Do you dream of a Caribbean vacation, but a staycation seems more in the budget? Create your own at-home oasis by adding tropic-inspired plants, furnishings, and extras to your outdoor living space. Bring on the island vibe with these how-tos for creating a relaxing tropical backyard retreat.
Palms and other greenery add island ambiance to an outdoor room. And also creates a sense of privacy.
Pygmy Date Palm – The graceful wave of a palm frond in the wind provides the ultimate tropical experience. The pygmy date palm blooms in small, yellow flowers which turn into small purple dates. This attractive tropical plant has a rough-textured trunk and long, green fronds which form a crown at the top. It thrives in USDA zones 10-11.
Mexican Weeping Bamboo –Mexican weeping bamboo is an evergreen ornamental that is often planted as a tall screen. The slim leaves give a lacy, ethereal appearance to its graceful weeping form. Mexican bamboo grows quickly and adds eye-pleasing contrast when placed near large-leaf tropicals. It also grows best in USDA zones 9-11.
Ti Plant – The Ti plant is a flowering, evergreen – known for its boldly-colored foliage. It is sometimes referred to as the good luck plant, and often grown as a foundation plant in tropical areas as it is said to bring good fortune. Ti plants feature purple variegated leaves with colorful streaks of hot pink, white, cream or purple. The Ti plant’s dramatic, leaf coloring make it an ideal patio plant for a tropical setting. Ti plants prefer afternoon shade. As an outdoor shrub, it’s hardy in USDA zones 10-11.
Tropical Flowering Plants
Hot-colored flowers in red, orange, fuchsia, and deep, jewel-tone leaves in dark purple and burgundy will create a colorful oasis in your island-inspired backyard.
Cannas – Brightly-colored cannas blossom in a wide range of saturated colors – from blood red – to pink – to bright yellow. Pastel shades are available too; including salmon, pale orange, and light pink.
The canna plant’s lush leaves and exotic blooms make for a stunning visual display which requires little effort. Cannas originate from South America and the West Indies and produce tall flower stalks with colorful blooms. Depending on the cultivar, they can grow from a few feet tall to over 10 feet. They make an exotic statement when grouped together in the garden, in showy displays of color. Cannas grow best in full sun and in USDA zones 9-10.
Plumeria – Hawaiians call the plumeria, “Pua Melia” which signifies new beginnings. The plumeria’s deliciously fragrant flowers are traditionally used to make leis in Hawaii and other tropical locales. Plumeria trees are available in a wide range of flower colors, from white – to pink– to dark red. Multi-color types are available, too.
The Plumeria is a deciduous tree that can grow to a height of 35 feet. Newer miniature versions are available for containers and small gardens. Plumeria thrives in full sun and high humidity, and prefers a moderate watering schedule. They grow best in USDA zones 9-11.
Pro Tip: Plant in layers – from towering trees to low ground covers, choose a variety of greenery that will grow to different heights to create a lush, jungle-like feel.
For more tips on creating the perfect at-home island retreat, click here.
Island-Inspired Structural Details and Garden Accents
A pavilion or gazebo added poolside provides a shaded seating area, dining area, or landing spot for drinks. Consider a thatched-roof design which resembles a Hawaiian hale.
Incorporate natural stone accents in the garden. Black river rock, textured limestone, keystone or round, smooth stones are a common design element in island landscapes.
Consider a water feature
The soothing sound of flowing water in your tropical backyard will create a calming effect, and encourage guests to relax. A water feature will drown out urban noises and provide a tranquil feel. Or make your own rock waterfall to enhance your existing inground pool. Adding a rock waterfall will create an interesting island-inspired focal point for your backyard getaway, and it may increase your home’s value as well.
Natural fiber rugs, bamboo loungers, woven seagrass, rattan, and coastal decor say “tropical”. Incorporate calming neutral colors into your furnishings to emit the uncluttered, laid-back feel of the islands. Pop in brightly colored pillows and cushions as accents. A teak wood bench will add exotic charm to a shady sitting area.
Add the warmth and excitement of crackling fire to your outdoor living space. A glowing lava rock fire livens up a summer celebration like no other accent. Whether you’re roasting hot dogs or enjoying the warmth on a cool evening, a fire pit will add that extra “spark” to your tropical backyard.
Discover which type of fire pit is ideal for your backyard here.
Tiki torches add nighttime drama to a pool or outdoor room. Safety note: Keep open-flame torches away from flammable materials and overhanging tree branches when lit.
Shades made of basketweave bamboo, jute rope, capiz shell or textured linen add beachside style.
A lighted plantation-style ceiling fan will add illumination and cooling breezes on a covered porch.
DIY Tropical Decor
DIY shell projects are the perfect way to incorporate a tropical feel into your backyard. A simple DIY natural shell wreath is a quick project to complete. All you need are similar-sized shells (bought or gathered), a foam wreath form, and hot glue. Glue the shells to the foam in a pleasing pattern. Tie on a natural jute ribbon, and you’re done!
Another great option is making seashell-edged placemats from felt, jute rope, hot-glue and decorative shells. This easy craft is great for al fresco dining in your tropical backyard. Select similar-sized shells to use as the outer edge trim. Trace around outside edge of a round dinner plate on a piece of stiff felt. Cut out the felt circle. Cut a long length of jute rope. Starting at the center, hot-glue the rope to the felt – working in a coil pattern. Continue gluing until the felt is covered. Glue seashells spaced evenly, around the edge of the mat.
Create your own island staycation spot with the above tropical backyard ideas. Then download a few Hawaiian tunes, whip up a pina colada, and embrace the island lifestyle!
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