tropical look on the cheap ideas? need help

joefalco(z8 MB SC)March 30, 2005

I want my back yard to be a Jungle. OK also I don't have hardly any budget to do it.

I was wondering can I plant Ginger root from the grocery Store?

What I have done so far (made some mistakes)

I was able to dig some giant bamboo from a local source so I have that as a start.

I bought some golden goddess bamboo last year but it looks horrible I hope it is still alive.

I dug a large hole for a pond but can't afford the liner right now about $350 for the size I need. The pond I think will be an awesome addition.

I mistakenly planted some roses before I thought of going in a tropical direction. Im going to dig them up and plant them in the front yard.

I found a large banana for $15 at a nursery I really like bananas.

I planted some canna bulbs from walmart

Planted Weeping Willow from also southern magnolia red maple (maybe I should ditch that) and Sycamore (maybe another mistake)

Other plants I planted last year which maybe alive or dead.

Mystery gardinia


3 azaleas currently alive

I NEED help and suggestions. PLEASE Please Please help me with this design.

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don_brown(Zone 6A NS)

Take a good look at pictures of other tropical yards and gardens beofre you go any further. Either use google image search or check a library, magazines, or the forums here which contain photographs. Get some rough idea of what you would like to achieve. Do not try to convert the whole yard at once or you will be both overwhelmed and disappointed. Pick a small section of the yard each year to develop. Remember that tropical does not necessarily mean big and expensive. There are wonderful inexpensive vines, bushes and groundcovers available. That said, go to your grocery store and buy taro root, and sugar cane. The taro will grow into a lovely big plant, and the sugar cane, as long as it is live and green, will propagate itself very nicely for you. HAVE FUN with it, and do not make it a chore for yourself, okay?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2005 at 12:43PM
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Django(z9 LA)

Castor beans (seeds) are cheap and grow quickly with large green, purple/green, or purple leaves. Sow now, grow as an annual.

Big box stores usually have butterfly ginger and colocasia rhizomes, a little goes a long way.

Cannas can also be inexpensive. Some indian shot varieties had beautiful foliage (a trade-off for small blooms) and are more resistant to leaf rollers.

Check out the exchange side of the bananas forum. Banana growers in zones 9 and higher always have more pups than they need. We waste bananas down here.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 4:43PM
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I was originally from the tropics and while my family's garden was not quite a jungle, I could still offer some tips on what is generally seen in a jungle.. First you must picture that denseness of foliage. (Screams of monkeys in the background) A very humid and hot atmosphere- the smell of rotting leaves below you and even the sounds of a nearby waterfall.. Now with this in mind --

Shady location...

You need some usually tall straight trunk trees as a backdrop -- It need not be live trees but simply trunks that could allow vines to climb over it. The jungles are filled with tall hardwood type trees - (the trunks are basically large and smooth) You need large ferns (ostrich ferns comes to mind), large leafed plants like elephant's ears. Moss - lots of it. It covers the grounds like a mat. Vines, you need vines that are philodendron types - large heart shaped leaves. Climbing ficus type plants - the kinds that you normally see as indoor office plants. We have some bromeliads growing on the trunks as well as orchids and smaller maidenhair ferns clinging to it. Bananas are normally found in the periferals of the jungle but not as much within becaus there's not a whole lot of light under canopies of tall trees. Tall Grasses as well. Bamboos can be found in the jungles as well - usually near the clearings.

So in terms of making it cheap -- Well, taro corms are available from grocery stores. Elephant's ears corms are now not that expensive. You can also plant moonflower vines which mimic another vine I've seen growing in the lowlands of asia. Grasses - all green ornamental grasses are part of a peripheral jungle scene. You can also get lemon grass cuttings from asian stores and root that as well. There's another flower that grows in the mountains like the New Guinea impatience, petunia (the simple white kinds) wax begonia and another kind of flower - the name of which evades me for the moment but I can find it out for you. Any vines that have a woody stem (but not the wisteria) will do. Papayas will grow at the edge of a jungle. - Papayas can be grown from seeds.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 10:59AM
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jon1949(z7 north tx.)

Hi joefalco, below are pictures of my backyard.Over the years i divided and moved bananas, cannas,ginger,elephant ears, heliconias all over my yard.They die back in the winter and most come back in the spring.In time you can have a tropical looking backyard.Good luck john

Here is a link that might be useful: backyard

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 1:11PM
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maleko(USDA 9)

I am big on propagation from cuttings. As someone else said if you has a healthy banana you will get lots of pups. Dig them up and replant them as soon as they are a foot tall or trade them for something else.
Taros, cannas and hardy gingers mutliply quickly. Keep thining them out and moving them around each year. Many plants like impatients,begonias,
coleas,pentas,brugmansias,cordylines and sweet potatos are easy to root from cuttings in water.Just put them in a clear glass or plastic container on a windowsill.
I take cuttings from my house plants like pothos, monstera,arrowhead vine, wandering jew, swedish ivy and philodentron and root them in water and plant them around everyhwere durring the summer along with divisions of spider plant. Most die in the fall, but they cost me nothing so I don't worry about it. The idea is to take one plant and make many, even if the original plant looks crappy after providing the cuttings it will grow back in time.
It might be worth investing in one premium plant that a lot of people like, like the more expensive fancy leafed cannas or taros. You can enjoy it in your garden and once it can be divided you have a comodily to trade for other plants you want.
I won't trade online, I have been burned many times, so I go to local plant swap meets. Look into local gardening groups, their are bound to be people into tropicals just like you even if their are no specific tropical garden groups. Many garden group members who have lots of plants think nothing of giving a newbe a helping hand with excess cannas, gingers and taro roots, banana pups, plant cuttings or seedlings.
When I lived in Hawaii I lived in a house with a large garden filled many varieties of ginger,jasmine,heliconia, Ti plant, dracenea and plumeria that had been ocuppied by an elderly woman several years before me. Neighbors, told me Mrs. Tanaka never purchased a single plant. When she saw a plant in a person's yard she liked she simply knocked on their door asked for a small cutting. Aparently few people said no.
I myself was given a double white brugmansia cutting several years ago and have started several new plants from it, but have given away many more cuttings to stangers who simply asked.
PS roses can look great with tropicals if the colors are right. Tropicana, Circus and other combos of hot red, orange and yellow look fine mixed with gingers, cannas and taros.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 5:37PM
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maleko(USDA 9)

Have since looked into things like ornamental millet and rhubarb. They are big, showy, fast growing and can be grown from seed. Things that grow to a large size in a short time will save money.
A canna called Canna musifolia can be grown from a tuber to 10 feet in one year. Real bananas can not do that.
Giant reed comes in several foliage colors and can reach enormous size in one year. Also don't forget large scale annual vines like moon flower, cup and saucer vine. They can cover structures and add to the jungle look too.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 3:03AM
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john_trussville(z7b AL)

3 gal size Philodendren selloum can be had at H.D., Lowes or any big box store year round for 5 or six bucks & will give you an instant jungle look. I grow them here in Birmingham as a die back perrenial. In your z8 locale, they should do really well.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 10:31PM
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You can save money by starting bananas from seed. Not all will bear fruit, but it will create a tropicalesque look.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 9:44AM
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unautre(8B San Antonio TX)

Drive around town and near-town looking for Ph. aurea, the most common bamboo for hedges, try to dig up a pair of culms and attached rhizomes aka, "field division". Grows fast, evergreen, cold hardy, needs to be controlled, but can give a lot of foliage in a year.

Go to plant swap meets and flea-markets can uncover some bargains.

you got neighbors? agree on a couple of trays/flats from, getting 72 plants for often under $1/plant. bananas, alocasias, colocasias, etc.

fast growing tropical palms are Washingtonia robusta and Queen palms. not sure if hardy.

For a very fast-growing canopy tree with large leaves, clean, vertical, solitary trunk, Paulownia. See

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 12:29PM
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pianodoctor(CA 23/24)

I would second many of the ideas above. If you have a big Asian supermarket, taro root is cheap and sends up a great looking and fairly tough elephant ear. Cassava root (aka Yuca or Yucca root) can turn into a beautiful small tree and grows quickly. (From root, it may take a good while to send up a first shoot) Either of the above may go down in winter, but can come back in season if the roots don't freeze, and both are really "tropicalesque". Grocery store ginger root OTOH, will grow, but you may not be too impressed by it's look.

There's also a lot of cheap stuff available online. The number of seeds or small plants/bare root cuttings on ebay is amazing for instance.

A couple other sources you might want to explore are , . I have dealt with both without a problem.


Rick Clark

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 10:42AM
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In addition to all that has been mentioned above, also check out your local 99 cent stores. I have found some neat tropical looking plants there. When I went to Hawaii, there was Pothos growing up the palm trees. Pothos is cheap.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 10:18AM
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Gardener972(7b-8a DFW)

Swiss chard is a very large leafed plant that can be quite tropical looking too. You can find the seeds in any vegetable section. The bonus is you can eat some of the greens. There's a yellow main vein on one and a red main vein on another one.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 8:57PM
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rlriffle_FL_zone10(z10 FL)


Where did you get the beautiful blue casts of e.e. leaves? They look like something Little & Lewis would do, although I'm pretty sure they're not from L&L.

In any case, WAY TO GO! It all looks very nice! Congratulations.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 5:56AM
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frangipaniaz(z9 Az)

I think that I would go with Plumeria (Frangipani)... once it has matured enough to flower it is very beautiful... hence my name :)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 6:09PM
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