How to Grow Tropical House Plants

Overview

It would be hard to think of a houseplant without tropical origins. Tropical plants lend themselves very well to indoor growing conditions because we can easily control the temperature, the amount of water the plant receives, the humidity, fertilizer and light. Hundreds of tropical plants are suited to indoor use: included are schefflera, dieffenbachia, philodendron, ficus, hibiscus, orchids and palms. Although some tropicals prefer to live outdoors, your nursery or garden center will carry a selection of the tropical plants that are best for growing indoors.

Step 1

Transplant your new plant into a clay or ceramic pot with a drainage hole. Take your plant out of its nursery pot and then fill the clay pot about ¾ full with your potting soil. Gently place your plant into the pot and then fill it to within ½ inch of the lip with additional potting soil.

Step 2

Water the plant thoroughly and then place it on a saucer, into which you have placed a layer of pebbles---this will help to increase the humidity around your plant. If you keep a humidity meter near your plant, it will keep you posted on the humidity. If it drops below 50 percent, spray your plant with a fine mist of water.

Step 3

Keep your plant in an area that remains warm at all times--above 65 or 70 degrees F. A sunny window is ideal, but make sure the plant does not get sunburned; if you install a simple bamboo shade, it will give your plant the filtered sunlight many tropicals favor.

Step 4

Water your tropical plant once each week and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. The most common cause of plant death is overwatering. These plants can be subject to fungal diseases such as root rot if their root systems are forced to live in a constantly soggy environment.

Step 5

Fertilize your plant with a balanced houseplant fertilizer about every 3 months. If your plant is a flowering variety, such as an orchid, use a special "blossom booster" fertilizer, which is low in nitrogen and will help the plant to form flower buds.

Step 6

Control insect pests, if they occur, with an insecticidal soap spray. Watch for ants because they "farm" harmful insects such as aphids and scale. The ants will do no harm, but their little "cows" can suck the life out of your plant. Smear a thick layer of Tanglefoot (a pest barrier) around the main stalk of your plant to keep ants off.

Things You'll Need

  • Young plants
  • Clay or ceramic pots with drainage holes
  • Potting soil
  • Plant saucers
  • Pebbles
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Humidity meter (optional)
  • Balanced fertilizer
  • Insecticidal soap spray (optional)
  • Tanglefoot (optional)

References

  • Tropical Houseplant Growing
  • Master Gardener: Tropical Plants Library

Who Can Help

  • Plant Source
Keywords: tropical gardening, house plants, indoor growing

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 and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.