GARDENING INFO FROM DOUG – Creating a Tropical Landscape


Can we create a tropical oasis in this area? A quick answer to this question is yes! You will need to put on your creative cap because there are a few steps that you can do now knowing that you will add to this landscape later.

Here we are in the last couple of days of March. In April we have warmer days and nights and less chance of any freezing or frost. However, keep in mind that our average last frost date is around the 20th of April. So, you can start creating this tropical oasis with some hardy plants knowing that now is too early for all plants.

A true tropical landscape will focus on lush, colorful, foliage. You may be asking yourself if any plant choices are hardy to survive in this area year-round. The answer is yes. As you are creating this lush, foliage, colorful landscape consider planting some of the following hardy plants:

  1. Windmill palm or the European Fan palm: Both of these palm trees are winter hardy for our region. As a matter of fact, we have a Windmill palm planted here by our mailbox for years before we re-landscaped the area. The Outback Steakhouse restaurant also had Windmill palms planted alongside their building until they remodeled.
  2. Musa bajoo: This is our hardy banana plant. This banana plant will give you height along with large leaves. It is beautiful! I planted one in front of my house last year. By the end of the fall, it had reached over 6 feet tall before it collapsed with a freeze. So, it is not an evergreen. But, I am anxious to see it come back and start to grow soon.
  3. Ferns: We have a large selection of assorted hardy ferns that you can plant in your tropical paradise.
  4. Hibiscus: We have a large selection of hardy hibiscus that are perennials in our region. One of my favorites is the variety Lord Baltimore. This one has large, dinner-plate size red blooms in the summer. Other varieties will give you other colors, and some varieties will have burgundy leaves to go along with the flowers.
  5. Cannas: A nice, hardy plant with either green or burgundy large leaves. Flowers will spike up from the plant. Flower colors will range from orange, yellow, pink, and red.
  6. Ornamental Grasses: There are lots of varieties with different textured leaves and plumes. Obviously, the very popular Pampas grass will give the greatest show because of the size it grows and because of the tall plume that will reach over 10 feet tall. Now, so many other great hardy ornamental grasses can be added to this garden design such as Muhly grass with its purplish, feathery plumes.

I think you are getting the sense that just with a little creativity you can put together a tropical looking design using many hardy shrubs and perennials. Other plants to consider planting this time of year are: Caladium bulbs, Elephant Ear bulbs, Gladiola bulbs, Asiatic Lily bulbs.

Come the end of April when we are safe to plant summer blooming annuals, this is when you can fill in the voided areas for lush texture and color by using more true tropical plants and with our popular summer annuals. People love planting the tropical hibiscus trees in containers outside. Other tropical plants to add would be Bougainvillea, Monster ferns, and others.

I just mentioned containers. Large, colorful containers in this tropical paradise will add a lot of interest and make a bold statement. Right now we have a great selection of containers, including some large, self-watering containers.

And, don’t forget about the idea of adding a colorful birdbath to this display or adding a water feature. Enjoy!

Personally, I have a banana plant that I am anxious to see growing again, I have cannas, I have a beautiful Euphorbia Wulfinni, I plant Elephant ears, and I have plenty of containers. I think I just inspired myself to take my area up to a new level.

The entire time while writing this blog I was reminiscing about the Maymont Flower and Garden Show that we use to have here in Richmond. The show had so many wonderful landscape displays that featured so much of what I just mentioned.


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2 thoughts on “GARDENING INFO FROM DOUG – Creating a Tropical Landscape”

    • Catherine,
      Good Morning.
      Deer will like some of the plants that I mentioned in this article but not all. Doug

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