Congrats on being willing to take on a challenge. You may find it much easier than you think! I started with cichlids and then moved on into plants so my experience may have made it go better. I also had the idea that if the plants worked fine, if not I could go without them , so failure was always an option!
I think I might have some suggestions worth consideration. No warranty implied?
First some questions on which cichlids specifically. They do come in a wide range and some are easier than others when trying to make plants work. Also I am not a fan of small plants and find that good, as small delicate plants do just come out of the ground when a big guy goes by even if he is not interested in plants or digging. I do hope you are willing to make some concessions on fish and plant types if it makes life better for you and them? It kind of fits that planting small easily damaged plants and then pairing them with fish that love to eat plants will make life difficult.
Without knowing what cichlids, I will stick to some plant suggestions. For the tall plant as a centerpiece to catch the eye, I find red tiger lotus works well. Hard to keep it trimmed often enough to avoid it covering the surface but I love it for what it does for me. I have a mix of mbuna who would love to dig like Hongi, some who eat plants pretty quick like yellow labs and some who would never bother coming to the bottom if they could breed mid water like Protomelas Tanzania.
Lots of fish types, lots of plant types, so I go with the ones who work easy rather than fight with nature. I build places for the Hongi to dig and live under a rock "teepee", Plant tough plants like swords due to the labs and the Protomelas has a place at the end where there is clear space for him to swim and go down to breed when the time comes and his female is ripe.
I find the CA/SA group to be harder to predict so much of my plant experience is with Africans. So what fish do you favor? Both can be done but they do take different approaches.