How to landscape a small front tropical garden

Written by barbara fahs
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How to landscape a small front tropical garden
Hibiscus will overwinter in some climate zones. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Even if you live north of the tropics, you can use some plants that evoke the allure of the South Seas. And if your front yard is small, your task of landscaping it with tropicals will be easy. Look for frost-hardy plants, such as bird of paradise, Mexican fan palm and others. Consider growing some truly tropical plants as annuals or in containers you can bring indoors before Jack Frost visits your neighbourhood.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil and paper
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Pots(s) with drainage hole(s)
  • Potting soil
  • Sprinkler
  • Mulch

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  1. 1

    Measure your front yard's growing area. Then plot it on paper, making sure you leave room for pathways between plants or garden beds.

  2. 2

    Create garden beds by digging compost into your planting areas to a depth of about 12 inches. Use about one 5-gallon bucket full of compost for every 5 square feet of garden area.

  3. 3

    Purchase tropical looking plants at your nursery. It's wise to research them to determine the lowest temperatures they can endure. Purchase attractive pots with drainage holes and standard potting soil for plants that are very frost tender so you can move them to a protected area in fall.

  4. 4

    Plant your tropicals according to the plan you made on paper. Dig planting holes that are a bit larger than their root systems and then set them into the ground, backfilling with the soil and compost you dug out. Pat the soil down gently around their base and then water them thoroughly with a sprinkler for at least 20 minutes.

  5. 5

    Spread a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch, such as compost, on top of the soil around each plant to help the soil remain warm and moist.

Tips and warnings

  • If you determine your climate zone, this knowledge can help to guide you in your selection of plants that look tropical. For example, the Mexican fan palm can withstand temperatures as low as -7.78 degrees Celsius, so this tree will survive as far north as USDA climate zone 8, where winter lows sometimes dip to 20 degrees or a bit lower.
  • Allow plenty of space for larger plants such as the Mexican fan palm because they will become larger with time.
  • Plant taller and larger plants toward the back of your yard (near your house) and smaller, lower growing plants such as hibiscus toward the front (street).
  • Some tropical plants, such as hibiscus and ornamental bananas, will survive the winter in some areas if you cut them back to the ground in fall and spread a thick layer of mulch over their growing area. Using 4 to 5 inches of mulch is not excessive.

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