NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants

Landscaping Ideas for Small Gardens in New Zealand.

The Pigmy Date Palm, Phoenix roebelenii, is a relatively slow growing palm that doesn’t require too much space.

If you’ve a small garden then an attractively landscaped tropical border can transform it from boringly suburban to thoroughly exotic. Perhaps two to four feet deep it provides an exotic backdrop without taking over the garden. Such plantings provide both screening from neighbours or the street as well as plenty of colour.


When landscaping both borders and small gardens avoid tall and large growing plants. Stick to mid-height palms and plants that won’t encroach on lawns and paths.

A relatively tough and highly sought after palm the Sugarcane Palm, Dypsis baronii, is perfect for landscaping small gardens.
The attractive Bamboo Palm, Chamaedorea microspadix, makes an excellent plant for small gardens and borders.
For a shady corner in a small garden the Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsa, can’t be beaten.
The popular Sago ‘Palm’, Cycas revoluta, never gets too big for a small garden.
For the most exotic of ground-covers try the Cardboard ‘Fern’, Zamia furfuracea.
The diminutive Pink Banana, Musa velutina, never gets too tall for a small garden.
Hibiscus bushes look great with other exotics and if trimmed never get too big for small gardens.
The tough and ever-reliable Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae, is another winner for a small garden

© NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants 2019

There’s also the hardy Sugarcane Palm, Dypsis baronii, which is closely related to the Golden Cane Palm – the staple of tropical gardening. Two other small palms worth considering are the Pigmy Date Palm, Phoenix roebelenii, and the shade-loving Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsa.

For palm trees you can’t go past the Bamboo Palm, Chamaedorea microspadix, for its exotic appeal and hardiness (and no, despite the name, it doesn’t spread like bamboo). In fact many species of Chamaedorea are just made for small gardens and provide in our climate a look that can’t be obtained from other palm species.

For cycads the popular Sago ‘Palm’, Cycas revoluta, is a fine choice when landscaping a small garden and a well sited Cardboard ‘Fern’, Zamia furfuracea, will add an uncommon touch.

Besides palm trees and cycads smaller bushes such as Vireya Rhododendrons and Hibiscus, medium-sized ferns, smaller cannas and gingers and even miniature banana trees will all add appeal to a small garden. Other plants worth considering include the beautiful Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae, bright flowering begonias, fiery impatiens and colourful bromeliads.