Ideas for Creating a Tropical Flower Garden

Tropical flowers add a unique and unmatched appeal to any landscape. Their vibrant colors, unusual shapes, and bold foliage can transform an ordinary yard into a tropical paradise. Although they may require more care in colder climates, there are many benefits to growing tropical flowers in areas with a temperate climate. Pests and fungal diseases are less common, and tropical plants that may become invasive in warmer climates will stay well-behaved in colder regions. Let your landscape be transformed by the beauty and glamour of exotic tropical flowers.

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1. Mulch Importance

Matthew T Rader / Wikimedia

An effective tropical flower garden design should incorporate negative space, which are areas without plants. These could be mulched areas, or covered with materials like concrete, stone, or sand. Occasionally, a lawn may also be used as negative space in a tropical garden. Negative space is especially crucial for gardeners who grow rare flowering specimens, as it allows them to stand out and flourish by reducing competition for nutrients and water.

Gardeners have the option of selecting a mulch that enhances the tropical garden theme. For example, chopped cocoa bean hulls not only retain their dark brown color throughout the growing season, but also provide a pleasant chocolate scent for several weeks after application. Another great choice for tropical gardens is black-dyed wood chips, which absorb sunlight and provide additional warmth to tropical plants in cooler regions.

2. Keep Hydrated

BillyOh / RawPixel

Proper irrigation is essential for the well-being and appearance of tropical flowers. In their natural environment, flowers are not only exposed to a daily influx of water, but also to a humid atmosphere that keeps them fresh and dewy. Incorporating a water feature in a tropical flower garden not only adds an ornamental touch, but also provides a fine spray and mist that maintains the plants’ health. In colder climates, container plants such as bromeliads can be placed near the water feature and brought indoors when the growing season ends.

3. Get Orchids Outside

Orchid Flower / Wikimedia

While orchids are considered a classic tropical flower, not all climates provide ideal growing conditions for them year-round. However, this should not prevent you from giving your orchids an outdoor break. Positioning potted orchids strategically around the garden can instantly create a tropical atmosphere. The increased light and humidity may stimulate growth and even new buds.

It’s important to note that orchids prefer bright, filtered light instead of direct sunlight, and the ideal location is under a tree canopy or a sheltered area to protect them from wind damage. When temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, orchids should be brought indoors or into a greenhouse. Vanda and Dendrobium orchids are more sensitive to cold, while Cymbidium and Cattleya orchids are hardier, so it’s important to know the specific type of orchid to prevent damage from cold temperatures.

4. Tropical Landscape

Gardeners in temperate climates may doubt their ability to grow tropical flowers, but by choosing the right fast-growing annual flowers, they can bring the tropics to any region. For example, the striking orange spikes of ‘Hot Biscuit’ amaranth can be a focal point in a tropical design. Amaranth plants are easy to grow from seed and their young leaves can also be eaten, having a mild spinach flavor.

The red flowers of Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ contrast beautifully with the dark foliage, and bloom from July to October. Other plants like Cannas and flowering castor bean can be incorporated to add texture and rich colors, whether in or out of bloom. Verbena bonariensis, a South American native, adds an airy touch and will self-seed for future seasons of purple blooms, avoiding a too-dense look.

5. Quick Cannas

Canna Lily Golden Lucifer – Flickr – Kirt Edblom.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

One challenge of creating a tropical garden in cold regions is incorporating height. Without a greenhouse, tropical plants often die from the first frost just as they are reaching a taller size. However, Canna Lilies can provide that dramatic height in a tropical-themed garden within a single summer.

The quickest way to get cannas growing early in the summer is to purchase potted plants, but this can be costly to replace annually. An alternative is to save the rhizomes from year to year. After frost kills the top growth, cut the dead foliage down and dig out the clump. Rinse the soil from the clump and allow it to dry for a week. Store it in a dark, cool place, such as an unheated garage. Plant after the last frost and look for blooms about ten weeks later.

6. A Tropical Tree

Growing tropical trees in cold climates can be difficult, as they need to be moved indoors when frost threatens. Instead of a true tree, gardeners can use pruning techniques to shape a shrub into a tree form. One option for this is the angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) which, when grown in a container, can be trained to have a strong central trunk.

When selecting an angel’s trumpet, it is best to choose the Brugmansia genus over the Datura genus as it has a woodier habit which makes it more convincing as a tree. To achieve this tree form, prune away side shoots while the plant is still young to encourage the growth of a central leader.

Brugmansia angel’s trumpet can grow up to eight feet tall but container-grown specimens typically reach six feet. These plants begin blooming in late summer and have a strong evening fragrance that attracts hummingbird moths. It is important to note that all plants in the angel’s trumpet family are highly toxic and gloves should be worn when handling them

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