Palm trees will give your yard a tropical feel and provide plenty of exciting foliage as the palm-like fronds spread out and sway in the wind. But just because the space under your palm tree is shady doesn’t mean you can’t spruce it up with some tropical shade-tolerant companion plants!
Some of the best plants that will thrive under your palm tree include tropical hibiscus, asparagus fern, Asiatic jasmine, bromeliads, golden shrimp, birds of paradise, crotons, blue ginger, and moth orchids. All of these plants thrive in tropical climates and aren’t opposed to the cool shade thrown by your palm tree.
Below, we’ll go over the BEST plants to plant under your palm tree. We’ll also discuss some of the care requirements so you can make sure your tropical plants thrive.
Can You Grow Plants Under Your Palm Tree?
Depending on the species of palm tree you are dealing with, the space beneath it may seem too inhospitable to grow plants. Don’t fret, there are plenty of shade-loving tropical plants out there!
So, the answer is yes! You can grow plants under your palm tree.
Even so, the plants under your palm tree will face a few challenges that will need to be addressed:
- Shade: First and foremost, your plant will need to tolerate some shade to survive under your palm tree. Some palms cast more shade than others, so be sure to choose a plant that is at least somewhat shade tolerant.
- Nutrients: Palm trees require nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium more than any other nutrients, and they will steal these from their leaves if the quantity is scarce in the soil. Planting something beneath your palm tree means there will be even fewer nutrients available.
To combat this problem, you’ll want to use a palm fertilizer to ensure your palms are getting enough nutrients despite sharing the soil with another plant. BGI’s Palmgain 10lb Bag Palm Tree Fertilizer was designed by the University of Florida to specifically address palm tree nutrient needs.
- Water: According to the University Of California, palms should be watered when the soil two inches below the surface is dry. When you add a plant under your palm tree, that water is going to disappear faster than normal, meaning you’ll have to water the area more frequently.
- Climate: Before choosing a plant to place beneath your palm tree, take into consideration the hardiness zone in which the plant can survive. It needs to be adapted to tropical conditions just like your palm tree.
Despite these challenges, you have a wide variety of choices to plant under your palm tree. There’s no reason the space beneath your palm needs to be bare or plain jane. Spice it up with some creeping vines or brilliant bromeliads!
How To Grow Plants Under Your Palm Tree
All of the plants on our list are going to combat the challenges we discussed above. They’ll be shade tolerant, require little nutrients and water, and thrive in tropical climates.
But to make your plants happy and to see the full blooms of flowers while keeping your palm trees a lush green, you’ll want to take care when planting under your palm tree by following some of the guidelines below.
Choose The Right Location For Your Plants
This may seem like a silly section – aren’t we planting our plants under our palm trees? Well, yes, but there are a few areas to avoid under your palm tree.
When digging into the soil for a spot to place your plant, make sure you’re not digging near or on top of the palm tree roots.
Palm trees do not have very deep roots. Instead, they spread out in a fibrous manner horizontally as opposed to vertically.
If you’re digging and hit into something hard, chances are you’re on top of the palm tree’s roots. Try to dig a little to the left or right to make sure your landscape plants do not choke out the palm tree roots.
Another consideration when choosing a location for your plants is what areas receive sunlight. There should be some places beneath your palm tree that receive a little sun during the morning or evening.
Depending on your chosen plant, you may need to plant them where they get the most sun or perhaps even the least sun. In general, the north side of your palm tree will get the least sun while the south will get the most.
A third and final stipulation is the plants that don’t require digging at all.
Yep, some of the plants on our list are going to attach to the trunk of the palm tree instead of being planted in the soil!
With these plants, you’ll want to make sure to attach them with something that will hold them up properly and provide them with the necessary sunlight requirements.
If your palm tree isn’t in an ideal location for growing with other plants, you may have to find a way to safely transport it to a different area in your yard! You can read our guide on how to transplant a palm tree here!
Know Your Palm Tree
According to the University of Florida, there are over 2,600 species of palm trees and shrubs. That’s a lot of variety!
Before you decide to plant something under your palm tree, make sure you understand what kind of palm tree you have and what its specific requirements are.
You don’t want to plant something under your palm tree that won’t make a good companion. For example, planting something that requires constant moisture with a palm tree that requires good drainage and cannot remain wet.
We’ll go over some of these specifics below so you can be sure you’re planting something under your palm tree that will thrive, adding color and variety to your tropical garden!
Another thing to take into consideration is the size of your palm. Some of the plants on our list grow quite large, over five feet, so you’ll want to make sure you match the size of the flower with the size of the palm.
Some of the best palm trees for larger flowers include:
- Areca Palm
- Kentia Palm
- Windmill Palm
- Fan Palm (and its varieties)
- Canary Island Date Palm
- Queen Palm
- Foxtail Palm
- Sylvester Palm
If you decide to go with one of the shorter flowers on our list, you can fit them under some of the smaller palm varieties such as:
- Pando Palm
- Pygmy Date Palm
- Cat Palm
- Fishtail Palm
- Lady Palm
All palm trees may have that beachy feel, but not all palm trees have the same layout. Take a careful look at how the leaves of your palm tree cast shade on the ground. For some of the flowers on our list, you’ll want to find the sunniest spot, for others, the shadiest.
9 Most Beautiful Plants For Underneath Your Palm Tree
Palm trees are a staple in yards and gardens for those who live in tropical climates. They bring out a beachy feel and look super nice on those blue-sky days.
But there’s nothing wrong with adding a bit of color and interest under your palm tree. Check out the plants below and choose the one that fits your landscape the most!
Tropical hibiscus can be grown as a tree or as a shrub. These tropical plants boast amazingly showy flowers that come in a wide range of colors.
Growing to around 5 feet tall, tropical hibiscus will do best beneath a large palm tree as opposed to a low-growing palm tree.
According to the Smithsonian Institute, tropical hibiscus thrives in hardiness zones 9 through 12. They’re low-maintenance plants that prefer well-drained soil, just like many palm tree species.
Tropical hibiscus is known for its beautiful flowers, but when planted in the shade of a palm tree, don’t be surprised if you see fewer flowers than those planted in the full sun.
Water: Tropical hibiscus is semi-drought-tolerant, but it prefers evenly moist soils. Try to keep the leaves as dry as possible to avoid mildew.
Sun: The more sun the more flowers, but tropical hibiscus will thrive just fine in partial shade. Try to place this plant in the spot that gets the most sun under your palm tree.
Bloom Time: You can expect your tropical hibiscus plant to bloom year-round, but each blossom only lasts a few days.
Pair With: Medium to large palm varieties.
Asparagus ferns are evergreen perennials that have an interesting shape and lush green leaves that will show off nicely beneath your palm tree.
These evergreens thrive in hardiness zones 9 through 11 and prefer sandy, shady conditions. They’re not as showy when compared to other tropical plants. Their flowers are small but fragrant.
The nice thing about asparagus fern is that it’s tolerant of various conditions, including drought and shade. This makes it a good companion plant to your palm tree.
You can plant asparagus fern with tropical hibiscus as these two plants have very similar requirements and clash nicely in terms of texture and color.
Water: Asparagus ferns prefer moist soils but their roots store enough water to withstand some drought. If the leaves begin turning yellow, your fern needs more water.
Sun: direct to indirect light. This is best placed in the sunniest spot beneath your palm tree.
Bloom Time: Asparagus fern blooms from spring through fall.
Pair With: Small to large palms
Although the name is misleading, Asiatic Jasmine is not related to the jasmine plant. It is a tropical evergreen creeping vine that will look great beneath your palm tree.
This resilient vine can withstand salt, drought, shade, and poor soil conditions. The less care you give it, the better off it is. If you give too much water to this plant it can expand too quickly, covering ground that you don’t want to be covered.
Asiatic jasmine does well in hardiness zones 7 through 10 and, seriously, once you plant this baby you don’t have to do anything. Natural rainfall will suffice this hardy plant for water and it isn’t necessary to fertilize unless the plant doesn’t appear to be growing.
According to the University of Florida, you can expect your jasmine vine to expand 3 feet wide and anywhere from 6 to 18 inches tall. Just be aware that this is a groundcover plant, meaning nothing will be able to grow beneath it, especially grass and weeds.
Water: Watering is not necessary except when the plant is first transplanted into the soil.
Sun: Thrives in deep shade to full sun
Bloom Time: While the plant itself will remain green year-round, the inconspicuous flowers only bloom from July to August.
Pair With: Small to large palms
Golden Shrimp Plant
With an interesting name, stunning gold and white blooms, and lush green foliage, what’s not to like about these plants?
Golden shrimps thrive in hardiness zones 9 through 11. They typically reach a height of around 3 feet, so are best planted beneath a palm tree that can accommodate this height.
One downside to this beautiful plant is that, once it grows, it can look sparse underneath. Planting a groundcover plant along with your golden shrimp plant can help fix this issue.
Water: Golden shrimp plants prefer evenly moist soil. It’s not recommended to let them dry out between waterings.
Sun: Full sun to partial shade. Find a spot under your palm tree that receives a few hours of sun per day.
Bloom Time: When grown in tropical regions, golden shrimp plants bloom year-round. In subtropical regions, they may only bloom in summer.
Pair With: Medium to large palms
Bromeliads don’t refer to a specific type of plant. Rather, it refers to an entire family comprised of over 2,500 different species of plants.
Bromeliads may grow from the ground, but some are known as epiphytes and grow on tree trunks or rocks. These tropical plants cannot withstand freezing, so if they are grown outdoors they will only thrive in zones 9 or higher.
Because there are so many different species of bromeliad, you can imagine their shade tolerance will vary. When searching for a bromeliad to plant under your palm tree, look for these varieties:
In the wild, many of these shade-tolerant bromeliads have incredibly bright flowers to attract pollinators to shady locations. So, you can expect your shade-tolerant bromeliads to add some very attractive color under your palm tree!
Notes on mounting bromeliads to your palm tree trunk: if you decide to go for an epiphyte bromeliad, make sure to mount it using something natural like Kinglake’s 328 Feet Natural Jute Twine.
This type of twine will eventually degrade in the environment. Using fishing line, copper wire, or other non-degradable material is not recommended. Once your bromeliad is secure, it will begin to take hold of the trunk with its roots while the original mounting material degrades.
Water: Bromeliads that attach to tree trunks or rocks absorb water through their leaves and from the cups that their foliage forms. They are used to environments with high humidity, so be sure they get enough water. However, do not overwater, as bromeliads do not like to sit in wet soil.
Sun: Varies with species. If you choose from the varieties we listed, they thrive in partial to full shade.
Bloom Time: Varies depending on the species. Some will bloom for months while others only a few weeks.
Pair With: Palms with relatively thinner trunks so the roots can take hold easier. The height of the palm isn’t as important.
Birds Of Paradise
We’re talking about the birds of paradise plant, not the actual bird. Though, those colorful birds would look nice in your tropical garden!
But really, you can get the beautiful color of a bird of paradise from the plant, too. These tropical flowers produce brilliant colors that resemble their namesake.
Birds of paradise do best in hardiness zones 10 through 12, but can be kept in colder climates if brought indoors during the cold season.
Some species of birds of paradise can grow to 30 feet tall, so be sure to pick a smaller variety such as Dwarf Orange so it will fit beneath your palm tree.
One of the downsides to birds of paradise is that they take a few years to bloom. If you buy the plant in a container, it may already be blooming. But, if you try to plant it from seed, you may have to wait a few years before you see those brilliant flowers.
Water: Birds of paradise prefer moist soil, but make sure to let the soil dry between waterings.
Sun: Birds of paradise can tolerate partial shade, but they do best in the sun. Try to find a place under your palm tree where the canopy breaks open, giving your birds of paradise as much sun as possible.
Bloom Time: Birds of paradise are more likely to bloom when the hot tropical temperatures cool down a little, typically from Fall through Spring.
Pair With: Large palm varieties
If you want a variety of colors, look no further than crotons! These perennial evergreen shrubs come in all kinds of colors, shapes, and sizes. You’re bound to find a variety that fits your palm tree, no matter its size.
Some varieties of crotons need full sun, so be sure to grab a shade-tolerant variety such as Geisha Girl, Van Buren, Mosaic, Claude Lorraine, or Nestor.
You can use crotons to cover the entire area beneath your palm tree, or just a few spaces. The beauty of this plant doesn’t come from its flowers but rather from its leaves which range in color from light whites, yellows, and pinks to dark reds, purples, and oranges.
Crotons can be purchased at a local garden center and typically come in pots. They are hardy from zones 9 through 11 but can grow in colder climates if brought inside when temperatures cool down.
Water: Crotons prefer to be watered frequently. If you notice the leaves begin to wilt, your plant is probably thirsty.
Sun: depends on the variety. Many shade-tolerant varieties do great in dappled shade.
Bloom Time: According to the University of Wisconsin, crotons bloom in the spring, but the flowers are not very showy compared to the stunning leaves.
Pair With: Varies with the species. Check the height of your croton to see which palm it pairs best with!
Similar to our Asiatic jasmine plant, blue ginger has a misleading name and is not related to ginger at all! Instead, this tropical plant belongs to the same family as spiderwort.
Blue ginger boasts brilliant blue flowers and has lush green foliage to add to the tropical feel of your palm tree.
These plants are evergreen when grown in tropical and subtropical areas, but when exposed to cooler climates they will lose their color and die back in the winter.
Blue ginger grows up to 8 feet tall, so will not do well beneath smaller palm varieties. It thrives in hardiness zones 9 through 11, a perfect partner for your palm tree.
Water: Keep the soil evenly moist. Like many plants on our list, blue ginger is used to high humidity and will appreciate a misting here and there.
Sun: Prefers dappled shade.
Bloom Time: If given the right conditions, blue ginger will produce flowers year-round. Otherwise, they may only bloom spring through fall and die back in the winter.
Pair With: Medium to large palm trees.
If you’re looking for a unique flower to pair with your palm tree, the moth orchid is the way to go. This orchid does best when attached to your palm tree’s trunk and is given part shade, part sun.
Similar to our epiphyte bromeliads, use twine or burlap to help secure your orchid to the trunk of your palm tree. The rougher the bark, the better. You can use sphagnum moss to cover the burlap or twine and provide your orchid with soil medium.
Moth orchids are low-maintenance plants that do not require many nutrients or care. They thrive in zones 10 through 12. In colder climates, they must be grown in pots rather than on your palm tree.
These interesting plants can grow up to 3 feet tall but are generally around 12-15 inches.
Water: Orchids prefer humid environments and will benefit from a weekly misting. According to the Smithsonian Institute, you should only water your orchid when the growth medium (your sphagnum moss) is dry.
Sun: Moth orchids prefer partial sun.
Bloom Time: Moth orchids will bloom in winter or spring, depending on the climate. The blooms will most likely fall off when temperatures get too hot in the summer.
Pair With: A palm tree that will provide part sun, part shade. The rougher the bark of the palm tree the better. The size of the palm tree doesn’t matter, but these orchids typically look better on thin-trunked, medium to tall palms.
That’s All For Now!
Having a landscape under your palm tree will only add to the uniqueness and beauty of your tropical yard.
But for a plant to thrive under your palm tree, it will need to overcome shade, water, and nutrient deficiencies. Luckily, you still have quite a list to choose from.
To recap, the 9 best plants to plant under your palm tree include:
- Tropical Hibiscus
- Asparagus fern
- Asiatic Jasmine
- Golden shrimp plant
- Birds of Paradise plant
- Blue Ginger
- Moth Orchid
This list includes a variety of flowers that should be able to fit under any palm tree you may have planted in your yard.
You can check out Tree Journey if you have more questions about your landscape trees, flowers, plants, or shrubs!
Granados, J., & Korner, C. (2002, September 30). In deep shade, elevated CO2 increases the vigor of tropical climbing plants. Global Change Biology, 8(11), 1109-1117. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2486.2002.00533.x
IEEE Staff. (2011). Overview of image processing approach for nutrient deficiencies detection in Elaeis Guineensis. IEEE. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5993432/citations#citations
Praptosuwiryo, T. N., & Cahyaningsih, R. (2019). Diversity and host preferences of ferns and lycopods epiphytes on palm trees. Biodiversitas Journal of Biological Diversity, 20(12).
Thomas, K. R., Kolle, M., Whitney, H. M., Glover, B. J., & Steiner, U. (2010, December 06). Function of blue iridescence in tropical understory plants. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 7(53).
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