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Tropical gardens are well known for their lush, green, appearance and dense planting. Most of the time, tropical gardens aim to completely enshroud you within vegetation.
This provides the illusion of being inside a real, tropical, rainforest offering much desired escapism! However, many tropical gardens still require open and transitional areas.
In keeping with a tropical theme, mowed lawns rarely fit in very well. Consequently, tropical garden groundcover plants can be incorporated very effectively.
Groundcovers in tropical gardens can keep lower borders lush and provide open, transitional, zones of planting.
In this article I will summarise the benefits of ground cover plants in tropical gardens. I will also identify 10 ground cover plants perfect for a tropical themed garden.
Benefits of groundcover plants in tropical gardens
As tropical regions of the world don’t have distinct seasons, plants are usually green all year. This means tropical style gardens need to be as lush and green as possible.
Consequently, you will not want spaces of bare soil within your tropical garden borders. Ground cover planting will enable you to cover bare soil with lush, green, foliage.
Covering bare sections of borders with groundcovers will also lock in moisture and suppress weed establishment.
As groundcover plants grow horizontally instead of vertically they are much less maintenance. This provides more opportunities to lounge in your hammock and sip a cocktail!
Tropical and jungle gardens are always best with plenty of surrounding birdsong. Groundcover plants will provide excellent shelter for insects and invertebrates making tasty morsels for local birdlife.
The chirping and tweeting of birds will make you feel you are in a real, tropical, paradise!
10 Groundcover plants for tropical gardens
1. Black mondo grass
Black mondo grass is an ornamental, clump, forming, grass native to Japan and Korea. This evergreen groundcover has strap like leaves and is very tolerant of cold, shady conditions.
The foliage of this grass is black making it an impressive groundcover planted in large blocks.
Bergenia are a low growing, evergreen, groundcover with large, glossy, leaves. When planted on mass they create an impressive groundcover with a tropical look.
In spring the plants produce attractive, pink, flowers on tall stems which hover above the foliage. Bergenia do prefer full sun but will tolerate part shade.
Crocosmia is a summer flowering, perennial, plant very closely related to the iris. Native to Africa it prefers a sunny position but is adaptable and can tolerate drought.
Crocosmia spreads via dividing bulbs and can develop into an effective groundcover. Its tropical looking flowers make it perfect for tropical themed planting displays.
4. Lilly of the valley
Lilly of the valley is a woodland plant native to Europe North America and Asia. This perennial plant can spread into a dense groundcover and tolerate dry shady conditions.
Even though it is native to cooler climates it has tropical looking leaves which are perfect for an exotic effect. During spring it produces delicate, white flowers which are beautifully scented.
5. Epimedium x rubrum
Epimedium x rubrum is a perennial, evergreen, plant which originates from East Asia. It has glossy, heart shaped, leaves which are raised up upon thin stems.
This creates a canopy of foliage which seems to hover and sway on the breeze. Epimedium has tropical looking leaves and forms an effective groundcover within exotic planting schemes.
6. Lesser periwinkle
Also known as 'Vincor minor', Lesser periwinkle is an evergreen climber which forms a dense groundcover.
This plant has glossy, dark green, leaves and captivating, purple flowers which have a tropical feel. Lesser periwinkle is very tolerant of challenging growing conditions including shade.
7. Ostrich fern
Ostrich fern is an attractive, perennial, fern native to North America. The fern has become a popular garden plant due to its large ostrich feather like foliage.
This gives it a tropical feel to jungle gardens and tropical planting schemes. When planted in bulk it forms dense colonies which can become effective groundcovers for shady areas.
Commonly known as Coral bells this plant is favoured for its different coloured foliage and flowers.
These evergreen perennials form a mass of geranium shaped leaves which have an exotic look! Native to North America, Heuchera is very tolerable of cold weather but prefers a well drained soil.
Hostas are a popular garden, perennial, plant, native to East Asia. Also known as the Plantain Lilly this impressive plant has a very tropical feel to its large leaves.
Hostas prefer shady conditions making them perfect for densely planted jungle borders. During summer they produce attractive clusters of hanging pink flowers.
10. Liriope muscari
This evergreen perennial is perfect for creating mats of low, growing, lush, foliage in tropical gardens.
Also known as Lilyturf, Liriope looks like a grass with its strap, like, leaves with a clumping habit. In summer it sends up small spears with clusters of very decorative purple flowers.
This plant is hailed for its adaptability to a wide range of growing conditions including shade.
Thank you for reading our article on the best groundcover plants for tropical gardens.
If you require a tropical garden designer or builder please do not hesitate to contact us.
Below we will link to some other tropical garden articles you may find useful.
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