Tropical Shade Gardening Ideas – How To Create A Tropical Shade Garden

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

If your dream is to create a lush, jungle-like garden filled with exotic, shade-loving tropical plants, don’t give up on the idea. Even if your shady garden is many miles away from the tropics, you can still create the feeling of a tropical garden. Want to learn about creating a tropical shade garden? Read on.

How to Create a Tropical Shade Garden

When looking for tropical shade garden ideas, first consider your climate and growing zone. For example, if you live in an Arizona desert, you can still create the feeling of a tropical shade garden. However, you’ll need to do it without a lot of plants having high water demands. Or, if you live in a northern climate, a tropical shade garden should consist of cold-tolerant plants with a tropical appearance.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with color, as tropical jungles aren’t exactly sedate. Although you can plant blooming annuals and perennials, the best tropical shade garden plants tend to have big, bold, brightly colored or variegated leaves that will stand out in a shady garden.

Jungles are dense, so plan accordingly. While some plants may be prone to disease without air circulation, creating a tropical shade garden means planting like a jungle – a lot of plants in a small space.

Garden accents, including planting containers, are easy ways to create accents of bright color. Other tropical shade garden ideas that create an essence of the tropics include rattan furniture, woven mats, stone carvings or tiki torches.

Shade-Loving Tropical Plants

Here are some popular tropical shade garden plants to choose from:

Perennials

Ground Covers

  • Liriope (Liriope spp.)
  • Asiatic star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum)
  • Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
  • Algerian ivy (Hedera canariensis)

Shrubs

Annuals

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