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Tropical houseplants can bring color and exotic flair to your home even if you live in a colder climate. While some tropical houseplants are best known for their eye-popping flowers, others are loved for their large, unusually patterned or variegated leaves.
The tropical plants in this list can be grown indoors in any climate, but many can also be overwintered indoors in cooler climates and then brought outdoors in the summer.
The following tropical plants can be grown indoors to bring a bit of the jungle or rainforest into your living room, bath, or bedroom.
Amazon Elephant's Ear (Alocasia x amazonica)
Amazon elephant’s ear is common but distinctive and almost regal. Large, arrow-shaped green leaves are ribbed with silver. They are much easier to grow inside than most Alocasia species and provide seasonal displays of wonderful foliage. They prefer rich, fast-draining potting soil and do require regular feeding. This plant originated in southeast Asia.
Light: Shade or filtered sunWater: Keep moist but avoid wet roots
Elephant's ear is poisonous, so practice caution around children and pets.
Anthurium (Anthurium andraeanum)
Anthurium andraeanum is a tropical plant that is highly prized for its stately, bright flowers. Many anthurium cultivars are available, and while they are challenging to grow, they are highly rewarding plants. Plant them in rich, loose potting soil and be sure the roots are not too moist. If you are looking specifically for plants with pink flowers or leaves, consider adding a Mexican shrimp plant to your collection.
Light: Bright indirect light, avoid full sunWater: Keep moistColor varieties: Red blooms with a yellow spadix
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
Bird of paradise is one of the most tropical flowers in the world with large, distinctive flowers that some say resembles a bird's head and beak. They are also surprisingly easy to grow indoors. While it is a vigorous, rapidly growing indoor plant, it should be fertilized weekly and kept pot-bound. Birds of paradise can grow up to 6 feet tall and need 3 to 5 years of growth before they flower.
Light: Bright light with some direct sunWater: Keep moistColor varieties: Blue and orange
Bromeliads are probably the easiest of all tropical plants to grow. These tropical epiphytes (air plants) are easily adapted to growing in pots, and they are much more tolerant than many of their lush-leaved colleagues. They come in a wide array of colors and textures. Bromeliads can be grown in fast-draining potting soil consisting of peat-based soil and sand. Bromeliads can also be grown mounted to boards or logs and hung on the wall.
Light: Bright, indirect lightWater: Water weekly but avoid standing waterColor varieties: Red, green, purple, orange, yellow, banded, stripes, spots or other combinations
Cordyline (C. terminalis)
Ask anyone who has been to Hawaii—cordyline is virtually synonymous with the tropics. These bold and colorful foliage plants are available in a wide array of leaf colors, and with proper care, can provide a dramatic accent. It is also known as the Ti tree or HawaiianTi tree. Cordyline needs a warm, draft-free location, rich, well-drained high-quality potting mix with a pH of 6 to 6.5, and weekly feeding.
Light: Bright, indirect lightWater: Keep continually moist except in winterColor varieties: Green, red, yellow, white, purple, and purplish-red
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia seguine)
Dumb cane is ubiquitous as a houseplant, so it is easy to forget it is also a true tropical foliage plant. To grow this popular plant, use a fast-draining potting mix and fertilize with a 20-20-20 mix. Locate it in a warm (over 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and draft-free location.
Light: Bright light in winter; dappled shade or indirect light during growing monthsWater: Water twice a week; reduce water in winterColor varieties: Green and white
The sap on this plant can be caustic so wear gloves when handling it.
Ficus (Ficus benjamina)
Ficus plants are fussy, but a well-grown ficus is near the pinnacle of houseplants. Large, glossy, and imposing, ficus plants are well worth the effort. Ficus plants drop their leaves in drafty, cold conditions, and they don’t like to be moved. In fact, they absolutely require adequate light, warmth, and humidity. Do not overwater. Watch for pests such as mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and aphids.
Light: Bright indirect lightWater: Water regularly during the growing season, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce water in fall through late winter.Color varieties: Small yellow or white blossoms
Kentia Palm (Howea)
Palm trees are the enduring symbol of everything tropical, and many palms are easy to grow indoors. You can enjoy them in an entryway or in the corner of a sunny room and be transported back to your tropical vacation. You are in good company, too—Queen Victoria made sure that Kentia palms were used throughout her many residences. Plant your palm in fast-draining potting mix, fertilize monthly, and keep your plant warm (above 55 degrees Fahrenheit).
Light: Filtered bright sunWater: Water weekly in summer letting the soil dry between waterings
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Peace lilies are lovely, especially when massed and in bloom. This plant is easy to grow and maintain, and the blooms last for months. Even if they are a bit of a challenge to overwinter, it is still well worth the effort. Avoid direct sunlight and keep the temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Light: Medium, indirect lightWater: Evenly moist soil and mist frequently in summer; reduce water in winterColor varieties: White, creamy white
Peace lilies are toxic so practice caution around pets and children.
For indoor use, there are climbing varieties and the self-heading (non-climbing) types of philodendrons. Newer hybrids have been bred that mix the vigor and ease of the climbing varieties with the convenience of the self-heading varieties. It is easier than ever to grow them.
Light: Medium, indirect lightWater: Water and mist frequently in summer; reduce water in winter
Schefflera ( Schefflera arboricola)
Sometimes called the umbrella plant, Schefflera leaves are broad, glossy, and abundant. Use them as background plants or place a large one in a bright, warm corner for a nice canopy effect. Light, warmth, and humidity are the keys to successfully growing Schefflera. Plant them in rich, loose potting media with moist compost, and fertilize twice a month.
Light: Bright indirect lightWater: Water and mist weekly in summer; reduce water in winterColor varieties: Red bur rarely flowers indoors
Orchids are the most varied of all plant groups—they come from all over the world from deserts to woodlands to tropical forests, but the orchids most people love are from tropical and subtropical climates. A flowering orchid is the quintessential tropical plant. Avoid dry air, direct heat or drafts, and direct sunlight. Instead, provide a warm humid environment.
Light: Bright indirect light
Water: In general, once per week; allow to dry between waterings; do not overwater
Color varieties: White, yellow, pink, purple, red, orange, variegated
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