Exotic planting schemes are as much about bold, dramatic foliage as showy flowers. Planting in different layers, or ‘storeys’, is a great way to achieve a jungle-style effect in your garden.
Bamboos and bananas can be used to add structure and height, while ferns make perfect mid-level plants. For low-level ground cover, hostas are hard to beat.
To continue the tropical theme, add colour with cheery fuchsias, dahlias or begonias.
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Here are 11 plants to use in a jungle-style planting scheme.
Tree ferns such as Dicksonia antartica or Dicksonia youngiae, shown here, are the ultimate plants for the jungle look – they bring drama to any garden. In summer, keep well watered (at the crown, not the base). In winter, protect the crown by wrapping it with straw, horticultural fleece or even dead fronds.
Fatsia japonica is an evergreen shrub with large, dramatic leaves that suit a jungle border perfectly; it’s also a great shrub for shady borders. It likes a shady spot. Also consider Fatsia polycarpa.
The castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, is an annual grown for its large, glossy, reddish-purple foliage. Seeds must be sown very early in the year; alternatively, buy a ready-grown plant. All parts of the plant are highly toxic, especially the seeds, so handle with care and keep away from children.
Begonias, such as ‘Madame Richard Galle’, pictured, have interesting foliage and longlasting, brightly coloured flowers that are perfect for complementing the jungle look. In autumn, lift the tubers and store them somewhere frost-free over the winter. Other plants to consider here include dahlias, tithonia and hedychiums.
Growing scented plants like jasmine will add to the tranquil, exotic atmosphere of the garden. Planting them in a sheltered spot will help the scent to linger in the air instead of being carried away by the wind. Also consider Pittosporum tobira, Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ and Gardenia ‘Kleim’s Hardy’.
Bamboos are great for adding height and evergreen interest to a jungle border. There are lots of varieties to choose from, including Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Lama Temple’. Remove the foliage from the lower parts of the plant to show off the interesting stems. Go for more well-behaved fargesias if you’re worried about them spreading.
Hostas are primarily grown for their dramatic foliage and make an excellent addition to a jungle-style scheme. There are many varieties to choose from, many variegated. Most prefer shade. Be sure to protect them from slugs.
This hardy persicaria is ideal for edging exotic borders. For lots of colour, go for the cultivar ‘Red Dragon’ – the purple-red leaves add extra colour and contrast well with its white summer flowers. Other suitable edging plants include erigeron and coreopsis.
Crocosmias bring two things to a jungle border: interesting, sword-like leaves and splashes of bright colour from sprays of yellow, orange or red flowers. These hardy perennials also look great in a ‘hot’ border.
Ferns look suitably jungly and are ideal for the ‘lower storey’ of your jungle scheme. Some are evergreen, for added winter interest. No room for a jungle-style border? Try an exotic-looking container instead.
This hardy schefflera produces attractive panicles of exotic-looking leaves. The foliage is evergreen and it will eventually form a large shrub or small tree.
Other jungle-style plants to try
Creating a microclimate
Many of the plants grown in tropical gardens are just that – tropical. Growing them in a sheltered spot will help to create a microclimate that they’ll enjoy. Shelter from prevailing wind is especially important, and can be provided with fences, hedges, trees and buildings. If the plants are sensitive to frost, be prepared to protect them over winter.