11 Best Tropical Plants for the UK Climate

UK gardeners everywhere are warming up to the idea of tropical gardens. These types of plants are becoming increasingly popular in the United Kingdom because they offer the gardener an exotic, relaxing mood without even having to leave home. Of course, before creating the perfect tropical backdrop in your backyard, you need to be aware of the best tropical plants for the UK climate. Not every tropical plant will flourish here, so knowledge is definitely power!

Best Tropical Plants for the UK

For the gardening enthusiast, here are 11 possibilities to consider.

1. Chusan palm/Trachycarpus fortunei

The Chusan Palm has established itself as a hardy plant that can stand a variety of harsh temperatures.

Trachycarpus fortunei

Since the United Kingdom is usually in the middle of a polar front jet stream, this is an important attribute. This plant has a great palm with fan-shaped leaves. In the coldest temperatures it is wise to reinforce the top with bubble wrap.

2. Trilliums/Trillium grandiflorum

Trilliums are a very charming that can be somewhat tricky to grow. It can take a process of trial and error, but they usually will germinate with the appropriate stratification and a period of cold weather.

Trillium grandiflorum

By Silsor (Self-published work by Silsor) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It does take some experience to grow them because in the first year of growth the trillium will have a long, green leaf and appear to be a blade of grass. They are also susceptible to garden slugs when starting out as well.

3. Horse tails/Equisetum arvense

Horse tails, also known as mare’s tails, are a plant that have many reed-like strands. They can be grown in the UK as long as the gardener plants them in a spot that has some shade.

This plant can be invasive so it is best to plant in a pot.

Equisetum-arvense

By Brambleshire (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Bear’s breeches/Acanthus mollis

This plant has large, glossy leaves and can thrive in both sunny spots and shade as well.

Acanthus-mollis

By James Steakley (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Some prize this plant for its eye appeal while others feel it can be invasive. Thus, if you decide to plant this species give it plenty of room in order to bloom.

5. Rodgersia/Rodgersia pinnata ‘Superba’

This example is known for producing exotic-looking clumps and can be great for any architecture as well.

Rodgersia pinnata 'Superba'

They prefer a moist, shady setting and can grow in a lot of locales in the United Kingdom because of our heavy rainfall.

6. Fatsia/Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica is a versatile that can grow with leaves that are sixteen inches across.

Fatsia-japonica

By by Reggaeman (photo by Reggaeman) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This breed can provide a great contrast and grows well with many different ferns. They also do well with woodland perennials such as hellebores and hostas.

7. Ginger Lily/Hedychium aurantiacum

This is truly a tropical-looking flower and will usually push up through the soil in the late summer.

Ginger-Lily

By Srichakra Pranav (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ginger Lillies will produce red flowers in the fall and they need to be in soil that has drainage but is still moist. Again, a good plant for many parts of England and the rest of the U.K.

8. Arum lilies/Zantedeschia aethiopica

This is also a plant that can grow in a U.K. garden, but it will require a bit of extra work. Like the Chusan palm, it will require some extra protection in the harshest winter temperatures.

Zantedeschia-aethiopica

By Andy king50 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Some gardeners elect to bring the plant inside as a shelter from the cold.

9. Bamboo/Phyllostachys nigra

The Phyllostachys Nigra is the perfect plant for the tropical look. This plant is a very hardy example and they require little in the way of upkeep. They are great for screening and for use as hedging, the tall canes create a great screen that also bushes out, the rustling sound also helps to drown out and near by noises. Bamboo is a must have for any garden and great for growing in the UK.

Phyllostachys nigra

They are also great at being non-intrusive and not taking too much space. They are usually green in colour.

10. Bean tree/Catalpa ‘Bungei’

The Catalpa Bungei is actually more of a tree than it is a plant. It is renowned for the great leaves that it grows and the umbrella shape that they give to the viewer. The Bean Tree can give a garden a unique, jungle-like feel. If you live in an area of the U.K. that doesn’t get much rainfall you should be aware this plant is very hard for drought-like conditions.

11. Ghostlady Fern

This plant offers a great amount of shade and is noted for their white foliage on their leaves.

Ghostlady Fern

By brewbooks from near Seattle, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This fern also thrives in moist and shady areas, but one added benefit is this fern is more tolerant of dry spells than other ferns.

As you can see, growing a tropical plant in the United Kingdom is possible with a little perseverance, knowledge and study. Knowledge is power.

3 Comments

  1. Steve Bracebridge

    How much room do I give the tree fern trunk to outside of pot, also how much deeper do I go. Is I right , you can give them too much room around the trunk ? Is there a guide to gauge the surrounding of the trunk?

    Reply
  2. Donna Webb

    My home has very poor lighting from my windows and inside my home can you recommend a light that will help me with my succulent plants? I found one on Amazon

    Reply
  3. Dan Byrne

    Hi,

    I’ve just purchased and sited 2 Dicksonia Antarctica, both 6’ trunks.
    They look great but would like to somehow ‘train’ the fronds that are approx 8’ in length! They are slightly exposed and the wind and rain is effecting them a little more than I expected. Is there a tried and tested method of retaining their shape in a more erect style? I am contemplating creating a rubber coated wire ‘crown’ to the top of the trunk to provide an anchor point for each frond – I personally think this would work but any advice would be much appreciated. As you can imagine, these weren’t cheap so would like to have them displayed at their best potential. Thanks. Dan

    Reply

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