brendan warns against the pretty ugly cocos palms. Instead, go for his favourite – the dwarf date palm – a slow grower but definitely worth the wait.

The big fleshy foliage plants add structure to the understorey and contribute to that jungle feel. Brendan recommends regular canna lillies, birds' nest ferns and giant strelitzia. The coloured foliage plants are the slashes amongst the green that really bring the understorey to life. Try permanent coloured foliage like cordylines and striped canna lillies, and for flowers, no tropical garden is complete without frangipanis and bougainvilleas.

Things to consider


  • Tropical plants grow just about anywhere in Australia, but if you live somewhere cold and frosty, a tropical garden will be just too hard.
  • A tropical garden should be designed in layers: a canopy of trees on top to protect upcoming plants, middle size bushy palms or ferns and smaller, colourful plants for ground cover.
  • Don't let colour dominate – instead let streaks of bright colour strike out through green foliage.
  • Tropical gardens need lots of water – particularly in the early stages and in areas with sandy soil. Cut up dead leaves and put on the ground to feed the soil.
  • Stick to natural textures wherever possible – consider using bamboo or natural brush for fencing and recycled bricks for tiles or paving.
  • In a tight space, use walls to provide room for more plants. Brightly coloured walls highlight the form and texture of non-flowering plants.
  • A tropical garden should envelope all who enter and give a sense of enclosure, so try to cover eyesores like pipes and fences with climbers or bushy ferns.

Equipment and Suppliers


Andrew O'Sullivan & Associates
Landscape Designers
P.O. Box 2002
Rose Bay North NSW 2030
Ph: 0416 284 228

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