Planting a native tropical garden is easier than you think

Planting a native tropical garden is easier than you think

The tropical or Balinese garden style is a very popular one in Australia. In fact many urban gardens lend themselves to this garden style with lots of shaded areas to be found close to buildings. And of course with many of us wanting to recreate our ideal holiday setting at home, it is no wonder so many people choose to design their gardens this way.

We often overlook our local native plant species in the process of selecting plants that give us that tropical feel, when in fact there are many to choose from.


In this article we look at the ways a tropical garden can be designed to benefit both you and your local biodiversity, but if you are after a different style of garden to deliver these benefits, then take a moment to download and check out the GroNATIVE app; a collaboration between Natura Pacific and Griffith University, with support from the Queensland Government.

The tropical garden style often draws on plants that have large green leaves and give a ‘jungle’ feel to the garden. Flowers are often yellow, orange or red, adding colour to an otherwise monochromatic green setting. Using Australian native plants, gardeners can expect to see many white and cream flowers that are followed by colourful fruits, as well as all of the wildlife that benefits from these plant species. For example, Cunjevoi (Alocasia brisbanensis) is a great native alternative to large leaved shade-loving exotics, but also provides native bees with foraging

Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus populneus)

habitat and frogs with perching habitat. The Broad-leaved Palm-lilly (Cordyline petiolaris) also has flowers that attract native bees, which are followed by stunning scarlet coloured fruits – a favourite with many birds, including migratory cuckoos. Fruit loving birds will also benefit from Lillpillies (Syzygium smithii; Syzygium luehmannii), but not before the numerous butterflies of the region have had a chance to visit the followers and pollinate them. And with all of these insects visiting your amazing tropical garden, you can also expect to see some of the little birds that prey on insects, but only if there is enough foliage for them to escape into should they feel threatened. When designing your tropical garden, aim to have a good mix of species and structure to provide the food and homes for your wildlife companions.

Bank’s Violet (Viola banksii)

Many local native species are available in local nurseries, but you may need to venture beyond the big plant suppliers that are easiest to access. A quick online search should give you pointers as to where you can find your local native nursery. Community groups are also often responsible for propagating local native plants and if they don’t have the species you are after they can advise you when it might become available (due to seasonality) or could even source it from another community run nursery. Spending time chatting to these volunteers will give you a valuable insight into gardening with natives and you are sure to learn some invaluable tips for your gardening adventures.

Take a look at the list of species below that would be ideal for creating your tropical paradise, all of which are native to the South East Queensland region… and don’t forget to enlist the help of the GroNATIVE App!


Riberry or Small-leaved Lilly Pilly (Syzygium luehmannii)

Adiantum aethiopicum – Common Maidenhair Fern
Adiantum formosum – Giant Maidenhair Fern
Adiantum hispidulum – Rough Maidenhair Fern
Alectryon coriaceus
– Beach Bird’s Eye
Alocasia brisbanensis – Cunjevoi
Alpinia caerulea – Native Ginger
Angiopteris evecta – Giant Fern
Archontophoenix cunninghamiana – Bangalow Palm
Asplenium australasicum – Crow’s Nest Fern
Asplenium harmanii – Harman’s Bird’s-nest Fern
Citrus australasica – Finger Lime
Cordyline petiolaris – Broad-leaved Palm-lily
Cordyline rubra – Small Palm-lily
Crinum pedunculatum – River Lily
Dianella caerulea – Blue Flax-lily
Homalanthus populneus – Bleeding Heart
Livistona australis – Cabbage-tree Palm
Macaranga tanarius – Macaranga
Pandanus tectorius – Screw Pine
Pararistolochia praevenosa – Birdwing Vine
Phaius australis – Lesser Swamp Orchid
Phaius bernaysii – Yellow Swamp Orchid
Platycerium bifurcatum – Elkhorn Fern
Platycerium superbum – Stag’s-horn Fern
Syzygium smithii – Lillipilli
Syzygium luehmannii – Small-leaved Lillipilli
Tecomanthe hillii – Fraser Island Creeper
Viola banksii – Bank’s Violet




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