Interested in creating your own tropical paradise? You don’t need flowering plants to add color.
Many tropical plants have colorful foliage, not all of them flower.
These plants can give a tropical garden (or room indoors) bursts of color throughout the year, without months sacrificed to dormancy.
The question is, how do you play matchmaker to pick out pairing partners for palms?
Let’s find out here which plants are the best partners for palm trees.
Which Plants Go Well with Palm Trees?
Any tropical, subtropical, and many of the Mediterranean plants make good palm companions. For those who want a splash of tropical colors to make their palms shine, some pairing premiers for palms include Bromeliads, Cordylines, Crotons, Orchids, Caladiums, Canna plants, and Tropical Hibiscus. Take your pick of unique shaped leaves, choices of colors, and leaf sizes to create your own tropical haven.
Bromeliads are part of the tropical Bromeliaceae family. There are over 3,000 varieties available to choose from.
All are epiphytes that naturally grow on the bark of trees. Despite palms not technically being trees, the trunks of palms make great anchors for them.
Being epiphytes, they can survive by taking the nutrients and moisture they need from the air, rain, and even the debris that accumulates around them.
These plants aren’t parasites that’ll drain your palm of nutrients. Bromeliads simply attach to the palm’s surface and live their own life without harming the palm.
The simplest way to attach Bromeliads to trees is to strap them on using a strip of nylon.
Cordylines are part of the Asparagaceae family. There are around 15 species of this plant, but the Draceana is not one of them.
Those plant species have their own group, but nurseries have been known to mislabel the two groups.
Thus, to tell them apart, look at their roots. The roots on a Dracaena are yellowy-orange. Roots on a cordyline are white.
Cordylines are fantastic tropical plants to grow for colorful foliage year-round.
In the summer, some species do flower, but all of them will provide large colorful foliage that adds to the appeal of palms throughout the year.
Outdoors, cordylines are only hardy in zones 9 to 12.
Elsewhere, they’re tropical houseplants that pair well with indoor palms.
The Hawaiian Ti Plant (Cordyline Fruiticosa) is the most common of the species and a popular palm companion.
A few of the showiest varieties are the Firebrand Ti, the Oahu Rainbow, and the Painter’s Palette.
Croton plants are part of the Codiaeum Variegatum species. Similar to Cordylines, they’re grown for their colorful foliage.
If what you want is to add color without having to care for flowering plants, group your palms with cordylines and crotons.
Combining the two creates an abundance of color, perfect for a tropical setting in a conservatory, or garden room.
Orchids can attach their roots to the trunks of palms. They’re a creative way to decorate the landscape in regions with warmer winters.
This is a feature mostly seen in holiday resorts of Florida.
The best time to attach orchids to palms, and to any tree per se, is when you’d usually pot it. When the roots are most active is when to tie it to the trunk of a palm.
Attach these when they’re between blooms, typically early in the year.
Use a material that’ll decompose such as burlap or cotton string. Plastic zip ties can be used, but you will need to slacken them as the plant gets bigger.
It takes around six months for the roots to attach to the trunk of a palm.
Where you place it matters because they need partial shade.
The best area for orchids to bloom on a palm will be on the shadiest side, and on the lower part of the tree.
As orchids grow, the canes will reach for the sunlight. That’s why they’re good candidates to attach to the bark of palms.
They branch out, then bloom, giving colorful bursts of flowers for months.
Caladiums belong in the Araceae family. Araceae is a group of plants related to the Monstera, and one that also contains calcium oxalate crystals making them poisonous to pets.
Provided you don’t have nibblers running around your home, yard, or garden, these are a welcome addition in a tropical setting.
The Caladium bicolor species is the most popular. These produce large heart-shaped leaves in a range of colors, usually two at least.
The Moonlight Caladium (white with green veins) is a good candidate as that needs the warm temperatures of 70-Fahrenheit minimum and kept in warm shade.
Under the palm tree’s canopy with pinnate leaves would suit this plant.
Canna plants belong to the Cannaceae family. There are around 10 species of this plant family, each with various cultivars.
A few Canna plants stand out as great pairing plants for palms.
The Cleopatra, the Black Knight, Bengal Tiger, and the Tropicana make good palm companions.
For smaller types of palm trees, the Lucifer plant only grows to around two feet.
Tropical hibiscus plants can be grown outdoors in zones 10 to 12.
Elsewhere, they’re grown as tropical houseplants and can be paired with miniature palm trees. Both have similar growing requirements.
Hibiscus are super vibrant flowering plants that all but guarantee to put on a spectacle of a flowering show each year from April through to Fall.
Frequently Asked Questions about Companion Plants for Palms
Can vining plants be used to cover the trunks of palms?
It is possible but you should do this pairing with care. Covering outdoor tree trunks with climbing vines can create a habitat for rodents. It’s also possible for some heavy feeding vines to rob the palm of nutrients from the ground soil, or not receive enough to flower. For palm trunks that have seen better days, it’s much easier to attach bromeliads, or if the conditions allow, to let orchids root on the trunks.
Can houseplants be grown in the same container as a palm?
Yes. In fact, some of the dwarf varieties like the Pygmy Date palm are sold by nurseries with more than one plant in the same container to grow a palm with multiple trunks. As long as you don’t pair competing plants in the same container, multiple plants can grow well. Pair plants in containers that have the same plant care requirements and they’ll grow fine. It will be slower because they’re sharing nutrients.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.