Skip to main content

How to Successfully Grow Tropical Houseplants

Lush, Healthy Tropical Plants

how-to-successfully-grow-tropical-houseplants

The Appropriate Environment Is Crucial

Although tropical plants are native to areas near the Earth's equator, where the climate is warm and humid year-round, that doesn't keep people who love houseplants from yearning to grow them indoors.

To successfully grow tropical plants, however, it is crucial that you provide them with the appropriate environment and care, which includes:

  • Adequate light: Most tropical plants require bright, indirect light to grow and thrive. They will tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much can cause leaf burn.
  • High humidity: Because many tropical plants are native to rainforests and other humid environments, they require a similar level of humidity to thrive. You can increase humidity around your plants by placing a tray of water near them, misting them regularly or even placing a humidifier in the room.
  • Warm temperatures: Tropical plants prefer temperatures between 60°F-90°F. Always keep them away from drafty areas and cold windows, particularly in the winter.
  • Consistent moisture: Tropical plants need to be kept consistently moist, but not waterlogged. The soil should be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings.
  • Good drainage: Because tropical plants are susceptible to root rot, it's important to make sure the soil drains well and the pot has adequate drainage holes.
  • Fertilizer: Tropical plants benefit from regular fertilization. You can use a balanced fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
  • Pest control: Tropical plants are prone to pests such as spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. Keep an eye out for any signs of infestation and take appropriate action as necessary.

In general, you should always research the specific needs of the particular tropical plant you plan to grow and provide the care tailored to them.

Pests on Tropical Plants

Tropical plants grown indoors can be susceptible to a variety of pests, including:

  1. Spider mites: These tiny pests spin webs on the undersides of leaves, causing them to turn yellow and become stippled. They are difficult to see with the naked eye, but you may notice a fine webbing on the leaves or small yellow or brown spots on the foliage.
  2. Mealybugs: These small, white insects leave a sticky residue on the leaves and can cause the leaves to turn yellow, then drop off. They can also spread a fungal disease called sooty mold.
  3. Scale insects: These small, brown or gray insects attach themselves to the stems and leaves of plants and suck the sap out of them. They can also spread sooty mold.
  4. Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects can be green, black, or yellow, they suck the sap out of the leaves and can cause the leaves to curl and distort. They also leave a sticky residue known as honeydew and can spread a fungal disease called sooty mold.
  5. Whiteflies: These small, white insects are related to aphids and can damage plants in a similar way. They also fly around when disturbed and can spread plant viruses.
  6. Fungus Gnats: Small, mosquito-like insects that are attracted to moist soil. They are not known to cause any harm to the plants themselves but can be an annoyance.

To control these pests, you can try using insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, neem oil, or a combination of these products. Always follow the product's instructions for safe and effective use and keep the foliage of your plants dry to discourage pests.

My Favorite Indoor Tropical Plant

You can't beat a Pothos plant for being easy to grow.

You can't beat a Pothos plant for being easy to grow.

Scroll to Continue

Some Easy-to-Grow Tropical Plants

There are several tropical plants that are relatively easy to grow indoors, and some popular examples include:

  1. Philodendron
  2. Spider Plant
  3. Pothos
  4. Peace Lily
  5. Snake Plant
  6. Rubber Plant

All plants have different care requirements that will vary depending on the indoor environment and cultivar, but generally speaking, the above plants are relatively easy to grow indoors.

My Favorite Books on Tropical Plants

I have many books that I reference when writing articles on plants. I know it's hard to believe, but Master Gardeners don't know everything about plants. These are some great books (and my favorites) that will provide in-depth information on growing tropical plants:

  1. "Tropical Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy" by John Mason: This book provides detailed information on the propagation, cultivation and care of a wide range of tropical flowers, including heliconias, gingers, and bird of paradise.
  2. "The Complete Book of Tropical Plants: A Practical Guide to Their Identification, Cultivation, and Ornamental Features" by John Mason: This book provides an in-depth look at the propagation, cultivation, and care of a wide range of tropical plants, including ferns, bromeliads, and orchids.
  3. "Tropical Fruit Trees: A Guide to Growing and Propagating Tropical Fruit Trees in Your Home Garden" by William Thomas: This book provides a comprehensive guide to growing and propagating a wide range of tropical fruit trees, including mangoes, papayas, and avocados.
  4. "Orchids as House Plants" by Rebecca Tyson Northen: This book provides a comprehensive guide to growing orchids as indoor plants, with detailed information on choosing the right varieties, creating the ideal growing environment and providing the appropriate care and maintenance.

There are many other books available on growing tropical plants and with a little bit of research you should be able to find one that suits your needs, preference and experience level.

Areas in Which Tropical Plants Are Native

The areas in which tropical plants are native include:

  1. The Tropical Rainforest: This biome is characterized by high temperatures and high precipitation and is where the highest biodiversity of tropical plants is found. It includes countries like Brazil, the Congo and Indonesia.
  2. Tropical Monsoon Forest: This biome is characterized by distinct wet and dry seasons, typically receiving most of its precipitation during the monsoon season. They are found in areas such as India, Thailand, and Malaysia.
  3. Tropical Dry Forest: This biome is characterized by distinct wet and dry seasons, typically receiving most of its precipitation during the wet season. They are found in areas such as Mexico, Central America and Caribbean.
  4. Tropical Savanna: This biome is found in areas such as Africa, Australia and South America and is characterized by hot temperatures, with a distinct dry season, typically receiving most of its precipitation during the rainy season.
  5. Tropical Desert: This biome, found in areas such as the Atacama Desert, the Sahara Desert and the Arabian Desert, is characterized by extremely low rainfall, high temperatures and high evapotranspiration.

Some tropical plants, such as certain species of orchids, bromeliads, and ferns, also grow as epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) in the tropical forests. They do not grow in soil and get their nutrients from the air and debris that accumulate on their host plants.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2023 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

Related Articles