How to Create a Tropical Garden

How to Create a Tropical Garden

The tropical garden crosses boundaries. Encompassing American, Asian, Pacific Island and New Zealand coastal plants, the effect is lush, bright and bold. With the use of dramatic, contrasting form and foliage the tropical look has been adapted to reflect the diversity of plants grown in New Zealand as well as the diverse environment in which we live. Where ever you live in New Zealand, a tropical garden can be adapted to suit your growing conditions. The most appealing thing about tropical gardens is the low maintenance, easy care plants that are used. Tropical GardenTo create a tropical garden include in your planting the bold foliage of large, broad-leaf plants – agaves, aloes, palms, bananas, taro and puka (meryta sinclairii). Bright coloured foliage from plants like canna tropicanna, bromeliads, phormium (flax), grasses and coprosma.

Colourful flowering shrubs and perennials – vireya rhododendrons, strelitzia (bird of paradise), brunfelsia and hemerocallis (day lily). Mingle in fragrance – gardenias and frangapani (in frost free areas). Add a touch of the tropics with climbers – bougainvillea, clematis, mandevilla and tecomanthe.

Finish off with pebbles, rocks, crushed shell, large urns and pots, a water feature and Pacific Rim inspired garden features. All of the plants require a moist, well-drained soil.

Add generous amounts of compost at planting time. Your situation will dictate the types of plants used in your tropical garden – is it sheltered or exposed, in full sun or part shade? Some palms will require a sheltered situation – like the bangalow palm. Others such as the washingtonia can be successfully planted in exposed areas.

If planting in an area prone to frost, place frost tender plants into large pots and urns so that they can be moved in winter.

Your local Palmers expert staff will help you with selecting the right plants for your situation.

Planting suggestions for Pacifica gardens


Cabbage tree (cordyline australis), pittosporum, ficus species, puriri (vitex lucens), bamboo, banana (musa), karaka (corynocarpus), Australian frangipani (hymenosporum flavum), radermachera, puka (meryta sinclairii), pseudopanax.


Nikau (rhopalostylis sapida), queen palm, phoenix roebelenii, washingtonia, bangalow, kentia, sago, foxtail.


Yucca, dracaena, aloe, agave, aucuba, frangipani (plumaria), hibiscus, gardenia, brazillian flame bush (calliandra), arthropodium, vireya rhododendrons, strelitzia, griselinia.


Maidenhair, silver fern (cyathea dealbata), tree fern (dicksonia), hen and chicken (asplenium bulbiferum), birds nest fern (asplenium nidus), king fern.


Impatiens, canna lily, calla lily, agapanthus, euphorbia, poinsettia, ajuga, hemerocallis, kniphofia, heuchera.


Bougainvillea, clematis, mandevilla, pandorea, passiflora, pyrostegia, stephanotis, tecomanthe. This list is by no means comprehensive. Ask one of our friendly, expert staff in store for more specific information for your garden or area.
This ‘How To’ Guide has been produced to provide basic information and our experienced staff are available to answer any questions that you may have. Because this guide is of a general nature, neither Palmers nor its staff are responsible for the application of the information, as the contents may need to be modified for individual projects and site applications.