Even if you live in colder areas, you can still grow exotic tropical plants indoors and move them outdoors during warm weather. If you grow tropical varieties that prefer shade in their native environments, they will grow well in the lower light levels indoors. They need to be kept in the shade outdoors as well, as they will not tolerate direct sunlight outdoors. Most tropical plants are extremely cold tender and will suffer or die if exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Native to the tropical parts of the Americas, calathea (Calathea spp.) is a herbaceous perennial grown primarily for its colorful foliage. The colors of its foliage vary with the variety but include rose, olive, yellow or white, with some varieties containing patterns of lines, blotches or spots. Calathea prefers a shaded location, protected from wind and sun. Exposure to direct sun for prolonged periods is harmful to this species.
Ornamental ginger (Zingiber spp.) is a very tender tropical plant. It produces colorful bracts that surround insignificant flowers. Their ginger fragrance comes from a high oil content within the plants. Ornamental ginger does best in areas with high humidity, partial shade, and well-drained soil. You can apply a slow-release fertilizer in both spring and fall, following the manufacturer's recommended rates of application.
Also known as "mak pu mak mia," the ti plant is referred to botanically as Cordyline terminalis. It is native to Asia and Polynesia. Grown primarily for their varied and intensely colored leaves, these plants provide contrast in deep shade. They will grown in an outdoor garden only in USDA Hardiness Zone 11 or warmer; in cooler areas they must be grown as potted plants and brought indoors before temperatures fall into the lower 50s. Ti plants need moderate water and plant food every other week with water soluble fertilizer mixed at half the manufacturer's recommended strength.