plants in a jungle garden

How to Create A Thriving Jungle Garden: 10 Exotic Ideas

If you are looking for a unique outdoor space, an exotic jungle garden might be just what you need. Fortunately, whether you have a small balcony or a large backyard, we have jungle garden ideas that will suit your space. So let’s get started and turn your outdoor area into a lush jungle garden that will transport you to a tropical paradise.

What is a Jungle Garden?

a jungle garden with exotic plants and a path

A jungle garden is a type of garden that aims to replicate the lush, dense vegetation of a tropical rainforest. It features layers of foliage, including large-leaved plants, climbers, and ground cover plants, creating a dense canopy that provides shade and shelter for smaller plants and wildlife.

Many of the plants found in jungle gardens have palmate leaves, which means they are shaped like a hand with multiple leaflets radiating from a central point. This creates a unique, tropical aesthetic that can’t be replicated with traditional garden plants.

In addition to palmate leaves, many jungle garden plants also have linear leaves, which are long, narrow, and often pointed. These leaves can create a contrasting texture and add depth to the garden.

There are several advantages to starting a jungle garden, including:

Makes Small Gardens Seem Bigger

A jungle garden can make even the smallest of spaces seem much larger. With its layered structure, a jungle garden creates depth and texture, making it appear as if there’s more space than there actually is. This is perfect for those with small outdoor spaces who want to make the most of what they have.

Allows Gardener to Include Lots of Interesting Plants

A jungle garden provides the opportunity to include a range of interesting and unusual plants that are not typically found in traditional gardens. From palms and ferns to exotic flowers, a jungle garden can provide a diverse and exciting array of plant life.

Suitable to a Range of Gardens

A jungle garden can be created in a range of gardens, from small urban courtyards to large suburban plots. This means that regardless of the size or location of your garden, you can create your own jungle paradise.

Maximises Space

With its layered structure, a jungle garden allows you to fit more plants into a smaller area, maximising the space that you have. This is perfect for those who want to make the most of a small garden or courtyard. For storage, it would be best to choose a small shed that blends in with the aesthetics of your garden such as a cork shed.

Creates Microclimates in Town Gardens

For those living in urban environments, a jungle garden can provide a sheltered environment for tender plants that may struggle in exposed, windy conditions. By creating a microclimate within your garden, you can provide the perfect conditions for your plants to thrive.

Easy to Make and Maintain

Finally, a jungle garden is easy to make and maintain. It thrives in shade and requires minimal watering, making it a low-maintenance option for those who want to create a beautiful and exotic outdoor space without spending hours on upkeep.

What’s the Difference Between a Tropical Garden and a Jungle Garden?

rock piles in a jungle garden

Tropical gardens and jungle gardens are two types of gardens that are often confused with each other. While they share some similarities, there are distinct differences between the two. Here, we’ll explore the differences between tropical and jungle gardens.

Jungle GardensTropical Gardens
Mimics the layered foliage of a tropical rainforestContains a mix of tropical plants and flowers
Characterised by a variety of plants found in jungle environments, such as palms, ferns, and bambooCharacterised by bold, colourful flowers and foliage, such as hibiscus and bird of paradise
Has a natural, organic look with an emphasis on foliage over flowersHas a more formal look, with a focus on neat, well-manicured plants
Contains a variety of exotic plants, such as palms, ferns, and bambooMay contain some exotic plants, but also includes more traditional tropical plants
Thrives in shady, humid environmentsThrives in sunny, warm environments
Often includes water features, such as small streams or pondsMay include water features, but not as commonly as in jungle gardens

As you can see, while there are some similarities between tropical gardens and jungle gardens, there are also some distinct differences. When deciding which type of garden to create, consider your climate, available space, and personal taste. Whether you choose to create a lush, jungle-inspired paradise or a more traditional tropical garden, with the right plants and design elements, you can create a beautiful and relaxing outdoor space.

Different Styles of Jungle Garden

Jungle gardens can come in a variety of styles, depending on the design and layout. Here are three popular styles of jungle garden:

Garden Room

This style of jungle garden creates a secluded outdoor space that feels like a private retreat. It usually involves planting dense foliage around the perimeter of the garden to create a sense of enclosure. The space may also include seating, water features, and other decorative elements.

Potted Jungle 

If you have limited outdoor space, a potted jungle garden might be the perfect solution. This style involves using large, decorative planters to create a jungle-inspired oasis. Choose plants with different heights and textures to create a layered effect.

Jungle Living 

This style of jungle garden involves incorporating indoor plants into your outdoor space. This can create a seamless transition between your indoor and outdoor living areas, blurring the boundaries between the two. Use large, potted plants in strategic locations around your patio or deck to create a jungle-inspired look.

Water Garden 

This style of jungle garden incorporates a water feature such as a pond or small stream, which adds an extra layer of tranquillity to the space. Choose plants that thrive in moist soil conditions, such as ferns, water lilies, and cannas.

Jungle Pathway 

Create a winding path through your garden with lush foliage and interesting plant species. This style of jungle garden is perfect for larger gardens and can be used to guide visitors through different sections of the garden. Use a mix of groundcovers, shrubs, and trees to create a layered effect.

Hanging Garden 

Take advantage of vertical space by creating a hanging garden in your jungle garden. This style involves using hanging baskets, trellises, and other structures to display a variety of trailing and climbing plants. Choose plants with cascading foliage and vibrant flowers to create a dramatic effect.

Jungle Retreat

Create a relaxing outdoor space with a jungle retreat style garden. This style involves creating a cosy seating area surrounded by dense foliage and tropical plants. Use comfortable seating, soft lighting, and decorative elements such as lanterns and candles to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

Tropical Oasis 

This style of jungle garden is all about creating a lush and vibrant tropical paradise. Use a mix of exotic plants with different colours, textures, and shapes to create a layered effect. Include water features, such as a small pool or fountain, to complete the look.

Jungle Garden Top Advice

Creating a jungle garden can be an exciting and rewarding project for gardeners who want to explore lush foliage and exotic plant varieties. To help you on your jungle garden journey, we’ve put together some top advice to make your space come to life. From selecting the right plants to getting the lighting and layout right, read on for our top tips and ideas on how to create a jungle paradise in your own garden.

  • Experiment with tender tropical plants by growing them in containers, which can be brought indoors during winter to protect them from the cold.
  • Consider the lighting in your garden, as large foliage plants like tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) can create dramatic shadows. Use up lighters to highlight these shadows for a late-night show.
  • To create a jungle feel, incorporate different levels of plants, such as tall canopies with lower tiered plants underneath.
  • Add winding paths through dense planting to create a dynamic element in the garden. This technique can also make the garden feel larger by restricting the view from one end to the other.
  • Don’t be afraid to place tall plants next to the pathway for better appreciation of their size.
  • Use bold leaf textures and shapes to create contrast and impact in your garden.
  • Focus on a few key plants with giant leaves to set the tone for the jungle garden.
  • Incorporate water features like a small pond or waterfall to add a soothing element to the garden and create a more authentic jungle atmosphere.
  • Use natural materials like bamboo, rattan, or teak to create garden structures and furniture that blend in with the jungle theme.
  • To create a more sustainable jungle garden, consider using native plants or non-invasive exotic species that can thrive in your local climate and soil conditions.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix different types of plants in your jungle garden, including flowering perennials or annuals, to add colour and interest throughout the growing season.

Creating an Exotic Jungle Themed Garden

Creating a jungle garden can be an exciting and rewarding project for any gardening enthusiast. The lush foliage, unique textures, and vibrant colours of tropical plants can transport you to a tropical paradise right in your backyard. In this section, we will explore how to create an exotic jungle-themed garden that will leave you feeling like you’re in the heart of the rainforest.

Start by building the hard landscaping

Before you start planting, consider the structure and layout of your garden. Think about the paths, terraces, and other features you want to include. For example, you can incorporate winding paths, steps, and retaining walls to create different levels, adding interest and depth to your garden. Consider using natural materials such as stone, wood, or bamboo to create a rustic and organic feel.

Good Soil Preparation

Good soil preparation is crucial to creating a thriving jungle garden. Start by digging over the soil and removing any weeds or debris. Adding well-rotted manure or compost will improve soil fertility and structure, ensuring that your plants have the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Reapply the manure or compost once a year to maintain the soil quality.

Closely Pack Foliage Plantings Together

To create the dense, layered look of a jungle, plant your foliage plants closely together. By packing them in, you will create a lush, green backdrop that mimics the natural growth of a jungle. Make sure to leave enough space between plants for them to grow, but don’t be afraid to plant them tightly.

Plant Taller Varieties First

To create the layered effect of a jungle, start by planting taller varieties first. This will help create a ‘canopy’ effect, with the taller plants casting shade over the lower layers. This creates a perfect environment for shade-loving plants to thrive. Consider planting large trees like palm trees, banana plants or bamboo in the background to create the canopy effect.

Plant Evergreen Plants and Understory Plants

Evergreen plants are an essential component of a jungle themed garden as they maintain their leaves all year round, providing year-round color and texture. These plants can also serve as the foundation for a layered planting scheme. Understory plants, which are plants that grow underneath the taller canopy plants, add depth and interest to the garden. Some examples of evergreen plants include the Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), Cabbage Palm (Cordyline australis), and the New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax).

Add the Tropical Plants to Create a Jungle ‘Canopy’

Tropical plants with broad, lush leaves are the key to creating a jungle canopy. Large-leafed plants like Banana (Musa spp.), Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia spp.), and the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) are ideal for this purpose. Plant them in clusters or groups to create a dense and varied planting scheme.

Plant Climbing Plants

Climbing plants are perfect for adding vertical interest to your jungle themed garden. They can climb up walls, trees, or trellises and create a lush and vibrant environment. Types of climbing plants such as Jasmine, Honeysuckle, and Clematis are great for adding scent and colour to the garden.

Cater for Wildlife

A jungle in the garden is not complete without wildlife. Adding bird feeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths will attract birds and other wildlife to your garden. You can also plant flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Add a Water Feature

Water features are an essential element of a jungle themed garden. A pond, stream, or waterfall can create a soothing and tranquil environment, and the sound of running water can add to the jungle atmosphere. Water plants such as Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and Water Lilies (Nymphaea spp.) can also be added to the water feature to enhance the overall effect.

Add Rocks and Boulders for Impact

Adding rocks and boulders to your jungle themed garden can create a dramatic and impactful effect. Boulders can serve as focal points or as a backdrop for plants, and rocks can be used to create natural-looking paths or to define planting beds. The use of different-sized rocks and boulders can create depth and texture in the garden.

Caring for A Jungle Garden

wildlife in a jungle garden

A jungle themed garden is a great way to bring a sense of exoticism and adventure to your outdoor space. However, once established, it’s important to maintain the garden to ensure it continues to thrive and look beautiful. In this section, we will provide you with advice on caring for your jungle garden, including watering, weeding, pruning, mulching, winter protection, and caring for tender plants.

Watering

Jungle gardens typically have high humidity levels due to their densely packed foliage, so watering is less of a concern in the summer months. During dry spells, it’s essential to water deeply, allowing the soil to absorb as much water as possible. Avoid watering in the evening, as this can promote fungal growth. Instead, water early in the day when the sun is not too intense.

Weeding & Pruning

Jungle gardens are densely planted, making them less prone to weeds. However, some weeding may still be necessary, particularly around newly planted areas. As for pruning, only do so when necessary, removing any dead or damaged branches. Otherwise, it’s best to let the plants grow naturally and create their own unique shape.

Mulching

Mulching is an essential part of caring for a jungle garden. It helps to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, and protect the roots from extreme temperatures. Organic mulch, such as bark chips or leaf mould, is best for jungle gardens, as it breaks down slowly, adding valuable nutrients to the soil. Spread a layer of mulch around your plants, ensuring that you don’t cover the plant’s stem.

Winter Protection

Most jungle plants are not frost-hardy and will require winter protection if they are to survive. If you live in a colder climate, you may need to dig up some of the plants and store them in a frost-free place over winter. Before doing so, ensure that you label each plant so you can easily identify it when it’s time to replant in the spring.

Growing in Containers

One way to maintain a jungle garden is by growing plants in containers. This approach is ideal for tender tropical plants that cannot withstand winter temperatures. Containers provide flexibility, allowing you to move your plants indoors during the colder months to protect them from frost.

When planting in containers, choose pots that are large enough to accommodate the root system of your plants. Ensure that the pots have good drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. Additionally, choose a high-quality potting mix that is rich in nutrients to promote healthy growth.

Caring for Tender Plants

In jungle gardens, tender tropical plants are a common sight. These plants require special care and attention to keep them healthy and thriving. During the growing season, tender plants need regular watering to keep their soil moist. However, be careful not to overwater them, as this can cause root rot.

The Best Jungle Plants for UK Gardens

plant leaves from a jungle garden

When creating a jungle garden in the UK, it’s important to choose the right plants that can tolerate the cooler climate. Here are some of the best jungle plants for UK gardens and a brief description of each with care tips:

Tree ferns (Dicksonia Antartica) – This plant is native to Australia and New Zealand and thrives in shady and moist conditions. It requires rich, well-draining soil and regular watering.

Colocasia ‘Pink China’– A striking plant with large pinkish leaves that make a bold statement in any garden. It likes moist soil and partial shade.

Fig tree (Ficus carica) – Figs can be grown in the UK and make a great addition to a jungle garden. They prefer a sheltered spot with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil.

Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) – This ornamental grass has a lush, tropical look and adds a soft texture to the garden. It prefers partial shade and moist soil.

Choisya Ternata – This evergreen shrub has glossy leaves and fragrant white flowers. It can tolerate full sun to partial shade and well-draining soil.

Paulownia Tomentosa – A fast-growing tree with large, tropical-looking leaves that can add a bold statement to any garden. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil.

Viburnum Davidii – This evergreen shrub has dark green leaves and small white flowers in spring. It likes partial shade and well-draining soil.

Phormium Tenax Variegatum – This striking plant has tall, sword-shaped leaves with white stripes that add a tropical feel to any garden. It prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, well-draining soil.

Fargesia Murieliae Rufa – This clump-forming bamboo is a slow grower, reaching up to 2 metres in height. It prefers well-drained, moist soil in partial shade.

Cordyline Australis Verde – This striking evergreen tree produces fragrant white flowers in summer followed by red or purple berries in autumn. It prefers well-drained soil and a sheltered, sunny spot. 

Rodgersia Aesculifolia – This herbaceous perennial prefers moist, fertile soil in partial shade and can grow up to 1 metre tall. It is perfect for adding texture to a jungle-themed garden.

Tetrapanax (Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’) – This dramatic plant can be grown in a container and is hardy to around -5°C, but it will need protection in colder winters. Growing Tetrapanax in pots is a great option for those who have limited garden space or want to move the plants indoors during the winter months. Tetrapanax prefers well-draining soil and partial shade.

Jungle Garden Ideas & Inspiration In The UK

a cat in a jungle themed garden

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden, visiting some of the jungle gardens in the UK can provide a great starting point. Here are a few you can visit to find some of the best jungle garden ideas in the UK:

  • Great Dixter Exotic Garden – This jungle garden is a stunning example of how to create a tropical paradise in a temperate climate. Visitors can enjoy a diverse range of plants, including ferns, bananas, and palms, which will inspire plenty of jungle garden ideas in the UK.
  • Trebah Garden – Nestled on the banks of the Helford River in Cornwall, Trebah Garden boasts a beautiful collection of exotic and subtropical plants, such as bamboo, gunnera, and rhododendrons. 
  • Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens – With over 30 acres of lush greenery, exotic plants, and rare and unusual specimens, such as tree ferns, palms, and eucalyptus. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in jungle garden ideas in the UK.
  • Walton Park Garden – This hidden gem in Bristol showcases a range of jungle garden plants in a beautiful setting. Visitors can explore the diverse collection of ferns, bamboos, and tree ferns, which provide ample inspiration for jungle garden ideas in the UK.
  • Urban Jungle Garden Centre – Based in Norfolk, Urban Jungle Garden Centre is a tropical oasis that offers visitors the chance to experience a range of exotic and unusual plants, including palms, bananas, and succulents. 

Create a Extravagant Jungle Garden Now

Creating a jungle garden in the UK can be a unique and exciting experience that offers a lush and exotic atmosphere. By selecting the right jungle plants for UK gardens and implementing creative jungle garden ideas, anyone can transform their outdoor space into a breath-taking jungle oasis. There are many jungle gardens and garden centres throughout the UK that offer inspiration and insight into the creation of a jungle garden. From Trebah Garden in Cornwall to the Urban Jungle Garden Centre in Norfolk, visitors can explore various jungle garden styles and designs. With careful planning, research, and selection of appropriate jungle plants, anyone can bring the jungle garden UK to their doorstep.

FAQs

How do I get rid of a jungle garden?

Getting rid of a jungle garden can be a daunting task, but there are several methods you can use. One option is to use herbicides to kill off unwanted plants. This is a time-consuming process and may not be the most eco-friendly method. Another option is to manually remove plants by digging them up and disposing of them. This method is more labour-intensive, but it allows you to be more selective about which plants you keep. Finally, you can hire a professional garden service to remove the jungle garden for you.

How do you make a tropical garden in the UK?

Creating a tropical garden in the UK can be challenging due to the climate. However, with careful planning and plant selection, it is possible to achieve a lush, tropical look. Start by selecting plants that are suitable for the UK climate but have a tropical appearance, such as palms, ferns, and bamboo. Use plenty of lush foliage, bold colours, and textures in your garden design. Consider adding water features, such as fountains or ponds, to create a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. Finally, use plenty of organic matter in your soil to help retain moisture and create a fertile environment for your plants.

What to plant to make a house look like a jungle?

To create a jungle-like atmosphere in your home, you’ll need to select plants that are lush and tropical in appearance. Consider adding large-leafed plants, such as Monstera deliciosa or Philodendron bipinnatifidum, to add a dramatic effect. You can also use trailing plants, such as pothos or devil’s ivy, to create a cascading effect. Other options include ferns, palms, and snake plants. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different textures and colours to create a truly tropical feel. With the right plant selection and care, you can turn your home into a lush jungle oasis.

References:

Britannica. (n.d.). What Is the Difference between Forest and Jungle? Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/eb/qa/What-Is-the-Difference-between-Forest-and-Jungle-

House Beautiful UK. (n.d.). 10 tropical plants you can grow in the UK. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://www.housebeautiful.com/uk/garden/plants/a555/tropical-plants/

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