Ideas for Small Tropical Garden

Hybiscus flowers are great for a small tropical garden.

Looking for ideas for small tropical garden plans? Tropical plants are a lot of fun to raise and can provide big impact in a small space.

Sites for a Tropical Garden

The first thing to consider before we delve into ideas for small tropical garden plants is the location of your garden. Tropical plants, of course, need warmth and sun. This isn't the kind of garden you'd want to have outside in a northern climate, unless it was all kept in containers that could be brought into a greenhouse in the winter.

Most tropical plants like humid, sunny conditions. If you don't live in a tropical climate, a greenhouse really is the ideal planting location.

You can also grow a small tropical garden in your home if you don't have the climate or the space to put it outside. Tropical houseplants are a lot of fun to grow and bring a touch of island paradise to your home.

Ideas for Small Tropical Garden Outdoors

If you do live in a place where you can have a tropical garden outside or in a greenhouse, there are tons of options available to you.

Planning a tropical garden is much the same as planning other types of gardens. You want to think about layers of plants, including trees, shrubs, flowers and ornamental grasses.


Palm trees are probably the classic tree that everyone thinks of when they think of the tropics, but there are many other options for trees, such as:

  • Citrus trees
  • Banana trees
  • Bottle Brush
  • Money tree
  • Plumeria
  • Ylang-Ylang
  • Avocado tree
  • African tulip tree
  • Crape myrtle
  • Rubber tree or other ficus plants
  • Olive tree

There are many other options depending on your space constraints, your budget and the look you are going for. There are even ornamental citrus trees that can be kept in containers if your space is very small.


The next layer for your garden is shrubs and vines. Again there are many, many options, but here are some that are most readily available:

  • Gardenia
  • Hibiscus
  • Croton
  • Chenille
  • Jasmine
  • Firebush
  • Oleander
  • Yucca
  • Saw palmetto
  • Bougainvillea
  • Jade vine
  • Coral vine
  • Philodendron
  • Passion vine

Because odd numbers are so great in a natural landscape, planting just three small shrubs would be pleasing to the eye and hopefully not completely fill out your tiny landscape. If you are working with an extremely small landscape, you might omit shrubs and opt for a couple of vines on trellises to give height if you are not using trees.


For most people the reason to plant a tropical garden is for the wonderful flowers. Orchids are the plants that immediately spring to mind, but they are pretty high-maintenance and not every gardener is willing to devote the time to these beauties that they really need.

Fortunately there are many other options when it comes to tropical flowers:

  • Lily
  • African violets
  • Begonias
  • Salvia
  • Petunias
  • Lemon grass
  • Lobelia
  • Ferns
  • Cannas
  • Gardenias
  • Bird of paradise
  • Fringe flower

While not all of these are considered tropical plants, their bright colors and fun forms will add interest to a tropical garden-especially if you're trying to plan your small garden on a budget.

To make your small garden harmonious, plant masses of just a few different kinds of flowers. You can make it look wilder by choosing a variety of plants in the same color scheme-or that don't match at all, whatever suits you!


The final element of a small tropical garden is completely optional, but ornamental grasses add nice texture to a small garden. They also add color when the flowers aren't blooming.

Some great choices are Miscanthus, reed grass, different varieties of flax, wheat grass or even pampas grass. For a small space, choose just one type of grass and repeat it around your tree or in the front of your garden bed.

An Indoor Tropical Garden

It's easy to get ideas for small tropical garden landscapes that will be inside. It's also really easy to shop for an indoor tropical garden, because almost every garden center in the country carries tropical houseplants.

You'll be able to find orchids, ferns, philodendrons, crotons, rubber trees and ficus plants, among other options, all at reasonable prices.

When setting up a tropical garden inside, make sure that it gets a lot of sun and the plants stay well-watered. You should also consider spritzing the plants lightly with water every few days to mimic the humid environment they would get in their native habitat.

This is especially important in the winter months, because heating the air pulls humidity out of it, which is bound to make your plants unhappy.

With a little planning and creativity you can have a great small tropical garden, inside or out.


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Ideas for Small Tropical Garden