Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants for Your Garden

Australian rainforests contain nearly 3000 different plant species ranging from tall canopy trees through to ferns and shrubs.

You might be surprised to learn that you can create a tropical rainforest in your garden, or add some of these plants to your existing garden, even if you don’t live in a tropical climate. 

Although rainforests occur naturally in the tropics, you’ll find that many rainforest plants will happily grow in a more temperate climate as long as there is a fair amount of humidity in the air and the soil is heavily mulched.

What types of plants live in the rainforest?

Australian rainforests contain nearly 3000 different plant species.

These include tall trees that provide the rainforest canopy and a huge variety of shrubs and other plants that make up the understory.

Common understory plants include ferns, bromeliads, orchids, and palms. 

Rainforest plants for your garden 

Here is a list of some of the more commonly available rainforest plants that you can grow in your own garden.

Backhousia citriodora (Lemon myrtle)

Backhousia citriodora Lemon myrtle | Native plants
Backhousia citriodora I Photo by Storeye I Wikimedia I CC BY-SA 4.0

The lemon myrtle is one of my all-time favourite plants. Nothing beats the lovely citrusy scent of the glossy green leaves as you brush past this tree and the stunning display of the large white pom-pom-type flowers.

The lemon myrtle makes a great feature plant in your garden. It needs well-drained soil and protection from heavy frosts but it will tolerate light frosts. You can grow this gorgeous tree in full sun or part shade. 

The lemon myrtle is a small to medium tree growing in height from 3 to 20 metres. However, it will rarely get to its full height when grown in a suburban garden.

In general, most rainforest trees will only reach around a third of their maximum height when cultivated in home gardens.

Austromyrtus dulcis (Midgenberry)

Austromyrtus dulcis Midgenberry | Native plants
Austromyrtus dulcis I Photo by Zaareo I Wikimedia (cropped) I CC BY-SA 3.0

If you have an interest in bush tucker plants, then you should definitely grow a midgenberry.

This plant is a small shrub that only reaches a height of around 1 metre. The lovely glossy green foliage and reddish new growth will add a lushness to your garden.

In early summer, the plant produces a mass of pretty white flowers. These are followed by small berries that are edible and sweet-tasting. 

This is a low-maintenance plant that can be grown in full sun or part shade. It likes well-drained soil that has been enriched with organic matter.

The plant will tolerate light frosts and should be given a light trim after the berries have been harvested or taken by the birds.

Hymenosporum flavum (Native frangipani)

Hymenosporum flavum Native frangipani | Native plants
Hymenosporum flavum I Photo by Tatiana Gerus I Flickr (cropped) I CC BY 2.0

There’s no doubt that the heady fragrance of frangipani is a welcome addition to any garden and our native frangipani is no exception.

It has large green leaves and stunning white and yellow flowers in spring and summer.

The native frangipani is a small tree growing to a maximum height of around 7 metres. It will grow happily in full sun or light shade.

Being a fast-growing tree, it will establish itself quickly in your garden if you plant it in well-drained soil and mulch heavily after planting. 

In southern gardens, the tree needs to protected from frost until it reaches a height of around 2 metres.

This tropical plant requires very little maintenance and heavy pruning should be avoided as this will damage its pyramidal shape.

Helmholtzia glaberrima (Stream lily)

Helmholtzia glaberrima Stream lily | Native plants
Backhousia citriodora I Photo by Stan Shebs I Wikimedia I CC BY-SA 3.0

This lovely clumping plant will provide shaded areas of your garden with some lovely colour in summer.

The strappy green leaves provide a beautiful contrast to the creamy pink flowers that grow on surprisingly tall stems (1.5 to 2 metres).

Because the stream lily grows from underground rhizomes, it’s quite hardy and will tolerate some light frost.

It does prefer moist soil so will need regular watering when conditions are dry in your garden.

Other than that, this is an easy-care plant that you’ll love having in your garden.

Viola hederacea (Native violet)

Viola hederacea | Native plants
Viola hederacea I Photo by Harry Rose I Flickr I CC 2.0

Most Australian gardeners will be familiar with the native violet. It’s one of those plants that will grow almost anywhere and is particularly great for spots that are heavily shaded.

It spreads through underground runners and is the perfect ground cover plant for difficult areas where nothing else will grow.

The pretty white and purple flowers add some much-needed colour to darker spots in your garden.

Even though this plant can spread profusely, it’s easy to keep it under control and any plant sections that you pull out can be planted elsewhere in the garden.

Rainforest plant FAQ

What plants live in the tropical rainforest in Australia?

There are thousands of Australian rainforest plants including canopy trees, ferns, and shrubs. Our favourites include the Backhousia citriodora (Lemon myrtle) and the Hymenosporum flavum (Native frangipani).

Is there a tropical rainforest in Australia?

There are many rainforests in Australia including several tropical and subtropical rainforests which are found in the northeastern part of the country.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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