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I’m working on a planting scheme at the moment, for a client who loves the tropical. It’s a bit of a departure from the norm but that is what is so exciting about this job, you never quite know where you’re going with each client.

So as tropical planting is fairly new to me I decided to do some research which involves visiting plant nurseries, talking to seasoned tropical gardeners and experts followed by reading up on the subject. Already there seems to be quite a bit of conflicting advice.


Tetrapanax papifer for example according to one source is hardy to -12 according to another only -5, which is a bit of a difference here in the sometimes chilly East of the UK, more research required!


My trip to Architectural Plants was well worth the 4 hour drive, with rows and rows of specimens outside and several huge tunnels full of half hardy and tender plants. In the tunnels were some enormous specimen plants which would give an instant impact but also help give an idea of how big some of these lovelies can grow.


Surprisingly, to me at least, there are quite a few tropical plants that will bear out temperate climate, Trachycarpus  fortunei (Chusan palm), Yucca of many kinds, Phormiums and Cordylines then there are ‘lookslike’ LUSH brigade, Hosta, Ferns, Kniphofia, Euphorbia, Magnolia, Fatsia, Passiflora, Hybiscus and so on.


I was very taken with an enormous Alocasia but one cold blast even on a sunny day and the nursery man said it would perish. Sigh.


  • I love the Tetrapanax papifer. Too bad I live in the northeast area. Every time I am in the south I take pictures of palms and add them as backgrounds on my computer to remind me of the south and warmer days. Thanks for sharing. =)

    • It’s gorgeous isn’t it, one of the nurseries had a huge specimen and I imagine in the wild it grows to enormous proportions.

  • Phoenicia

    It is that time of year again where people are tending to their gardens. I do like a pretty garden but am not naturally green fingered. My husband and me need a gardener to come in and lay the foundation then we can just “top up” as and when required.

    • That’s such a good idea Phoenicia. I often tell clients that this is a good way to go. Plus you have someone to ask if you find you have queries.

  • Catarina Alexon

    Nice pictures. Am sure that people with an interest in garden and tropical plants will love your suggestions.

  • William Rusho

    I often wonder about building a green house. I would like to have some tropical flowers, here where I live we have such a long winter. I often tell people summer is nice, if you are here for those two weeks.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Lol we have the same joke about Summer here usually it goes…’we only had rain a couple of times, once for 4 weeks and once for 6 weeks 🙂 keeps us lush and green and the plants growing I suppose

  • I absolutely adore tropical plants. Being in the lush tropics sets my spirit to song and so strolling thru gardens with tropical plants is a great place for me to be. Happy Spring!

    • I’m looking forward to it I must say, I went to the Australia Tropical Rainforest many years back and was struck by the richness of life there, not just the plants, I think I need to plan in a visit somewhere a bit closer this time!

  • Rosemary Griffith

    We have a large Yucca in our yard (North east USA) that does quite well, even though the deer tend to “trim” it each winter. We can grow hostas as well, but most other tropical species can’t survive the cold and snow we get. Look forward to seeing photos of your finished tropical garden.

    • How cold does it get in your neck of the woods? I am curious as I’ve had several differing versions of what plants can handle and real life experience is so valuable. I expect you’re quite a bit colder than us ( we benefit from the Gulf Stream) but it’s helpful to know.

  • Jane Perrone

    Sounds like an exciting project! There’s a guy in Essex called Paul Spracklin, we did a feature on his garden a while back ( – he wrote a piece for the Plantsman about hardy agaves that may be useful

    • Oh Thanks for this Jane, I shall investigate, I was thinking we’d have to put Agave in pots to be trundled in over winter. So hardy varieties are GREAT news

  • I love it when a client requires a design which involves researching and learning about new plants. The last ‘tropical’ design I used fairly hardy plants of which Nandina Brightlight, Mahonia nitens ‘Cabaret’ and Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ were probably my favourites, alongside perennials like Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’, Echinacea ‘Art’s Pride’ and Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’ for a splash of bright tropical colour.

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