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Designing Mexican Gardens


Mexico has a unique image and style, influenced by Spanish and Indian heritage combined with the climate and topography. Some of our most popular garden plants come from Mexico and nearby countries; and using these plants together with hard landscape features common to that part of the world, it is possible to create a different but exciting visual image in a garden.


You can add a little or a lot of Mexico into your garden, to create a mood that is a little different and perhaps a little more lively than we are used to in other types of gardens. The native plants of Mexico are diverse, ranging from desert plants such as Cacti and Yuccas to woodland Fuchsias and Conifers to tropical Heliconias and Palms.

A Mexican style garden has the following characteristics:

· Colourful plants and ornaments

· Walls, courtyards and bench seating

· Shade and fountains to cool

· Mexican plants

· Introduced plants that are either colourful or useful (eg. edible)

· Mexican or Spanish influences in the art and architecture

· Can have anything from a desert flavour, through to a jungle flavour

How to capture the style of Mexico: or any other country

Get to know the character and influences in that country.

Take inspiration from what you see; but don’t be too rigid in your interpretation.

It really doesn’t matter if your garden is not 100% Mexican – half the fun is in doing your own thing.


In pre-Spanish times, Aztec gardens featured formal terraces, steps, aquaducts, water features with water cascading over rocks, and flower gardens enclosed by walls. Formal gardens were often laid out in squares, bordered by trellises covered with climbers.

After the Spanish conquest in the 16th century the Hispano-Moorish culture was rapidly established:

· materials used in construction were varied in colour and texture

· useful plants dominated (vegetables, herbs, fruit mostly)

· gardens were commonly walled

· furniture was minimal…primarily fountains and benches

Post Independence - after 300 years, Mexico became independent of Spain and was influenced by other European garden styles, in particular French gardens, which led to the inclusion of geometric and rigid shapes, and features such as balustrades, statues, bandstands and benches.

In the 20th century, a revival of interest in indigenous construction and art influenced many people to incorporate these traditional elements in their gardens.

Where Now?

Mexican gardens can reflect any combination of the past influences. They often include solid walling, Indian/Aztec influenced sculpture and designs, colourful flowering and foliage plants that are native to Mexico, terracotta pots and ornaments, and chunky wood beams for pergolas and benches.


Choose mostly the genera native to Mexico in order to give a Mexican feel to a garden, and create an environment that broadly depicts one of the main types of environments found in Mexico (ie. desert, grassland, woodland or rainforest).

Create a Dry Mexican garden with a desert/grassland character – selecting a predominance of the plants found in such areas in Mexico.

Desert Plants: Many species of Yucca; various cacti including Opuntia and Ferocactus, Dodonaea viscosa, Zephranthes longifolia, Agave, Acacia greggii, Calliandra eriophylla, Senecio.

Grassland Plants: Washingtonia palms, Buddleia, Celtis, Beloperone, Yucca, Agave, Mahonia trifoliata, a variety of legumes.

Create a Woodland Mexican Garden

Taller plants include conifers (Juniperus and Pinus spp.), oaks (Quercus), alder (Alnus jorullensis), Crataegus, Sambacus, Tibouchina

Lower plants include Zinnia, Cassia, Tigrida Bouvardia, Dahlia, Fuchsia, and Salvia.

Create a Mexican Rainforest Garden

Tall plants from Mexican rainforests include Caesalpinia, Ficus, guava (Psidium), Erythrina.

Lower-growing plants include Philodendrons, Heliconias and Gingers, pepper (Piper), Abutilon, Antigonon, Ipomoea, Monstera, Bromeliads and Tillandsia.

Introduced Plants

Many plants have been introduced to Mexico but are widely cultivated and are appropriately included in a Mexican garden. These include Frangipani, Jacaranda, Crepe Myrtle, Allamanda, Bauhinia, Spathodea, Avocado, Breadfruit, Mango, Fig, Paw Paw, Coffee, Custard Apple, and Banana.

Introduced plants are mostly either colourful or useful; both of which are important criteria in Mexican gardens.

NOTE: Unless you are a purist, don’t worry about getting the species native to Mexico …just the genera will do.

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