These tropical plants will give your garden an exotic look. 

CROTON (Codiaeum variegatum)

Grow these highly ornamental plants for their vividly coloured, variegated leaves which look as if they’ve been sketched on by a graphic artist. There are many hybrids to choose from, the leaves of which can be slim and narrow or broad and bold and with green, red, orange and yellow markings. They are easy to grow from slips and pieces cut for the vase will root in the water. They prefer sun to partial shade.

Also recommended for colour: Acalyphas, Pseuderanthemum alatum (chocolate plant), solenostemon and aucuba.

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DELICIOUS MONSTER (Monstera deliciosa) -- tropical plants SA Garden and Home
DELICIOUS MONSTER (Monstera deliciosa)

Their big, bold, dramatic leaves make these shade-loving plants an absolute must for any tropical garden. Also known as fruit salad plants because of their aromatic, edible fruits, they’ll need some support so give them a wall or tree trunk to scramble up. Sections with aerial roots may be cut off and planted to produce new plants.

Also recommended for statement leaves: Philodendrons, palms like Trachycarpus fortunei, dieffenbachia, alocasias and Fatshedera lizei (tree ivy).

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MARANTA LEUCONERA ‘TRICOLOUR’ (Prayer plant) -- tropical plants SA Garden and Home

Best planted in filtered sunlight, these low-growing foliage plants have attractive oval leaves. Mass them where they can act as a carpet, adding depth to your beds, or use them as a foil for more dramatic upright plants like dracaenas and cordylines. Although moisture loving, they need good drainage and require regular feeding.

Also recommended as a groundcover: Ctenanthe oppenheimiana ‘Tricolour’ (The never-never plant), begonias and Calathea makoyana (peacock plant).

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Fern -- tropical plants SA Garden and Home


There’s an amazing variety of ferns to choose from, including tall tree ferns, bold bird’s nest ferns and those, like maiden hair ferns, with delicate, feathery fronds. The new fronds of some ferns, like these blechnums (pictured), also have wonderful pink and red tones. No matter which type you pick, ferns will give your garden a lush, green look and can be used both as fillers and for creating contrast in terms of leaf texture and shape. They’re moisture loving and prefer a spot with filtered sunlight.


FLAMINGO LILY (Anthurium spp.) -- tropical plants SA Garden and Home
FLAMINGO LILY (Anthurium spp.)

With their shiny, wax-like flowers offset by large, heart-shaped leaves, flamingo lilies are synonymous with the tropics. Flowering for much of the year, they need indirect or filtered sunlight, high humidity and warm temperatures to thrive. They grow best in loose, well-drained soil to which generous quantities of organic matter have been added.

Also recommended for exotic flowers: Begonias, fuchsias, impatiens, bromeliads and orchids.

MORE ABOUT LILIES: A complete guide to growing lilies

RED TI OR GOOD LUCK PLANT (Cordyline fruticosa) -- tropical plants SA Garden and Home
RED TI OR GOOD LUCK PLANT (Cordyline fruticosa)

With their vibrant red leaves cascading down like fireworks, colourful cordylines make the perfect choice for an accent plant in a tropical-style garden. They prefer a sheltered position with filtered light rather than direct sun, and love the high humidity and warmth associated with the sub tropics. If one of your cordylines has grown too tall, simply nip off the top and replant it; new shoots will often develop along the stalk.

Also recommended as accents: Dracaenas, cycads and palms.