Have you ever returned from a tropical destination wishing you could hang onto that beachy vibe when your vacation is but a distant memory? Do magazines and television shows in sultry settings heighten your desire for a vacation when your budget just says no?
Why not craft an exotic, resort-style garden in your very own backyard? Embrace a staycation — save money and rejuvenate at home.
With creativity and inspiration, you can re-create lush, a luxurious setting in your own landscape. With the right plants, DIY design tips and simple decorating hacks, you can build a garden oasis that warms your heart.
Bring the heat
Even though we live in a hot climate, it lacks the humidity and temperate conditions that keep plants going year-round in the tropics. But, with the right native and adapted Zone 8 plants, the look and feel of a dazzling garden is well within reach from late spring through fall.
Tropical gardens are characterized by brilliant and intense color, shape and form. Whether you are intrigued by the bold explosion of colors or mesmerized by dominant leaf shapes, many tropical-like plants grow well in Central Texas.
The brilliant yellow blooms of Esperanza, fuchsia Moy Grande hibiscus, and tangerine Pride of Barbados evoke tropical flair. Add crinum, daylilies, elephant ears, Persian shield and lily of the Nile for texture and contrast. Banana trees, palms, sagos, cannas and variegated shell ginger provide bold textures to round out the look.
Much like the plants that surround them, outdoor tropical rooms should reflect a multilayered style of dramatic focal points surrounded by lush complementary elements.
To design your one-of-a-kind space, reflect on your personal style. Which tropical garden characteristics appeal most to you?
Hot colors create a riot of interest in tropical gardens — plants, art and seating beckoning, "Look at me, look at me." Rich and sophisticated hues brighten shady spots and celebrate sunny spaces. Sultry colors blanket plants, pottery and decor. From furniture to planters and statues to gazing balls, all the elements work together to coordinate and contrast with trendy tropical style.
How do you take your patio from a boring, plain Jane five-piece table and chairs to an exotic paradise that is inviting and attractive? Simple additions make the difference.
Large pots with some “thrillers, spillers and fillers” provide a framework for your open space. What are thrillers, spillers and fillers? That’s the formula for making beautiful pots of plants —a tall focal point stands out above the other plants and makes a statement. Then add smaller plants with contrasting or coordinating colors to fill around the tall plant. Finish the project with trailing plants that spill outside the perimeter.
Bold and beautiful planters with tall dracaena or cordyline, paired with caladium, coleus, or croton and spilling with potato vine will make your patio pop. Use tall potted plants or small trees like dwarf palmettos, citrus or tall grasses to anchor the corners or ends of your seating area.
Coordinate everything from cushions to accessories, lamps and rugs. Wicker or dark natural furniture provides a woodsy feel. Transform existing side tables, benches, shelves and many other pieces of outdoor furniture a new coat of paint to match the decor.
Many local nurseries carry colorful outdoor rugs in natural textures or durable woven plastic that are weatherproof and great for outdoor spaces.
Light, bright and billowy fabrics define tropical spaces. Linen, gauze, crepe and other natural fabrics can be used for canopies, curtains and swags. These tropical textiles should feel cool and lightweight, evoking an ephemeral feel and a sense of tranquility. A few cup hooks and inexpensive curtain panels frame a patio cover to create your new room.
Once it’s set up, use your garden room to celebrate with themed parties — envision a luau-style gathering with cool, fruity umbrella drinks, bright tableware and fruit salad served in a hollowed watermelon. Scented candles or Tiki torches put finishing touches on the mood.
With a little planning and color coordination, you can create a lush garden destination of hot hues and exotic-looking plants. Then just turn on the margarita machine.