Transforming Your Backyard into a Tropical Oasis


More families are opting for staycations then expensive getaways to resorts. Why spend all that money on a trip to some remote vacation site for a week or two? Instead, invest in improving your backyard, which you and your family can then use year-round.

If your vision for your backyard is to transform it into a tropical oasis, the first thing you will need is water. The most logical choice would be a backyard pool. Your pool choice can range from a stand-alone above-ground pool to a luxurious in-ground pool with waterfalls and fountains and a hot tub incorporated into the design. It all depends on your budget and the amount of space you have to work with. 

Think about the location of your pool. Pools that are located close to the house make the supervision of the children much easier, and you and your guests can use the house to change clothes, use the bathroom, and access food and drinks. There can be other considerations that make putting your pool farther from the house a better deal, such as existing landscaping. If you have large trees near the house, that may make the decision for you.  

Near or Far?

Some people prefer the pool farther from the house. They want the pool to be out in the yard overlooked by the patio, or they want the pool farther away from the house because of the noise made by the swimmers. Perhaps if your pool is placed a distance from the house, a separate structure could be built with changing rooms and an outdoor kitchen. Your pool would be a destination in your yard. Keep in mind that you will need to run electric, water, and possibly gas lines to the site of your pool.  

The last consideration is the topography of your yard. If your yard has a slope, it can be more difficult to install an in-ground pool. You may have some major grading to do, or you may need retaining walls. On the other hand, a slope to your yard can help to incorporate an above-ground pool into the landscape. 

Last, your pool may already exist. In which case, the decision on the site has already been made. However, don’t think your pool has to stay as it is. There are many modifications that can be made to your existing pool that may help you to achieve that tropical look you desire. 

  1. Lighting. Changing the lighting both in and out of the pool can make a huge difference.  You can add more lights to your pool or you can change the color of the lights. You can choose the color that gives the feel you want for your pool at night. Maybe you want the water to look an intense blue or more turquoise blue, or maybe you are looking for something different like purple or orange or green. 

Some people like to use more than one color in their pool. For instance, you could have purple in the shallow end and deep blue in the deep end. You could alternate colors in your above-ground pool. 

Add lighting on any pathways to the pool and around the pool deck. This will be a safety feature but can also be used to highlight the landscaping. Use an up-light at the base of the palm tree or light up the flowers that are giving your pool that tropical look. If you want to feature a sculpture, light it up. Hang strings of lights in the trees. White or blue lights give a more elegant look, while colored lights can help give a party atmosphere.

  1. Pool deck. The tropical look is lush and colorful. If your pool deck is plain brown stained boards or you have a pool surrounded with plain gray cement, it’s time for a change. You can have your cement changed to a colorful cement, and it can be textured in different choices of patterns. Or you could border your cement surround with colorful tiles. If you have an above-ground pool surrounded by a deck, remember that stain comes in every color. There is no rule that says the deck must be brown. If you are unsure of color, take a picture of your existing deck and use a program like PhotoShop to try out different colors.

  1. Pool liner or tiles. Consider changing the vinyl liner to a brighter color in your backyard pool. If your pool is tiled, change the border above the water line to give a fresh, bright look to your existing pool.

  2. Fountains. Add a fountain for interest and the sound of the water entering the pool. This can be as simple as a stream of water that comes from an attachment to your pool’s return port to a retrofitted line of fountain spouts along the length of your pool. 

  3. Landscape plants. To get the tropical look in your landscape, the most important features are color and lushness. This is a case of more is better. Choose plants that will grow to all heights. This isn’t a flower border: think jungle. Your plants should include low-growing plants that you see when you look down and trees that have height and draw the eye up. 

You also need plants that are eye level. This is the size plant many people forget in their plan. Use tall shrubs or vines on the fence to give this height coverage. Your flowering tropical plants are typically bright primary colors that will pop against the green foliage. 

If you live in the north, you know that tropical plants won’t survive the winter. There are many cold-weather-hardy plants that can be substituted. Look for flowers with bright colors and maybe an unusual shape. Check out the different varieties of ferns that are hardy but give a tropical look. Depending on your location, there are a couple of palms that are more cold tolerant and might survive winter in your zone. 

Also add a few select tropicals that you are willing to bring into the house in the fall to winter over or which you are willing to replace each year. A good example is the Hibiscus. This plant is available in the north each year in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Use your garden nursery personnel to help you choose the plants that will give your backyard that tropical feel.

  1. Accessories. Save space in your tropical jungle for a hammock or a fire feature. Make your tropical oasis the place everyone wants to be, day or night.

Remember that you can complete your project over time. Just have a basic plan and do a little each year. It won’t be long before you have the backyard of your dreams.

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