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Turn your patio into a full-on jungle with these plants


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Photo: Stocksy/Maja Topcagic

Just because you don’t have a large patch of dirt or a rooftop terrace doesn’t mean that outdoor plants are off limits. Given even the most modest patio or outdoor landing, you can totally create a plant-filled oasis perfect for sipping tea garnished with a few sprigs of freshly cut herbs or entertaining amidst flora housed in pretty pots.

What’s more, while you, yourself, are chasing the shade outside (because: skin care), there are sun-loving plants a plenty that totally dig the sun’s rays. And that’s great news for your patio–whatever size or shape it may be–because you can turn it into your own secret garden (depending on how much you ‘gram it, of course).

To find out which plants thrive in sun-dappled environments, I caught up with Summer Rayne Oakes, plant-lady extraordinaire, founder of Homestead Brooklyn, and author of the forthcoming book How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivating Your Personal Green Space as well as with Andrea Strauchler and KaYee Chan of Sprout Home in Brooklyn. Here, the trio shares their favorite plants that dig a patio as much as you do.

Keep scrolling for the patio-friendly plants that work in spaces big and small.

Banana plants

While the fruit doesn’t grow on trees—they sprout from the thick leaves that grow off the meaty plant stem, often mistaken for a tree trunk—you also don’t need a jungle for them to grow, either. “You may think that banana plants are relegated only to the tropics, but that’s not entirely so. There are hardy varieties that can withstand the Northeast and cool patios, as well as dwarf varieties,” Oakes explains. “Bananas prefer a fairly warm, humid condition, need a good bout of moisture, and will require fertilization during the growing season.” And if you give it some time, you’ll have flowers with fruits in one to five years. Start prepping the Vitamix.

Herbs

Sure, an herb garden on your kitchen counter is cute, but it’s not the best place for the tiny stems to thrive; rather, the patio might be. “Many of us dream of growing herbs in our homes, but we often don’t have enough light to do so on our kitchen counters. If we have sun-lit patios, however, it’s easier to grow sun-hungry herbs, like rosemary, which often requires a lot of sun, drier soil, and very large pots to accommodate its large root structure,” says Oakes. Chan also recommends lavender for its fragrance. The plant does well in the sun and happily also attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds for next-level garden vibes.

Lemon tree

If the Amalfi Coast isn’t in your summer travel schedule, you can close your eyes and take in the signature scent of the Italian vacay spot from the comfort of your very own backyard. “Citrus can be a fun patio plant to grow, and citrus blossoms often have a divine, sweet smell,” says Oakes. “Dwarf varieties are common, but basically all citrus love full sun, high light, and warm conditions.” To keep the citrus roots healthy, it’s best to plant in terra cotta, which allows the soil and roots to breath.

Grass

“Yeah, yeah,” you’re probably thinking, but hear me out. While you might already have a full lawn of the stuff (and the weekly chore of mowing it all down, to boot), ornamental grasses in pots are a great way to add greenery to small spaces. Chan and Strauchler love Japanese forest grass for its ability to grow in part sun to shade. The yellow-green foliage can add a nice hue to your patioscape, too. In other words, it’s as easy on the eyes as it is to tend for.

If you’re interested in flipping things into a jungle, here’s what you should add to your shower and BTW this is why your bathroom smells so delicious when you add sprigs of eucalyptus.

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