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Tropical Dwarf Plants

By Sheri Ann Richerson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Growing a full-size tropical plant in a container can be a lot of work. Constant pruning of both the branches and the roots can discourage even the most die-hard gardener. Over the past several years, tropical dwarf plants have become popular. Perfect candidates for container culture, these tropical dwarf plants will flower and possibly even set fruit indoors.


The exotic yellow flowers of the ylang-ylang plant are intensely fragrant, especially at night. The fragrance the flowers produce is one of the key scents in the perfume Chanel No. 5. Desmos chinensis is the botanical name of one of dwarf ylang-ylang plants. The plant reaches a height of 4 feet. Prune the plant to keep it shaped into a small tree or shrub. Left un-pruned, it will turn into a climber. The flowers open between April and July. Flowers are green when they first open, and are not fragrant until they turn yellow. Cananga odorata var. Fruticosa is larger than Desmos chinensis. The average height of this plant is 6 feet, but it can grow taller. This variety is more compact and can withstand colder conditions than the full-size ylang-ylang. The variety will begin blooming when it is a mere 1 1/2 feet tall, and will bloom intermittently year-round, although the heaviest blooms will be during spring and summer.


These large tropical trees have fragrant flowers traditionally used in Hawaiian leis. Plumeria grown in pots typically would lose their leaves during the winter even if kept indoors in a sunny window. Recent hybridization has changed that. New varieties of plumeria, such as the Dwarf Singapore Pink are ideal tropical dwarf plants. The ever-blooming flowers have the familiar fragrance, and best of all, they do not go dormant in the winter. Most dwarf plumeria grows to 4 feet tall, although some varieties only reach 2 feet high.


If you are looking for a plant that produces edible fruit indoors, look no further than a dwarf banana. These tropical dwarf plants can grow anywhere between 3 and 5 feet tall, withstand temperatures down to 40 degrees F, and bloom and fruit indoors within two to three years. Musa Dwarf Lady Finger will grow 5 feet tall. This variety requires a minimum temperature of 60 degrees F. It produces more reliably than other dwarf banana cultivars. Musa cavendish Super Dwarf will fruit after just one year. It is not as reliable of a producer as the Musa Dwarf Lady Finger, but this variety will withstand temperatures down to 40 degrees F. This variety will flower and fruit in partial shade.


About the Author


Sheri Ann Richerson is a nationally acclaimed bestselling author who has been writing professionally since 1981. Her bestselling books include "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Year-Round Gardening," "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Seed Saving & Starting" and "101 Self-Sufficiency Gardening Tips." Richerson attended Ball State University and Huntington University, where she majored in communications and minored in theatrical arts.