The ground directly under your palm tree may be shady and cool. But that doesn’t mean you need to have an unsightly, dull, sandy patch.
Why not create a tropical garden that will become a focal point and a delightful spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors?
Strolling around your nursery you will find a large number of stunning plants that will thrive in part shade to full shade under a palm tree.
Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
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What to plant under palm trees?
Tropical and subtropical plants are ideal to plant under your palm tree. Some great choices are creeping vines, bromeliads, crotons, cycads, caladiums, and ferns. You can even plant smaller palm trees under tall palm trees to enhance the look.
1. Creeping vines – Jasminum officinale
The area around the trunk of a tall palm is often very shady and bare. One great idea to improve these spots is to plant creeping or spreading vines.
Add a burst of color with jasmine! Also known as the common jasmine, Jasminum officinale grows as a fabulous vine or ground cover, ideal to plant under your palm tree.
This plant offers stunning large white flowers that have a heavenly fragrance. The blooms grow among rich green leaves on stems that spread or climb.
Allow the jasmine to climb up the trunk for a sensational effect. Use garden twine to attach the first stems to the tree and then allow it to grow as it wants.
It is a fast grower and some pruning may be needed in late winter, just before the growing season.
Flowers bloom through the summer until the first frosts. Care is minimal and jasmine is virtually pest and disease-free.
2. Bromeliads – Neoregelia ‘Gee Whiz’
There are thousands of species of Bromeliads to choose from.
These amazing plants attach themselves to the bark of tree trunks, they don’t need soil to grow. They are not parasites and won’t harm the tree.
Bromeliads are known as epiphytes. Epiphytes feed on nutrients that they absorb from the moisture in the air.
One Bromeliad that I love has the fabulous name Neoregelia ‘gee whiz’. It has striking dark olive leaves that are tinged with light purple and spotted with deep purple dots.
You can attach the plant to the tree truck using garden twine or placing it into a crevice in the bark.
Bromeliads also look stunning planted in between rocks in a small rock garden under your palm tree. They are very tolerant of shade and grow all year round.
3. Crotons – Oak leaf croton
Crotons are known for their bold, colorful foliage. They make great companions to plant underneath palm trees.
They are very tolerant of partial shade and enjoy moist soil.
The croton that I love is the Codiaeum variegatum ‘Oakleaf’. It is named for its oak-shaped leaves that grow as large as a hand.
The leaves offer bold veins of bright red interspersed with patches of green.
If you live in a very cold climate, plant them into pots that you stand under your palm tree. You can then bring them indoors when the weather gets extremely cold.
Oakleaf will grow up to 60 inches (1.5m) tall, adding a splash of tropical color under your palm tree.
4. Cycads – Sago palm
Although it is called a palm, the sago palm is actually a cycad. Cycads are an ancient species that date back to the era of the dinosaurs.
The sago palm grows very slowly and is ideal to plant under a tall palm tree.
Sago palms enjoy part shade. Full sun can cause their leaves to burn. They also want well-draining soil that does not allow the roots to stand in stagnant water.
Once established, this plant will only need irregular watering if the weather is very hot and dry.
This lovely tree offers large, feathery fronds in a deep green color that will bring an exotic tropical ambiance to your garden.
It is perfect to add depth and interest under a tall palm tree.
5. Caladiums – Caladium June bride
Caladiums enjoy warmer temperatures and partial shade. This makes them perfect to plant under a palm tree in your garden.
They require low maintenance and enjoy moist, well-draining soil.
Caladium June Bride is also known as Angels Wings. As soon as you see the plant, you will understand why it is so named! Firstly, the leaves are a classic wing shape. Then, they have a stunning luminous white color with delicate green veins. A beautiful sight in any garden.
Being very tolerant of shade, caladiums of all types are ideal to plant under a palm tree. Too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves.
They do enjoy a fertile soil. You can mix in some organic compost to give it a boost now and then.
For homes with children and pets – note that caladiums are toxic if ingested. So this won’t be the best choice for you.
6. Ferns – Western sword fern
Ferns are low-maintenance perennials that do well in damp and shady spots. This makes them perfect to plant under a large palm tree that is throwing shade onto your garden.
There are many species, all offering wonderful shapes, textures, and colors.
The fern that caught my eye is the beautiful Western sword fern. This majestic species is an evergreen plant.
That means you will have color all year round under your palm tree.
It has an arching shape of dense, long narrow dark green fronds. The leaves have toothed edges with a base that resembles the hilt of a sword – and so it is named.
Ferns love shade and will thrive under a shady palm tree. They also enjoy rich, moist, well-draining soil.
Add some organic compost to the soil when you plant your fern and it will flourish.
The Western sword fern does not require a lot of maintenance. You can trim it from time to time if it is becoming scraggly or if you see dead or damaged fronds.
If you are loving the look that ferns bring to your garden, another lovely choice is the holly fern.
This is a popular choice as the long-lasting leaves can be cut and used for Christmas decorations.
For a pop of brightness, the Hart’s tongue fern has lovely rosettes of evergreen bright green fronds that grow in an arching shape.
Planting different types of ferns under your palm tree will add to the lush, tropical look of your garden.
Get creative with pebbles, paving, and rocks
Placing decorative stones, pebbles, or paving under a palm tree is an easy and creative way to enhance a special spot and turn it into a unique feature.
You can also build a small rock garden. It will be a great home for your ferns and cycads.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.