When looking for a tropical houseplant, it is important to consider the location in your home where you will grow the plant. Locations with bright light are suitable for certain plants, while darker locations are better for other varieties. How cold your home will get in winter can also limit your choice of tropical houseplants. How much water a plant needs can also influence your choice.
Definition of Tropical Plants
Tropical plants come from areas between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, including equatorial regions. Tropical plants are generally not tolerant of cold temperatures and do better with adequate water and humidity. Tropical plants can often only be grown indoors in northern climates because of cold winter temperatures. The term "tropical" refers to their native range, and gives an indication of ideal growing conditions.
Select tropical houseplants based on the light available in the place you want to keep the plant. Some tropical houseplants, like palms, do better in full sun. Some tropical bamboos will do well with indirect light, as will zebra plants and peacock plants. Dragon plants, prayer plants and piggy-back plants do well in low light. Although not a true bamboo, lucky bamboo, a form of lily, is a tropical plant that will grow with little light.
Tropical houseplants vary in their water requirements. Some plants, like lucky bamboo, grow in water with virtually no soil. However, lucky bamboo are actually lilies and are not indicative of other tropical plants. Bromeliads are tropical flowering plants that need moderate water. However, they should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Some potted citrus should occasionally have water withheld to encourage flowering and fruiting.
Most tropical plants will die if exposed to freezing temperatures. However, some are sensitive to cold temperatures that are above freezing. Many ficus trees do not like temperatures below 60 degrees F and may drop leaves at temperatures as high as 55 degrees F. Bromeliads generally need temperatures above 60 degrees F. Caladium will go dormant if indoor temperatures fall below 70 degrees F. Choose plants that are not sensitive to the temperature ranges in your house.
Another consideration is how much space you have available for your tropical houseplant. Some houseplants, such as ficus, bamboo or rubber trees, can grow large. If you have limited space, select a plant that doesn't naturally get too large. If you want to grow a larger plant in a limited space, remove it from its pot and prune the roots back by about 50 percent every year or two.