Holiday at home at a tropical oasis

Holiday at home at a tropical oasis

With overseas travel a distant dream and domestic holidays being skuttled by COVID lockdowns and border closures, here's how you can transform a corner of your deck, courtyard, balcony or backyard into a lush oasis. Using careful plant selection and clever landscape design ideas, you can create a mini tropical retreat. Island time at home!

Imagine the plants you've seen during coastal and island getaways. Lush foliage in different shades, leaf shapes and textures and colourful flowers abound, so that's the first step in creating a tropical look and feel. 

Layers of plants at different heights also help create a greater sense of space and depth.

Tall plants for the rear of the garden include palms, crotons, hibiscus, Radermachera 'Summerscent' and frangipani. In smaller spaces consider a climber for the back of the area, covering a bamboo or wooden trellis. Tropical-feel climbers include pandorea and dipladenia, which have the double benefits of green foliage and gorgeous flowers.

In the middle of the space, leafy green gingers, aspidistra, brightly coloured acalypha, ixora and vibrant cordylines (choose red and burgundy varieties to contrast with surrounding green and gold foliage). Towards the front, more compact plants like clivias, ferns and bromeliads create a lovely border.

For places like courtyards and balconies, many tropical plants can also be grown in pots. The same design principles still apply - taller plants at the back, smaller plants at the front. You can also use colourfully designed pots to bring extra tropical flair.

It's important to choose plants that are suited to your climate. Cool, frost-free areas can still achieve a tropical feel by using hardy plants like bangalow palms, flax, cordyline, fatsia, cold-tolerant clumping bamboo, grassy foliage dianella and liriope, colourful leafy heuchera and nandina.

Position your tropical oasis in the warmest, most protected spot you have. Against a wind-protected, north facing wall is ideal.

Make your tropical-inspired retreat more appealing to relax in by including some shade. Dappled shade can be provided by palms and frangipanis, however for instant shade, install an umbrella. Look for vibrant tropical prints or thatch umbrellas create an instant south Pacific feel.


A well-placed stone or wooden sculpture also adds to the oasis feel, such as a Buddha or a Balinese statue peering out from amongst the foliage. The calming sound of water is another element of tropical relaxation. You can add water sounds into your backyard haven with a compact water feature. This could be a gently bubbling amphora urn, a low bowl with a small fountain or a cascading water wall. There are self-contained, ready to install water features readily available, just waiting to complete your home oasis.

Before you plant anything, adding a rich source of organic matter to the soil will improve soil structure, increase moisture and nutrient holding capacity and attract earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms. It's as easy as mixing some Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser into the soil when planting. It's full of organic rich, fragrant goodness! Keep the soil moist while the plants settle in. For potted plants, use well-drained pot such as Yates Tuscan pots, filled with Yates Potting Mix with Dynamic Lifter.

Once the plants are established, regular feeding with a complete fertiliser, such as Yates Thrive All Purpose Soluble Fertiliser will provide a balanced blend of nutrients - nitrogen for healthy leaf growth, phosphorus for a strong root system and potassium for healthy plant growth and lots of flowers. Mix 1-2 spoonfuls into a 9 L watering can and  apply over the foliage and around the root zone every 1-2 weeks during the growing seasons


Don't forget a hammock or small outdoor setting to enable you to spend lots of time in your home-grown tropical retreat. And perhaps include a Tahitian lime in your planting scheme to top off a well-deserved 'holiday' cocktail.

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