Tropical plants often have larger leaves than their cool-weather counterparts. Such plants make terrific focal points outdoors in a tropical climate or indoors as a houseplant. The large leaves of these plants are sometimes more interesting than the flowers themselves. Some have unusual shapes, while others are variegated, brightly colored, or textured. Large leaf tropical plants are an excellent choice for the home gardener who wants a conversation piece.
Elephant Ear or Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
Elephant ear plants are showy, hardy plants that feature enormous green, variegated or purple heart-shaped leaves. Some cultivars can reach lengths of 3 feet and widths of 2 feet. These tropical plants thrive in partial shade and love plenty of wet soil. They are perennials in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zones 8 through 11, remaining evergreen in 10 and 11 and dying back but returning in zones 8 and 9. In cooler climates, they are usually grown as indoor houseplants.
Philodendrons and Monsteras
Philodendrons and monsteras are from the same family of tropical plants. The most popular monstera is the cut-leaf philodendron, which unlike its name implies, is not actually classified as a philodendron. Regardless, this plant has large, shiny beautifully cut leaves and will happily climb all over your house.
Philodendrons in general have large leaves, some of which can grow to over 2 feet long. The many cultivars have large leaves that range in color from a dark, velvety green to bright, shiny purple, and in appearance from heart-shaped to lacy. Some are also variegated. Philodendrons are grown primarily indoors in the United States and are desirable not only for their large leaves, but for their hardiness.
Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
The fiddle-leaf fig is named for its glossy, broad green leaves that can reach lengths of 1 foot or more, with a width of up to 10 inches. The leaves have an interestingly ruffled edge. This tropical tree requires a full day of sunlight and does not tolerate dry soil, so it is not a plant for neglectful gardeners. The soil needs to be kept continually moist. If grown indoors, Ficus lyrata needs to be placed by a window that offers bright but indirect or filtered sunlight.
Fig-Leafed Palm (Fatsia japonica)
This evergreen plant is desirable for its very large, cut leaves. The leaves, which are green and waxy in appearance, are shaped rather like an open palm, with eight or nine "fingers" on each leaf and can reach widths of more than 1 foot. The fig leafed palm is tropical and should only be grown outdoors in USDA growing zones 10 or 11. This plant will thrive in the shade and is perfect for dark, sheltered areas of the garden. It can also tolerate the low-light conditions of many homes, making it an excellent container houseplant.
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