Drought tolerant, tropical landscaping

Grand Hyatt Kauai lobby

Often you model the ‘theme’ of your home based around a holiday destination or even an event/time in your life. In our case, this involved both – we were in Hawai’i for both our engagement and wedding. So, naturally we wanted a home that had a similar landscape. But in water conscious areas of the world, a tropical garden is often considered to be bad form. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be.

Koloa, Kaua’i – the site of our engagement and wedding. The Grand Hyatt near Po’ipu is a fascinating hotel, full of wandering pathways through a very lush established garden. For those who are fans of tropical gardens, it’s sure to impress. Hundreds of different types of plants are planted around the property in an attempt to soften the beautiful architecture that weclomes every visitor. Playing into the idea of open plan living, restaurants, lobbies, and even the hallways bring the amazing horticulture inside. A garden of this scale is obviously out of our reach, but it’s our motivation for our own backyard.

While Kaua’i is known to have one of the wettest points on earth with over 426 inches (10,800 mm) of rain, Koloa on the south side of the island receives only a fraction of the rainfall with 44 inches (1,117 mm). Even with this limited amount of rainfall, the Hyatt has been able to create a lush tropical garden with minimal artificial watering. For reference, Sydney’s annual rainfall is 48inches, or 1,217 mm.

A tropical garden doesn’t necessarily need to include plants that require a lot of water. There’s a number of characteristics that go far beyond a need for large leafed, water loving plants. There are heaps of drought tolerant plants that have tropical characteristics – many that we’re ready to include in our garden. Here’s just a few of the plants we’re using to complete the look we’re after, and not find ourselves with an outrageous water bill.


If you’re after a dramatic effect and a tropical look in your garden, consider Philodendron ‘Xanadu‘, one of the world’s great landscaping plants. Discovered in Western Australia in 1983 as a chance seedling, it was subsequently patented as Philodendron ‘Winterbourn’, then renamed ‘Xanadu’.

Alexander Palm

The Alexander Palm is one of the highly desirable Florida Palm Trees. The ornamental palm tree  is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world, such as Hawai’i and Fiji. It is also extremely popular in Australia.

Canna lily

If you want a bright, happy, tropical-style garden but you don’t live in the tropics, think about planting canna lilies. Most of them love the sun and are remarkably hardy.


Hibiscus plants are quite drought tolerant as well as resistant to light frosts. Commonly found in Australia, Fiji, Hawai’i, and a multitude of other places,  they make very fine focal points in the landscape with the bright, large flowers that vary in colour.


The ever popular Frangipani has a stunning flower that people in the tropics and subtropics sometimes take for granted. It grows widely around the warmer parts of Australia, it has a truly beautiful flower and smells so sweet.

Drought and water restrictions have meant that people are more conscious of water and also more discerning about the plants used, but you can still create that tropical look in your garden, using more drought-tolerant tropical plants. You don’t have to go with native and you certainly don’t have to go cactus. It just takes a bit of research and preparation. Plan out your garden early, and you’re all set.

What kind of landscaping/garden do you prefer?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

About Stefan
Stefan is the regular writer for Megan & Stefan, and hails originally from San Diego, California. A resident of Australia since 2007, he write about his experiences living abroad, his love of photography, and documenting the process of building a house here in this sunburnt country he calls home. Feel free to drop him a line - he's always up for a chat.


  1. maja says:

    Beautiful photo Stef. I know just where you were standing when that was shot!


  1. […] us, it wasn’t so much Fiji, as Hawai’i, but both have a very rich Polynesian culture. Hawai’i, as mentioned previous, is a very important part of the world for Megan and I. Not only was it the […]

Speak Your Mind

%d bloggers like this: