How to Grow Tropical Plants


Plants from the world's tropical jungles have found their way into our homes and offices since the great age of discovery, when botanical explorers circled the globe to collect them. Many of these plants developed large leaves to survive in the dim light of the jungle understory, and shallow root systems to get the most from nutrient poor jungle soils. Since these conditions are very similar to pot culture in our indoor environments, tropical plants are appropriate for indoor gardening. In addition to enhancing house and office decor, they provide added benefits by cleaning room air, producing oxygen and raising humidity.

Step 1

Evaluate the growing conditions where you want to grow tropical plants. Key factors are light, space, temperature and humidity. Some popular species can grow to be quite large, and others require staking or training, so situate your plants in an appropriate location. Most tropical plants appreciate at least occasional humidity, so bathrooms and indoor pool rooms can be ideal. Low temperatures can be detrimental to many tender plants, while others are hardier to cold.

Step 2

Choose species appropriate for the amount of light and space you have. Some tropical plants, like philodendron and schefflera, can thrive under fluorescent or incandescent light with very little to no sunlight. Others like coleus and the bromeliads need more sun to look their best.

Step 3

Plant your tropical plants in an appropriate sized pot or planter, in rich, well drained potting mix. Use pots that are at least 1 inch but no more than 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous one. To enhance drainage, place coarse gravel or broken pot shards in the bottom of pots larger than eight inches in diameter. Water the plants thoroughly after planting.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be aware that parts of some tropical plants are poisonous, so keep these away from pets and children. Use care in selecting outdoor tropical plants in warm climates because many species, especially vines, can become serious invasive pests. Do not move your tropical plants from shade into direct sunlight because this can cause unsightly leaf burn and will harm the plant. Avoid placing tropical plants near heating ducts or radiators because the dry air will harm them.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • Potting soil
  • Gravel or pot shards


  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
Keywords: growing tropical plants, growing tropical houseplants, growing tropical ornamentals

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.