Gardening 101: How to Start a Tropical Garden

Have you ever dreamed of starting a tropical garden in your backyard? Depending on where you live, that may be more realistic than you think.

Starting a tropical garden can be a significant project. However, if you put in the effort and do research beforehand, you can have a lush and colorful yard in no time. With the right tools, materials and environment, your garden can flourish with little effort on your part.

It is important to ensure that your environment can accommodate tropical plants. If not, there are things you can do to encourage tropical or semi-tropical plants to take root. Learn the tips and tricks for starting and maintaining a topical garden below.

What is a tropical garden?

A tropical garden is a garden that incorporates tropical plants and fruits. These gardens do best in warm sunny climates with moderate to heavy rainfall year-round. Florida and Hawaii are ideal locations for a tropical garden in the U.S. because of the moist soil, hot temperatures and frequent rain.

Aside from requiring sun, heat and water, growing a tropical garden is not significantly different from maintaining any other type of garden. All the plants in a tropical garden need nutrient-rich soil, pruning, fertilizer and other necessities to survive.

Fruit plants like pineapples, banana trees, orange trees, lemon trees and others are commonly found in tropical gardens. Other popular exotic and lush plants found in tropical gardens include orchids, ferns, Hoyas and bird of paradise.

Environment Needed for a Tropical Garden

Tropical gardens need a warm and wet climate in order to thrive. This means lots of humidity, sunshine nearly all year long, frequent rainstorms and mild winters. These types of climates can be found in states like Florida and Hawaii, as well as any tropical regions.

In the U.S., hardiness zones 9 to 11 are considered the most ideal parts of the country to start a tropical garden. In addition to Florida and Hawaii, other states include Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and regions along the west coast.

It is important to keep in mind that generally only the southern parts of these states provide an adequate climate. Other regions of the country are not ideal places to grow tropical gardens because they are too dry and cold.

Related Article: How to Start a Fruit Garden

In addition to the right climate and weather, tropical gardens also need acidic, fertile soil that drains easily. While tropical gardens require a lot of water to grow, too much water over time will kill off plants.

Tropical plants do not grow well in clay or sandy soil, so make sure your soil is fertile, rich and breathable before you start. Clay soil is very dense and does not allow for much water drainage or airflow. Sandy soil drains water too well, leaving plants dry.

Tools and Materials Needed to Start a Tropical Garden

To start your tropical garden, you will likely need to rent a tiller from your local home and garden store. This will prepare the ground and soil for planting. You may also need a shovel, shears and pruners.

Many tropical gardens feature a mixture of plants in the ground and potted plants to help add color and layers to the outdoor oasis. If you are growing climbing plants like passion flowers, a hardy perennial made for the tropics, use a trellis to help guide the plant as it grows.

One of the most important materials you need is a watering and drainage system. Tropical gardens thrive on damp soil and wet conditions. Keep a garden hose nearby or invest in a quality sprinkler system to keep your tropical garden in tip-top shape.

Prepare yourself, too. A good pair of garden gloves will help protect your hands during the preparation and planting process.

How to Start and Maintain Your Tropical Garden

To start a tropical garden, you first need to focus on the content of the soil. As mentioned above, clay and sand are not ideal soil types for growing a tropical garden. The content of your soil should be loose, acidic and rich in nutrients.

If you are starting from scratch, rent a tiller from a nearby home and garden store to clear the land. This will help turn the soil so that it is not compact.

Once you are done, add fertilizer to the soil. Manure tea is the best type of fertilizer for tropical garden soil because it is rich in nutrients. To make your own, mix five parts of water to one part of manure.

It’s time to select your starter plants. When putting plants in the ground, make sure to place the tropical greenery very close together. The area should mimic a rainforest or jungle with its densely packed and layered plants.

Start with plants that offer lush green foliage like bamboo, palms, tree ferns and banana trees. Keep in mind the overall design and layout of your tropical garden. Make sure to add vibrant and bright hues to bring out the best in your tropical garden.

Once you’ve planted the canopy, it’s time to add in colors and textures to make your tropical garden pop. Canna plants have various shades of green, yellow and bronze which can help your canopy easily blend.

Angels’ Trumpets are an easy choice for flowers. They come in pink, yellow, orange and white and spill over into your tropical garden for an eye-popping combination of colors.

Other tropical plants you can choose include caladiums, red, orange and yellow crocosmia flowers, mandevillas, tropical hibiscus and sea holly. Each plant should come with an instruction tag. Be sure to follow the guidelines when it comes to sunlight and watering.

In general, tropical gardens need ample amounts of water. A sprinkler system is a convenient way to maintain your tropical garden but can be expensive to install. As an easy alternative, use a garden hose or watering can to thoroughly drench the plants daily.

Overgrowth is encouraged to complete the overall look and feel of the garden. That said, tropical plants should be pruned on an as-needed basis.

Some experts suggest putting tropical plants in pots in the event of an unexpected hard freeze or weather event such as a hurricane. If you must bring your tropical plants inside, use a humidifier to recreate their normal environment until you can move them back outside. This will help them survive indoor temperatures.

Related Article: How to Grow a Garden on a Balcony

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