Common Household Tropical Plants

Hundreds of tropical plants are used to decorate households, from foliage plants to more exotic flowering plants. Houseplants add greenery and color to indoor settings, and help increase the amount of oxygen. Tropical plants are sensitive to frost and often even temperatures below 50° Fahrenheit, so indoors is a safe place for them. Inside the house you can control the humidity and light that tropical houseplants need to thrive.

Philodendron

The split-leaf philodendron, and smaller varieties that form vines with heart-shaped leaves, are common in many homes and offices. The plants in this family need standard potting soil and very little direct sunlight. The larger members, such as the split-leaf philodendron, are good choices for corners that are near a window. As the plant grows, you can attach the vining foliage above the window to add to your interior decor. Philodendrons must live in temperatures that remain above 60° F at all times. Fertilize them twice each year in spring and mid-summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer.

Coleus

Coleus are colorful members of the mint family. Although their flowers are insignificant and should be pinched off when they appear, the foliage is just as colorful as any flower. They are easy to grow in standard potting soil near a south-facing window with bright, indirect light. According to the Garden Helper website, leaf color is often enhanced when you grow coleus in shady conditions. Keep the temperature around your coleus between 70 and 85° F. Fertilize it every month by diluting a balanced houseplant fertilizer to 50 percent of the standard dosage described on the fertilizer package.

Dieffenbachia

Also called dumb cane, dieffenbachia species are popular foliage plants for indoor locations. The name dumb cane refers to the effect that eating this plant has on the vocal chords: it renders one "dumb," or unable to speak. For this reason, be sure to keep your plant inaccessible to children and pets, because its toxins can cause the throat to close up. Dieffenbachias need a low to moderate amount of light, so they are more appropriate for darker areas of the home than some of the other tropical houseplants. Give your dieffenbachia plenty of water--it normally doesn't develop root rot if you keep the soil constantly moist. Keep the temperature around your dieffenbachia above 60° F, and keep it out of drafts. Mist your plant every day with a fine spray to ensure that the humidity in its environment is high. Fertilize the dieffenbachia every two weeks with a water-soluble plant food according to label directions. Don't fertilize between October and February, according to the Backyard Gardener.

Bromeliad

Bromeliads are members of the pineapple family that have large, colorful flowers and sometimes foliage as well. Fifteen hundred species of bromeliads are know to exist in the Americas alone. Living anywhere from desert environments to rain forests, the bromeliad is an adaptable plant family, and the varieties available as houseplants are easy to grow. Although different types of bromeliads need different levels of light, as a general rule, keep your bromeliad in an area that receives bright, indirect light. Make sure the temperature is between 60 and 75° F and humidity remains between 40 and 60 percent. Mist your plant every day to help keep the humidity high. Do not over water your bromeliad, rather wait until the soil feels dry before you add more water. Fertilize the bromeliad with a balanced houseplant food every month or every other month. Do not fertilize during winter, says Bromeliads.info.

Orchid

Orchids belong to the largest flowering plant family, with over 10,000 species growing on all of Earth's continents except Antarctica. Orchids are popular for their showy flowers, which are easier to grow than many people might think. Some orchids, such as the Cymbidium, are hardy to the mid-30° F range, although most orchids need warmer temperatures and high humidity. Bathrooms are appropriate places for orchids because they are often warm and moist. Give your orchid filtered indirect sunlight, and mist it every day. Grow orchids in special bark designed for them, and avoid standard potting soil. Fertilize with a special plant food developed for orchids. Some sources say you can add a half-strength solution of fertilizer to your watering can and use it every time you water your orchid.

Keywords: tropical houseplants, philodendron dieffenbachia, bromeliad orchid coleus

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.