Tropical Style

Want an Easy Tropical Oasis? Think Container Plants

I fell in love with beach cottages again on a recent visit to the northwestern shore of Florida. What struck me most about these charming homes was the maintenance that each homeowner put to creating a welcoming entry. Just about any front porch had just one — or even several — container gardens. I was in paradise! Tropicals and succulents were plentiful in these containers, on account of the warmth and humidity in this field. Often they have been used in ways or with plants I hadn’t seen before. I usually find one or two container gardens to picture on vacation, but the photographs of plants within this trip might have actually resisted the photographs of my family.

If you are interested in developing a lush tropical look for your outdoor surroundings, a tropical container backyard could give it to you with minimal investment. Here’s some inspiration to your own tropical oasis.

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Kim Gamel

The place I seen falls within USDA zone 8B and loves quite mild winters, so many plants that are considered annuals from different parts of the country are now perennials here.

Elephant ears have been common container backyard developments. Elephant ears is actually the common name for plants in two different genera: Alocasia and Colocasia. Following is a easy way to determine which is which: If the giant ears stage upwards, the plant is probably from the genus Alocasia, such as the plant on the porch. Elephant ears with leaves pointing down are probably from the genus Colocasia.

Tip: Elephant ears appear striking planted alone, but underplanting it with a trailing plant like the lavender verbena here gives a softer appearance.

Kim Gamel

The architectural stalks of papyrus (Cyperus) are topped with umbels of thread-like green “leaves” When grown as an annual in a bud, papyrus may grow 5 to 8 ft tall, which makes quite a statement.

Tip: Plant papyrus with easy plants — such as the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) shown here — so you don’t remove from the star of the series.

Kim Gamel

Even passengers got the royal treatment! This window box is lushly planted with a mixture of Mandevilla, rosemary, sweet alyssum and snapdragons.

Tip: If you are planting window boxes, then you will want to have either a wand attachment to your hose or hose that available nearby to make mowing simpler.

Kim Gamel

A few of the containers were created only, focusing on one variety of plant life. These red geraniums stand out from the snowy porch, inviting you to come inside.

Kim Gamel

Tropical cannas, a personal favorite of mine, were planted extensively in gardens and porchfront containers in northwest Florida. I really like the blush pink of these flowers mixed with the dark pink of the begonia along with the chartreuse of ‘Ogon’ sedum inside this container.

Kim Gamel

Succulents flourish in Florida’s hot climate and probably can endure year-round. I often think of succulents as stand-alone plants, but this design demonstrates how versatile they may be.

Tip: Try planting a Bulbine as the “thriller” plant of a container design, just like in this arrangement. Surround it with lower-growing succulents (it is possible to see a few paddle plants tucked amid the foliage) or even drought-tolerant plants, such as the Delosperma spilling over the border here.

Kim Gamel

I discovered several banana plants (Ensete maurelii) grown as annuals in pots. The stunning dark reddish underside of these leaves pairs well with red flowers, such as these New Guinea impatiens. To me this vignette elicits a feeling of summer breezes at a tropical paradise.

Tip: Large banana leaves may break easily in high winds. Try these plants at a more sheltered place — perhaps close to a wall or fence that blocks hefty winds.

More: How To Grow Bananas

Kim Gamel

Other containers have been riots of color, beckoning passersby to stop and take note. These containers blended petunias, society garlic, pincushion flowers and rosemary.

Tip: When planting a mixture, make sure the plants have the same moisture and sunlight requirements so they will all be happy and work to their best ability.

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