12 Best Hardy Tropical Plants UK
The key to a lush, jungle-like garden is lots of greenery in many layers. Even in a small space, a tropical effect is simple to achieve by growing some or all of these 12 best hardy tropical plants.
Choose taller, hardy plants to add height and drama, select large leafed shrubs or trees to provide a lush canopy to protect smaller less hardy species.
Evergreen trees, shrubs and climbers give your garden its backbone. Let climbers clamber through other plants to help achieve those all-important foliage layers.
Plants with large leaves and bold-hued flowers provide an instant tropical vibe.
Tropical Garden Design Ideas
It isn’t easy creating a tropical garden in the UK, our cool, wet climate is not conducive for growing plants that come from tropical climes but some will tolerate, indeed thrive in parts of the UK. My selection of plants are all fairly easy to grow and care for therefor they prove to be a popular choice with gardeners.
Underplanting with smaller shrubs, perennials and annuals will add depth, as well as providing a change of interest throughout the season. It is also a means of ringing the changes, giving space to new plants.. Gaps can be filled with container displays of greenhouse grown plants that require warmer winter protection.
A tropically planted garden adds interest and takes visitors into another world. If boundaries are hidden by a mass planting of huge leafed trees and perennials then it gives the impression of a much larger space.
A moving water feature in amongst the planting creates humid dampness which adds another dimension to your tropical theme.
Tropical planting schemes are bang on-trend, helping you to get that holiday buzz. Add a glamorous tropical fruit cocktail or two and you could be anywhere.
10 Best Hardy Tropical Plants UK
Hardy Tropical Trees And Shrubs
Trachycarpus Fortunei Palm Tree
Trachycarpus loves the sun and tolerates drought conditions once their roots are established, making them the most popular choice for an exotic style garden. They have lovely fan-shaped leaves.
Don’t plant in an area that is prone to water logging during the winter, they must be in well-drained soil in a sunny spot.
Butia palms are one of the hardiest feather palm trees. Arching, evergreen, silvery-blue feather-like leaves add gentle, graceful movement. Grow in well-draining soil on a well-sheltered site.
Plant them near larger trees for added protection from the elements.
Butia’s are suitable container plants as the root system adapts to a contricted space. This means they are ideal for sunny patio’s, terraces and small gardens.
Tree Fern Dicksonia Antarctica
Dicksonia Antarctica or Australian Tree Fern is probably the best-known variety for growing here in UK gardens and one of the hardiest. They will survive easily at temperatures down to -5, however I recommend that you give them some winter protection. Ensure first of all that the crown is dry then pack it with straw or Horticutural fleece. This can be removed once all risk of frost or ice is over.
They do need some protection from extremely cold winters by using fleece or straw to cover the crown of the fern. These evergreen tree ferns are used to add height and all year round interest. Planting several specimens together creates a lovely jungle feel.
Planted alongside paths or walkways gives a sense of space and intrigue.
Banana Musa Basjoo
Musa Basjoo is probably the best banana variety for UK gardens as it is hardy down to -12. With their large leaves and quick growth, they are suited to a tropical garden.
Can be grown in containers which makes them an ideal choice for patio’s, balconies, courtyards and roof terraces.
Fatsia is a fast-growing large-leafed shrubby plant. Its palmate shiny leaves are very eye-catching, they bounce light around the garden. In late summer small clusters of white flowers are produced, followed by black berries in autumn and winter.
Cordylines produce evergreen spear-like leaves and can grow quite large. Ideal in borders or as specimen plants. They are valuable architectural plants providing interest throughout the seasons.
Hardy Tropical Perennial Plants
Agapanthus africanus are native to the tropics, growing well in any warm, sunny climate. A popular choice with gardeners as they are easy to grow in the borders or containers. Striking blue flowers atop meter tall, dark green stems with strap-like leaves.
Agapanthus may need some winter protection in cold, frosty areas.
Hostas are another fabulous choice for your tropical planting scheme. These easy to grow perennials thrive in warm, damp conditions in a shady spot, making them ideal for underplanting with larger trees or plants. Hostas come in a wide variety of colours from, silvery grey, blue grey, variegated greens, green with white, cream or yellow edges. They produce long-stemmed flowers in white, cream or mauve.
Gunneras form huge leathery leaves which soon adds a lush, exotic appearance to any garden. They thrive in warm, wet conditions and will even grow in ponds. Their rapid growth will provide shade and shelter to smaller plants growing beneath. These subsequent plant layers help to give the garden its tropical atmosphere.
I would say that Gunneras are half-hardy, withstanding most UK winters in a sheltered area.
Protect from frost when necessary.
Rodgersia is a gorgeous perennial growing approximately 6ft from spring onwards. Huge fronds of white flowers will fill and light up a shady corner. An absolute have to add to the foliage layers in a border or along footpaths.
Canna adds a bold splash of colour to any garden theme, their colourful and large leaf variations make them perfect flowering tropical plants. Several large red, orange or pink flowers are produced on long stems. Grown in clumps they are a striking feature.
Container grown canna can be used to fill any gaps, or use them to add colour on patios.
Ferns grow easily and happily in the UK climate.
So many gorgeous varieties can be eased into small gaps. Use them for underplanting in sunny or shaded areas or indeed treat the larger ones as a focal point. Their soft fronds unfurl in spring and will die back in winter.
I hope this article has given you a taste for all things tropical. For further inspiration on other garden styles take a look at How To Make A Mediterranean Garden
WineandWisteriaTravel.com article Abbotsbury Subtropical Garden may also be of interest.
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