Bringing the lush greenery and vibrant colors of the tropics into your home or garden can seem daunting, but with some strategic planning and the right plant choices, you can create your own slice of tropical paradise. Here are some tips and plant recommendations to help you achieve that lush, jungle-like aesthetic.

Choosing the Right Plants

The key to creating a tropical look is using plants with large, bold leaves in shades of green, red, orange, and purple. Some great options include:

  • Elephant Ear Plants: With huge, heart-shaped leaves, these tropical plants make a dramatic statement. They come in green, black, and burgundy varieties.
  • Bromeliads: Choose vibrant pineapple plants or air plants with colorful bracts in pink, orange, purple for pops of color.
  • Crotons: Available in a range of leaf shapes and colors like orange, yellow, red, these add gorgeous texture.
  • Philodendrons: The heart-leaf and split-leaf philodendrons have ruffled, shiny leaves that evoke the jungle.
  • Palms: From the feathery fronds of the areca palm to the bold leaves of the parlor palm, these screams tropics.
  • Ferns: Tropical ferns like the Boston fern or bird’s nest fern give a lush, cascading look.

Using the Right Planters and Containers

Tropical container gardens let you artfully arrange plants for a jungle vibe. Use containers like:

  • Hanging baskets: Allow trailing plants to spill over for a lush look.
  • Large pots and planters: Group a few statement plants together in a large container.
  • Tiered plant stands: Create multiple “layers” of plants for depth and height.
  • Tree forms: Use coconut fiber liners, faux tree trunks, or wire forms for epiphytic plants.
  • Upcycled wood: Old wine barrels, crates, and picnic benches make great rustic planters.

When choosing containers, natural materials like terra cotta, rattan, wood, jute, and coconut fiber have an earthy, tropical look.

Using Lighting for Dramatic Effects

Strategic lighting takes your tropical plantscape to the next level:

  • Uplighting: Illuminate palms and large foliage from below for striking silhouettes.
  • String lights: Weave festive strings of bulbs along rafters or trellises. Opt for warm white light.
  • Lanterns and votives: Place lanterns and candles throughout planting beds or hanging displays.
  • Spotlights: Highlight specific plants, decorative features, or water features for drama.
  • Dimmers: Adjustable lighting helps create a moody, mysterious ambiance.

Layering with Decor and Accessories

Additional accents complete the tropical feel:

  • Water features: The sights and sounds of ponds, fountains, or splash pools evoke tropical vibes.
  • Statuary and sculpture: Consider Balinese or Indonesian-style carved busts and statues.
  • Driftwood and bamboo: Upcycle found pieces to make trellises, borders, or walkways through plantings.
  • Mosquito netting: Drape netting over planting beds or seating areas for an exotic look.
  • Cushions and textiles: Use colorful print and natural fiber cushions, pillows, hammocks and rugs.
  • Tropical flowers: Bromeliads, orchids, anthurium, heliconia and ginger flowers add splashes of color.

Caring for Tropical Plants

To keep your jungle paradise healthy:

  • Provide bright, indirect light from an east or west facing window. South facing can be too intense.
  • Keep soil consistently moist. Tropicals like frequent watering. Add pebbles to planters for drainage.
  • Mist leaves often to recreate tropical humidity. Use a pebble tray or humidifier nearby.
  • Use sandy, peaty potting mixes made for orchids and tropicals. They need aeration.
  • Fertilize monthly in spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength.

With the right care and by combining dramatic foliage, eye-catching planters, strategic lighting and transportive accents, you can bring the vibrant colors, bold textures, and verdant ambiance of the tropics to your indoor and outdoor spaces.

Frequently Asked Questions About Creating a Tropical Look

How can I create a tropical look on a budget?

Focus on low-cost basics like large-leaf potted plants, repurposed containers, and strategic lighting effects. Ferns, philodendrons, and zamia palms are very affordable. Upcycle things like wooden crates, barrels, and driftwood to use as planters.

What are good small tropical plants for tabletops and shelves?

Small tropicals like polka dot plants, nerve plants, baby rubber plants, peperomias, and mini palms (parlour, areca) work well. clustered in groups. Also use mini versions of bromeliads, orchids, pilea, and ferns.

Should I plant tropical plants directly in the ground if I live in a temperate climate?

No, tropical plants are not hardy enough to survive winters in most temperate climates. Keep them in pots so you can move them indoors before frost. Select cold-hardy plants for in-ground use.

What are the best outdoor tropical plants for patios and decks?

Great patio tropicals include hibiscus, mandevilla, banana plants, elephant ears, cannas, and large leaf begonias. Ferns and palms also do well on partly shaded patios.

How can I add a tropical look to my garden?

Use large, architectural foliage plants with big leaves like elephant ears, banana plants, and horsehead philodendrons. Add large clay pots painted in tropical colors. Include water features and garden lighting. Use trellises to display vining tropical flowers.

What low light tropical plants can I use indoors?

Low light tropicals for inside include aglaonemas, philodendrons, ferns like Boston and rabbit’s foot, dracaenas, peace lilies, ZZ plants, pothos, Chinese evergreens, and palms like parlour palm and bamboo palm.


Creating a lush, tropical look is an immersive process. Select dramatic, large-leafed plants in a range of shapes, sizes and colors. Display them artfully in natural containers and planters. Use lighting and decor to transport yourself. With some imagination and plant care know-how, you can bring a slice of the tropics to any indoor or outdoor space. The vibrant colors and textures of the jungle flora will make your home or garden feel like a secluded paradise.