10 Small Tropical Garden Ideas: Transform Your Space

larisa author

Last updated on October 3rd, 2023

Larisa Avagyan
small tropical garden ideas

Have you ever been sitting in your chair and scrolling photos of countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka and dreaming about having such nature outside your window? Well, let’s think about what makes those countries outstanding. Probably the tropical plants and exotic atmosphere. And now you’re thinking about buying tickets, having a short trip to Singapore, and spending all your money there? Well, what if we give you small tropical garden ideas and you modify your ordinary garden and make it a bit exotic? In other words, don’t visit Singapore, let Singapore visit you.   

Lots of people are looking for small tropical garden ideas on the internet and implementing some of them in their lives. Why don’t you do the same? Your garden will help you become more concentrated, harmonious, calm, and healthy.

Features to look for before implementing small tropical garden ideas

Designing a modern tropical garden is an exciting journey that can transform your outdoor space into a satisfying and tranquil place. But before making changes consider some essential features which will ensure the success of your project. These features not only contribute to the aesthetics but also play a crucial role in the well-being of your plants and the overall ambiance of your garden. 

Climate Compatibility 

Before putting small tropical garden ideas into practice, it’s essential to evaluate whether your local climate aligns with the needs of tropical plants. Most of the plants require specific temperature and humidity. Ensuring a compatible environment is the first step in your garden's success, so before choosing specimens make sure that you can ensure their well-being.

Plant Selection

As we’ve already mentioned before, you should select the plants, that can be compatible with your climate. Besides this factor, the right mix of plants is important for composing a botanical symphony. You should pay attention to the details such as the size, growth rate, and maintenance requirements of each plant. Make sure that after having the whole garden done it’ll remain both visually appealing and easy to manage. 

Soil Quality

Tropical plants require a penchant for well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Conduct soil tests or research on the internet to assess its composition and amend it as necessary. Creating the perfect soil conditions will lay the groundwork for vibrant, healthy growth.

Watering Needs

Humidity significantly influences the care of tropical outdoor plants. Prior to selecting a plant, make sure you know how much water it requires. Implement an efficient irrigation system to maintain ideal moisture levels. This will help you meet the needs of your garden.

Shade and Sunlight

You may have a perfect temperature or humidity level in your garden, but if you don’t have balanced shade & sunlight, your project won’t succeed. Tropical plants such as Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Plumeria require the most sunlight, whereas Caladium, Hosta, and Ferns prefer shade. So before making a purchase make sure your garden has the specific light requirements. 

Choose Tropical Garden Plants

What is the first step you should take after gathering small tropical garden ideas? Right! Choosing the plants. Before buying plants from your local stores, make sure you’ve also done some research on the internet and focus more on the plants that look exotic. You make like the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae), which is known for its large, banana-like leaves and orange and blue bird-like flowers. It prefers indirect sunlight and well-drained, consistently moist soil. 

tropical garden

Another good option is Croton (Codiaeum variegatum), which features vibrant and colorful leaves with patterns of orange, green, yellow, and red. You can also consider Palm Trees (Various Species), which are iconic thanks to their tall trunks and elegant, feathery fronds. Most of these trees prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Regular watering is essential for young palms, while established ones can tolerate dry periods. They’re typically used to provide shade.

With the right combination of plants, you can give your guests a tropical feel. So in order to make sure that your plants match each other, pay attention to the characteristics, such as color palette, leaf texture & shape, blossom type, plant height, and layering.

Transform a backyard 

Here are some backyard tropical ideas for you. While picking small plants such as Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.), Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae family), or Fittonia (Fittonia spp.), also look for self-watering containers. They don’t need much space and will take care of your plants instead of you.

Plants are surely beautiful, but they are not enough to add a tropical touch to your garden. So besides concentrating on the flora, make sure you’ll have fauna, too. In other words, bring some hummingbirds and butterflies. 

backyard transformation

Also, incorporate water features. Considering your budget, you can choose to have ponds (which is a great idea, as you can add fish there, too), fountains, small waterfalls, or birdbaths.

Use a Backdrop to create a more beautiful visual effect 

Your modern tropical garden may look even more beautiful if you consider adding some visual effects with a backdrop. Different kinds of tropical plants match with different backdrops. For example, if you’re going to plant bamboo, it’ll be perfectly combined with wooden fences which complement the lush greenery of tropical plants. Tropical vines such as Bougainvillea or Passion Flower look nice near stone walls. These climbing plants will create a stunning cascade of vibrant blooms against the stone backdrop. 


Some experts may give you other small tropical garden ideas such as painting your walls or fences to create various colors that can accentuate the tropical garden. You should also consider trellises and arbors which perfectly combine with delicate plants like Mandevilla or Jasmine.

Add Whimsical Elements

Adding whimsical elements to your garden plays a crucial role because that’s the way to show your personality to people. 

Whimsical fountains come in various designs, and shapes, starting from playful animals to abstract sculptures. They add a magical touch to your garden. This kind of fountains are perfectly combined with tropical plants such as Elephant Ear (Colocasia spp.) or Ferns (Nephrolepis spp.).


Decorative containers are another way to express yourself. Colorful pots or unique planters can hold tropical plants and add an element of elegance and creativity. Decorative containers highlight striking tropical specimens like Orchids or Bromeliads. 

If your space isn’t limited and you’re looking for some tropical garden ideas, think about creating winding and meandering pathways with unique materials like mosaic tiles, colored pebbles, or stepping stones adorned with whimsical designs. Line whimsical pathways with a low-growing ground cover like Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) or Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis).

Choose not only Tropical Plants

Who said that if you're searching for garden tropical ideas, you should buy only tropical plants? There are plenty of other specimens that only look like tropical. Most of them are more affordable to acquire and don’t require as much care as the tropical ones. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus Shrub) is a great choice. Known for its stunning, hibiscus-like flowers and graceful growth habit, this plant prefers full sun and blooms from late summer to fall. Its leaves have some resemblance to maple trees, and its flower colors vary between pink, red, white, blue, and purple. Another good option is Rose Mallow (Perennial Hibiscus), which has a similarity to bush, only the Rose Mallow is twice as big. The flowers can be pink, red, or white.

rose mallow

Other small tropical garden ideas may suggest planting Castor Bean Plant (Ricinus communis), Cold Hardy Banana, Passion Flower Vine, or Yucca.

Add Height To Garden Borders

In the realm of small tropical garden ideas, there’s an interesting approach, which can make a significant impact - adding height to your garden borders. By designing tropical gardens with vertical elements, you not only add space but also create a sense of depth and a beautiful visualization.  Incorporating tall, slender tropical palm trees is one way to do so. It’ll draw the eye upward and evoke the feeling of a jungle canopy. You can also utilize the Hardy Banana (Musa basjoo) in order to reach heights.

wall climbing plant

But if you’ve already picked your plants and your garden space is limited, you should consider exploring vertical wall gardens or living walls. You can decorate these walls by hanging tropical plants.  Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) are the plants that’ll create a perfect cascading effect.

Add a Colorful Corner

Tropical outdoor plants may have an even more exotic look if they are gathered together and have a matching color palette. Having plants with vivid hues isn’t only about your garden’s appearance. Whenever you look at your colorful corner, it’ll definitely cheer you up. But it doesn’t mean that you should pick all the plants that have different colors. Just try to make tasteful decisions. Consider species like Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata),  Ixora  and Frangipani (Plumeria spp.). The color of these plants varies from delicate pink to bright red which will be caught by everyone’s eye who’s in your garden.

colorful corner

Add several yellow plants as well, like Senna Alata, Allamanda Cathartica.  Don’t forget to accessorize with colorful garden décor, such as painted pottery or decorative stones, to enhance the visual impact. Also don’t forget to place a table and chairs so that your guests may enjoy the colors, too.

Plant Exotic Herbs 

Small tropical garden ideas aren’t only about planting trees or flowers which are mostly for the view. Don’t you agree that it’s also a great idea to plant exotic herbs? Imagine drinking lemongrass tea or using ginger grown right in your garden. 

If you’re a tea-lover, you gonna love it! Consider planting Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora), which makes a refreshing and aromatic tea. It's prized for its calming properties and digestive benefits. And the harvest from this plant won’t take as much time as you think. After reaching 10 inches in height, you can start harvesting its leaves. It’ll probably take a year or two.


Another good option is Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), which adds citrusy flavor to tea and is popular for its relaxation features. It can be harvested by the time its height has reached 12 to 24 inches. It’ll take no more than 100 days.

 Also, you can plant some Mint varieties (e.g., Moroccan Mint, Chocolate Mint), which are well-known for their aromas and flavors added to your tea. You can begin harvesting the leaves within the first months of its establishment. It should be 1-2 feet in height.

Tiki Bar Retreat

For small tropical garden ideas that transport you to a tropical oasis, consider creating a Tiki Bar Retreat. Just transform a small corner of your garden into a vibrant and laid-back atmosphere offering a leisurely island getaway. Not much effort is put into implementing this idea. First of all, to create a tiki bar ambiance, you’ll need to install thatched-roof structures or palapas in order to provide shade. Then, line the pathways and borders with tiki torches. In the late evening, it’ll provide such a beautiful light. And thirdly, bring your furniture. It’ll be great if your table and chairs are made of bamboo. This way, you’ll enhance your garden’s island-inspired atmosphere.

tiki bar

Don’t forget to install 1-2 hammocks as well. Remember, not everyone likes to party. Some of your friends may like just to lay down on the hammock and relax reading a book or sleeping.

After decorating the corner, all you need to do is to buy some drinks, cocktails and take care of the good music. 

Plant Tropical Fruits

Planting tropical fruits in your garden is a rewarding idea, as it allows you to enjoy fresh and exotic fruits whenever you want. Do some research in order to choose the right tree that is compatible with your climate. Not all tropical fruits require a consistently warm climate, some are more cold-tolerant than others. 

You can go after Papayas, which are fast-growing tropical fruit trees known for their vibrant orange fruit and unique flavor. Another good option is a Dragon fruit (pitaya), a unique tropical fruit with bright pink or yellow skin and white or red flesh speckled with black seeds.


Common options also include mangoes, avocados, guavas, and citrus trees.

The process may be a bit overwhelming, but don’t you think that it’s worth it? What’s better than the taste of a homegrown tropical fruit?

Reddit Summary

People who have discussed some small tropical garden ideas on Reddit, mostly pay attention to factors such as the choice of plants, their vibrant colors and lushes, climate compatibility, sunlight, and soil quality. The users agree, that once they’ve created their tropical gardens, they’ve started taking care of it and devoting much time to it. In order to protect some plants (like bananas) from winter’s colds, many people have moved them indoors during the weather. 

Planting tips included choosing different kinds of plants even if they aren’t truly tropical, suggesting creating colorful borders, and adding height to them.


What are some popular tropical plants for small gardens?

If you’re looking for some small tropical garden ideas, then you should consider going after plants like Orchids, Hibiscus, Bird of Paradise, Palm trees, Jasmines, and Ferns. 

Experts state that you should also consider choosing plants, that aren’t truly tropical yet thanks to their appearance, look tropical. Some of them include Rose of Sharon, Rose Mallow, Castor Bean Plant, Cold hardy banana, Passion Flower Vine, or Yucca.

Do I need to live in a warm climate to create a tropical garden?

Considering your local climate before creating a tropical garden is very important because there are lots of plants, that need a warm climate, direct sunlight, and not-windy weather. However, small tropical garden ideas aren’t only for those, who live in a warm country. You can choose cold-hardy tropical plants like certain varieties of palms, bamboo, and hibiscus. 

What are some low-maintenance tropical plants for beginners?

There are plenty of tropical plants that are low-maintenance and are suitable for beginners, as they don’t need much care. Some of them are Philodendron, Caladium, Canna, Sword fern, African violets, Zanzibar gem, Bougainville, or Lucky Bamboo.


Small tropical garden ideas include so many aspects such as planting tropical plants and herbs, creating a colorful corner and a tiki bar, taking care of whimsical elements and water features. Before buying exotic plants, containers, or other products, you should get to know yourself better, as your garden will tell so much about your personality and you should pick each detail carefully enough. Think about your modern tropical garden as a way of expressing yourself and the decoration part will become much easier.

If you’re inspired to plant some tropical trees and flowers, that’s great! However, don’t forget to take under consideration features such as climate compatibility, soil quality, watering needs, or sunlight. Choosing the right plants that are compatible with your local climate plays a crucial role in your project’s success.

Don’t be afraid of starting your garden’s transformation. Give yourself a try.

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