Indoor Care of Tropical Plants

Don’t have a home in the tropics? You can still grow happy, healthy tropical plants indoors.

You just need to know what environment a particular plant requires. Not all tropicals need the same light, humidity or temperature.
You can get a good idea of the amount of sunlight a plant will receive in an area of your home by performing this test: Hold your hand about 6 inches from a sheet of white paper–a sharp, defined shadow means you have bright light. A shadow that is fuzzy around the edges, but still distinct in shape, means you have medium light. And a no shadow, or a very faint one, means there will not be enough light to allow flowering.

Below are tips to help you maintain some of the more common indoor tropical plants:

GardeniaGardenias-Beautifully scented gardenias love plenty of sunlight. A sunroom or bay window where winter temperatures will reach 50 degrees, (but no lower than the mid-40’s) and summer temperatures which will reach 70-85 degrees will be best for this evergreen. Gardenias prefer high humidity year-round. For greatest success, group the plants together and keep them in trays of pebbles filled with water. Fertilize with a formula for acid-loving plants.

mandevillaMandevilla– Well-suited for a trellis or a hanging basket, this showy light-lover produces pink and white trumpet-shaped blossoms. The flowers are 2 1/2 – 3” and grow together on a woody, climbing vine. For best flowering success, mandevillas prefer very bright light. However, they should be shielded from direct sunlight. Fertilize every two weeks, water thoroughly but allow to dry slightly between waterings.

OrchidOrchid– Orchids can be intimidating. But with more than 20,000 species of orchids to choose from, there are some that will do quite well in a sunny windowsill. All orchids love high humidity. Some varieties require more sunlight than others. They need to be grouped together in trays with pebbles, for the greatest success. Don’t be tempted to repot into a larger container. Remember that exposed roots are a desired and healthy condition.

FlamingoAnthurium– Related to the peace lilly, anthuriums will keep their striking heart-shaped bloom for weeks in lower light. It prefers well drained soil and regular watering. You may fertilize once a month if desired.


hibiscusHibiscus– The large, brightly hued blooms of this tropical only last a day. But this hardy bloomer will produce flowers throughout the summer. Hibiscus thrives and blooms in bright light. You’ll want to water often. However humidity levels can be lower.


LemonCitrus– You can have dwarf lemon and lime plants growing right on your windowsill. Citrus plants are not too finicky about their temperature or their humidity, but plenty of spring and summer sun is a must for fruit production. Allow your dwarf citrus plant to sit on a patio for part of the day, if possible. The plants tend to produce a few fruits at a time throughout the summer. In the winter, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer and allow the plant to go dormant.

So, don’t be intimidated and don’t give up! With a little knowledge and good planning, your home can be filled with the beauty and benefit of tropical plants– without the rainforest!


Kelly D. – Creative Plant Designs staff writer