Care of Tropical Plants

Overview

Tropical plants of many kinds are favored for use as houseplants. From the common split-leaf philodendron to more exotic orchids and bromeliads, many of the world's most beautiful and unusual plants come from the tropics. If you live in USDA climate zone 10 or higher (Naples, Florida to Honolulu) you can grow many tropical plants outdoors. In other climate zones, tropicals do well outdoors in the summer months but will survive only indoors under protected conditions in winter. All tropical plants require temperatures above freezing year-round.

Step 1

Plant your tropical plant in a decorative pot that is slightly larger than the nursery pot in which you bought it. Remove the plant and gently loosen the roots if it is root-bound. Fill your pot about half full with a light potting soil that will allow good drainage. Set your plant into the pot and fill it with more potting soil. Firm the soil around the plant's base with your hand.

Step 2

Keep your plant on top of a plant saucer into which you add pebbles, which you keep moist to increase the humidity around the plant. If you live in a humid climate, this step is unnecessary. But keeping pebbles in the plant saucer prevents the roots from rotting from excess moisture, no matter what your climate is like.

Step 3

Locate your plant in an area that receives the correct amount of sun for the particular plant. Many tropical plants thrive under filtered or partial sunlight, as they do in the forests that are their native homes. Outdoors, they might favor living under a tree.

Step 4

Allow your tropical plant to dry out a bit between waterings. Spraying your plant with a fine mist of water every day is helpful, especially when the weather is very hot and dry.

Step 5

Fertilize foliage plants every two months with a balanced plant food, such as one having an N-P-K ratio of 8-8-8. Fertilize flowering plants such as orchids with a low-nitrogen plant food--some fertilizers designed for orchids allow you to fertilize your plant every time you water it.

Step 6

Use insecticidal soap spray to control insects such as spider mites, aphids and scale.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not mist your plant when it is in full sun.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots(s) with drainage hole(s)
  • Potting soil
  • Plant saucers
  • Pebbles
  • Spray bottle
  • Fertilizer
  • Insecticidal soap

References

  • Sunset Magazine: Tropical Jewels
  • Master Gardeners: Tropical Plants

Who Can Help

  • Plant source
Keywords: tropical plants, houseplants orchids, bromeliad philodendron

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara 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.com and eHow.com. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.