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Tropical Outdoor Design Ideas

Updated on November 10, 2018
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Transform your outdoor areas into paradise for much less than a trip to a romantic island resort. Don’t feel stressed to tackle all of these projects at one time. Do each one as your budget allows. Before you know it you'll be kicking back with an umbrella drink enjoying your own personal tropical oasis.

Lush Plantings

Think about the pictures you’ve seen or the tropical locales you have visited. Lush plantings are the main attraction. In the case of tropical outdoor spaces more is better. In fact you can’t have too much in the way of abundant landscaping materials. Tropical greenery creates a cooling effect and offsets the heat created by a cement patio or wood deck.

Inject various shades of green, different sizes of leaves and plant heights to create visual interest. Layer low-growing ferns and hostas, philodendrons and cycads with taller palms and trees to give your tropical garden interesting sections of texture and greenery. Bring in subtle and vibrant color with plants like orchids, birds of paradise, hibiscus and bromeliads.

Lush plantings give your outdoor space that tropical flavor!
Lush plantings give your outdoor space that tropical flavor! | Source
Pick colorful flowering plants to enhance your outdoor design.
Pick colorful flowering plants to enhance your outdoor design. | Source

If you live in a temperate zone recreating a profuse tropical landscape is fairly easy. If you reside in a four-season zone check with your local nursery or garden center for planting suggestions that will give you a similar look that withstands winter temperatures.

One way to bring the tropics to northern growing zones is to choose native plants with large, rounded leaf shapes that evoke a similar feeling. Also consider using patio containers to house tropical plant species. You can easily move them indoors when the weather gets cold.

Before buying any plants, check to make sure they are suitable for your planting zone.
Before buying any plants, check to make sure they are suitable for your planting zone. | Source

Water Features

Water features can be as simple as a homemade fountain fashioned out of a decorative urn to elaborate ponds with waterfalls and pools with spouting water. Even a simple solar powered fountain or birdbath can add an exotic air to a small tropical courtyard, patio or balcony. Any type of moving water can drown out surrounding environmental noise and provides a soothing backdrop for your outdoor space.

If you opt for a large water feature try to incorporate nature into the design. A pond with flowering water lilies and koi would be a major focal point. You may prefer flowing water to create a serene waterfall incorporating rocks and boulders. Water features provide a tranquil place to while away the time.

Get creative with your tropical water feature!
Get creative with your tropical water feature! | Source

Exotic Furnishings

You’re in luck. There are many exotic outdoor furniture choices available today. You won’t have to search very far to find just the right style for your sultry outdoor design. Rattan, teak and woven wicker furniture looks right at home in a tropical outdoor setting.

Add the element of fire by placing oil torches or lanterns around the patio to light up the night with a soft glow. If you really want to take the tropical theme literally find a contractor that builds palapas to give your patio or pool area that authentic island feel. A festive, thatched palapa is the perfect cover a dining or lounge area.

Use an outdoor area rug to define a seating area just as you would for indoor spaces. Large seashells make lovely accents for tables. Install a tropical outdoor ceiling fan to recreate gentle the trade winds.

A thatched palapa adds an authentic touch to a tropical backyard.
A thatched palapa adds an authentic touch to a tropical backyard. | Source

Fabric Shades and Curtains

If you don’t have a patio cover but have a covered porch or pergola try this creative idea. Attach panels of natural outdoor fabric to the pergola frame, creating a relaxed, shaded living space. Simply take the fabric panels down during inclement weather or use waterproof, outdoor fabric and leave them up all year round.

Covered patios can get a dose of the tropics with the addition of grommeted curtains. The grommets and curtain hardware should be made from weather resistant materials such as stainless steel. In a matter of a few hours you can transform your plain patio into a tropical resort cabana with ready made curtain panels.

No patio cover at all? You can create a similar tropical look by purchasing two or three wooden outdoor umbrellas in a natural fabric. Several 7- to 9-ft. diameter umbrellas will easily shade an average size patio.

Flowing curtains on a porch add that tropical feel to your outdoor space.
Flowing curtains on a porch add that tropical feel to your outdoor space. | Source

Inject Tropical Color

Use vibrant hues like coral, aqua, bright yellow and lime green to create a Caribbean-inspired outdoor space. If you are not fond of vivid colors stick to muted blues, greens and tans to pick up the colors of the sea and sand.

Choose neutral cushions and bring in pops of the tropics with colorful patterned throw pillows that echo the colors of your landscape plants. By using smaller colorful accessories you can easily change the color scheme just by switching out a few pillows and decorative accents.

Choose wild or subtle colors to suit your tropical personality.
Choose wild or subtle colors to suit your tropical personality. | Source

Summer Tablescape Idea

If you love the allure of the Caribbean it's easy and affordable to create this tropical tablescape. Start by sourcing large, faux green leaves to overlap for use as a table runner. Add medium and large clear, glass vases and containers to create height variation for the centerpiece.

Use plain white plates and pastel bowls placed on round rattan chargers to give the table texture and a tropical vibe. Choose denim or burlap napkins paired with gold silverware to give it some bling. Banana and philodendron leaves are a cheaper substitute for expensive flower arrangements for the table. Pick the leaves from your yard is you live in a temperate zone or simply purchase them from the local florist.

Tropical Table for Cocktails and Dinner

Try all of these ideas to create your very own tropical vacation spot. You'll never have to leave your backyard!

© 2012 Linda Chechar


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