Add a Burst of Tropical


To maximize the look of tropical, you almost have to use tropical plants from warmer zones.

Sure you can use big leaved hardy perennials, or add brilliant primary color, but the form of tropical plants is much harder to substitute if going for the island look.


The swaying palms, the vibrant hibiscus, the huge leaves of banana, Canna, Alocasia, Colocasia, and of course, the aquatic water lilies. Notice the palms at Longwood gardens above are in containers. It makes for easy storage in winter greenhouses. Also, what you don’t see is the plants that appear in the ground are also in containers to lift in fall.



Tropical exotic destinations are lush, dense and very green due to all the rain. Having traveled to Costa Rica, Maui, and St. Lucia, I was in awe of the height and girth of the healthy plants, all growing in close proximity to each other. Jungles are in these places for a reason.



Many of the named plants above can be grown indoors starting early March from bulbs, but it is always a lot of work to lift the plants to save them year to year – or even just save the bulbs. It is expensive to replace bulbs too, some being over $10 per bulb. While I admire gardeners who can create this backyard paradise each year in cold climates, it would never be something I would design or even suggest.


The cost alone makes it difficult to fathom. I have to say I do like seeing this look at both Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer. It really transports me back to places I enjoyed visiting.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
This entry was posted in garden and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Add a Burst of Tropical

  1. Annette says:

    I’ve heard so much about Longwood and hope to see it some day but your pictures are wonderful and it’s just like walking though it. They have a fab way of combining plants and seemingly a benign climate too. Hope all is well with you, Donna, enjoy your weekend 🙂

    • The garden climate in the Pennsylvania area is very similar to where I live now. One thing I liked better about gardening in PA was they get more rain and the season begins earlier. The mountains and hills add visual interest with long, borrowed views. The designers do have a wonderful sense of color and planting combination. Thank you, Annette. I wish you a wonderful weekend too.

  2. I agree, Donna, that it is too much work and expense to create a tropical garden in our cool climate. Also, tropicals don’t fit into my English Cottage Garden style. But I love to see them, and the displays at Longwood are stunning. Didn’t know the plants were in pots in the ground — always learn something new from your postings. P. x

  3. Loretta says:

    Just gorgeous, I too love all the tropical foliage in any garden. If one has a greenhouse to winterize them over the colder months, that would be just perfect. But alas, we can only dream. I especially love palms, but have been pretty unsuccessful each year. I’ve tried everything indoors and even leave them outside in the summer, but I can never bring them back. Your pictures as always are gorgeous and it looks like your camera got quite a workout at Longwood and Chanticleer :).

    • Thank you, Loretta. I have quite a few indoor plants and started reducing that number recently. All the palms had gotten very large so they had to be sent away. Like you, it is because my house plants live outdoors in summer.

  4. I like it! I agree about the amazing size of the plants in tropical locations. Although some of the plants you mention (Cannas in particular) can get pretty large during a hot Midwestern summer. You’ve given us so many reasons to visit Longwood and Chanticleer when we have the opportunities. Thanks for all the great coverage, and your photos are superb, as always.

    • Gardeners here also plant Canna and some of the other large leaved plants in their gardens, bringing them in for winter. Over in Canada, they use quite a number of Canna for the outdoor displays, but the parks dept. starts the plants in greenhouses very early. Their Canna, like those at the PA public gardens, get 6-7 feet earlier in the summer season. They are ready to flower when they put them out in spring. That is the big difference than the home gardener who waits and waits for them to flower.

  5. Barb says:

    If you ever come to Sarasota, be sure to visit Marie Selby Botanical Garden. It’s a real tropical (and subtropical) garden, with no need to worry about winter!

  6. I like that tip: Keep tropical plants in pots so you can bring them inside for the winter.

  7. rogerbrook says:

    Although inappropriate for the lovely gardens you show Donna, my 12 foot high gunnera looks wonderfully tropical this year!

  8. debsgarden says:

    So beautiful! I have always preferred the soft pastels of the English landscape. However, living where I do, I have come to appreciate tropicals, though they are not quite hardy here. My husband is sick of my storing tropical plants in his office over the winter – it has the space and light – so maybe one day I will get a small greenhouse, though i think he would miss working in the jungle.

    • Ha, ha. I bet he would miss all the plants around him. The air must just be a bit better. A greenhouse would be a nice addition though. I like the pastel colors myself, but take it up a notch with the brights in summer. Summer light does not do the pale colors justice.

  9. I have put Longwood and Chanticleer on my “must visit” list when I’m traveling…Your photos are gorgeous, really eye catching.

  10. I’m not enthusiastic about most tropical plants – though I do have a soft spot for Caladiums and Cannas. To me what says tropical are those great big shiny leaves.

  11. bittster says:

    You don’t have to sell me on tropical, but if I needed convincing your photos would have done the trick!
    I agree though that the types of gardens shown would be out of reach for most… though it must be nice to just plunk down a whole new garden each spring!

  12. Gardens are lots of work, but so beautiful!!

  13. A.M.B. says:

    Beautiful pictures! I love tropical gardens, though I’d never try to create one at my suburban Philly home. It’s nice to be able to visit that type of garden at Longwood.

Comments are closed.