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Lush Foliage & Bright Color! - Tropical Container Gardening

Lush Foliage & Bright Color! - Tropical Container Gardening
Tropical Container Gardening

Sultry summer days always put me in mind of a tropical oasis. You can create a tropical getaway in your own garden - no matter what climate you garden in!  But it can be easier to contemplate creating a tropical garden in a container - adding a splash of tropical drama to your garden.

Photo by Glenna Partridge Garden Design 

Combining tropical plants with lush, colorful annuals and hardy plants with a tropical flair can form a dynamic and dramatic focus point for your garden. Let's take a look at how to achieve this type of look with a tropical container garden.

Photo by Glenna Partridge Garden Design 

How to Create a Tropical Container Garden 

There are two main considerations for creating a tropical garden in a container - culture and appeal. Take care to select plants with similar cultural needs in terms of sun exposure and watering. Mixing plants that need lots of sun with those needing deep shade will make it very difficult to locate a good spot for the container.  Similarly, select plants with a similar need for water.

Once you have narrowed down the plants to those with similar needs, select for those that look complimentary in terms of color, height and texture. This is very much in the eye of the beholder, but we will cover some design basics in this article.

Recipes for Planting Tropical Container Garden

Tropical garden container recipe for full sun locations canna curcuma ginger and dahlia

Tropicanna canna, both the original with the wildly colored, variegated foliage and the very dark leafed Tropicanna Black are highly dramatic plants to build a tropical look around. Both Tropicanna varieties will grow about 4 feet tall in a large container, and they add a lot of color to the design. Adding the lush green foliage and the vibrant red and yellow blooms of Curcuma ginger Indian Surprise adds electricity to the container. The dark, nearly black leaves and brilliant red blooms of dahlia Bishop of Llandaff continues the color theme of the container, and ensures month of blooms. Though dahlias are not tropical, sometimes they will fit right in with your design, and more importantly, they will thrive in the conditions of your mixed planting. Play with the look!

tropical container garden recipe alstroemeria eucomis caladium

Lush, tropical foliage and fragrant, long-lasting blooms make eucomis pineapple lilies a welcome addition to any tropical garden, and they play nicely with the other plants in this collection. Alstroemeria Lucky is a lovely, white blooming variety with a rich, rosy flush at the throat of every bloom. Caladium Sweetheart's rosy pink foliage ensures flower-bright color all season long.

tropical container garden recipe ginger hedychium sweet potato chartreuse

Ginger hedychium produces wide, tropical leaves and highly fragrant blooms that are attractive to butterflies. Hedychium Greenii's blooms are a warm, rich salmon. Beautiful paired with Hedychium Ellipticum, whose blooms are a soft lemon yellow accented by touches of the same salmon color.  The vibrant chartreuse foliage of the sweetpotato vine adds drama through its electric color as well as it's trailing habit. A cascade of color down the side of the container is always a wonderful addition to a mixed plant container.  Sweetpotato vines are lush and easy to grow, with leaves in a range of colors, often bright lime or chartreuse green or a deep, dark nearly black color. This same sweet potato vine would be a glorious addition to the container group above with the alstroemeria Lucky.

tropical container recipe alstroemeria colocasia caladium

Alocasia and colocasia with their huge leaves reminiscent of the ears of an elephant, make dramatic center pieces of a large tropical container garden. Here, colocasia Black Magic has deep, dark, velvety leaves brilliantly contrasted with the white and green leaves of the tropical caladium Aaron. White flowering alstroemeria Claire is the perfect foil for the two. Another combination I like is to add the chartreuse sweet potato vine, and replace the caladium with the green and gold pinstriped leaves of Canna Tropicanna Gold

Keys to Tropical Container Design 

Remember that planting closely, densely, to form and almost jungle-like effect is one of the keys to a tropical garden look.  Plan for a combination of plants that provide different levels, with a tall, and medium and a low or trailing tropical container plants.

Canna lilies, banana plants and colocasia or alocasia elephant ears are great selections for the tallest plant in your container.

Flowering gingers, calla lilies, agapanthus lily of the nile and eucomis pineapple lilies are perfect for the middle height for your tropical container planting. 

 Alstroemeria princess lilies, caladium and dwarf eucomis are ideal for the low growing plants in your tropical container garden. 

Will you join me in making it a tropical escape for summer?   A tropical container for the garden, a refreshing mint mojito and a hammock in the shade - sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  :)  If you do plant a tropical container - I would love to see photos of your finished creation! Please take a moment to leave a comment to let me know your ideas! 

Happy gardening!

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  • Kathleen McCarthy
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