Tropical Houseplant Requirements

Tropical Houseplant Requirements

No matter where you live, you can grow tropical plants if given the right conditions. A tropical plant is one that “grows in the tropics.” This means that it is not cold hardy to a certain degree. In the north, where it is colder, tropical plants are restricted to patio plants, annuals, and houseplants. In Southern Florida you can grow tropical plants inside as well as out.

Tropical Houseplant Requirements

We have all seen the mighty tropical hibiscus shoved into a shady corner, adjacent to a sliding glass patio door. As nice as tropical hibiscus looks outside; indoors the leaves have a tendency to turn yellow and drop, as they dry in sub par conditions. The key is to give tropical houseplants the correct growing conditions to help them thrive. If the correct requirements are not met, then plants have less vigor. Plants with less vigor are more susceptible to pests, and disease. This is true for all plants, indoors and out. Plants that are provided with insufficient or excess amounts of a required element develop disorders. Disorders are not caused by a pest or pathogen. They are often mistakenly treated as a pest or disease problem though. Disorders are common with plants grown outside of their native habitat. They manifest themselves in many different ways. Pesticide use can often be avoided with proper diagnosis of a questionable plant. It is beneficial to seek proper diagnosis from an educated professional.

Plant selection is the first step in growing successful tropical plants indoors. Choose the right plant for the right place. Do not base your choice on what looks pretty or on what your neighbor grows. People often dub themselves brown thumbed for growing a plant in an area it cannot survive.

Growing tropical plants in your home dubs you as its provider. You give them the correct light and humidity levels by placement within the home. If levels are not correct at your chosen location you have to supplement these two things. The other main things you have to supply is water, nutrients and proper growing media (dirt).


What is the main pitfall in growing tropical plants indoors? Killing them with kindness. Over watering plants is the number one cause of houseplant death in the United States. Always have drainage holes in your pots and don’t let them sit in a saucer full of water. Water thoroughly less often, rather than a little everyday.


You should avoid re-potting plants for your initial indoor houseplant experiments. Plants are often stunted by improper re-potting practices. Some houseplants even like to be pot-bound, like my favorite, the Clivia houseplant. Buy a plant at the store and see how it goes. Keep the pot situation the same. Houseplants should be re-potted into a pot no larger than 2″ greater than the original pot. That is one pot size. Also, do yourself a huge favor and pre-moisten the potting soil when you re-pot a plant. Peat moss comes very dry and is impossible to properly moisten once a plant is potted in it. Some potting soils have wetting agents, some do not. Do yourself a favor and pre-moisten the potting soil before you re-pot.

Sun Exposure

You might think all tropical houseplants need a sunny window to survive. This is not the case. There are tropical houseplants for every window in your house. A lot of houseplants originally grew as native understory plants in the tropical rainforest. Most houseplants are accustomed to shade. Placing certain tropical plants in too much sun may bleach the leaves. This is an example of a plant disorder. Check the plant label before you buy. Open exposures from south facing windows get the most hours of sun. West windows get the most intense, hot afternoon sun. East gets the soft morning sun. North windows get indirect light.

Do You Really Want A Challenge?

You might want to challenge yourself by growing a banana tree indoors. You might feel dedicated to keep that poinsettia from Christmas. By all means go for it. To get that brown thumb green choose the right plant for the right spot in your home. Otherwise be prepared to supply everything that plant needs.

Top Five Disease Resistant Tropical Plants to Grow Indoors.

Zz Plant

The ZZ Plant is new to the houseplant market. It has nearly taken the houseplant market by storm. Interior designers gobble these plants up. Yet in some markets, they remain relatively unknown.

The ZZ Plant has great form and a modern curve that is very easy on the eyes. They can be placed nearly anywhere and survive. This is one of the best office plants to survive in indirect sunlight. Large ZZ plants can be grown on the floor. Young plants make good desk plants. Most plants drop leaves or turn all yellow when placed in sub par indoor growing conditions. ZZ plants are highly insect and disease resistant and are very tolerable of the indoor environment.


There are many useful species of plants in the Dracaena Genus. ‘Janet Craig’, the Corn Plant, Striped Dracaenas, red edged, tricolor, lucky bamboo… The list goes on. The main concern growing these tropical plants indoors is providing an adequate amount of humidity. Dracaena marginata leaf tips brown in low humidity. With air conditioners constantly running in South Florida, this can be an issue. Some people resolve this issue by placing a bowl of rocks filled with water nearby.

Dracaenas have a broad array of uses within the home. They out survive many other houseplants growing side by side. Lucky bamboo is one of the best. Another plant with prime interior design qualities, it is also one of the most durable. This plant can tolerate extremely low light conditions. Need a plant to grow in a dark bathroom? Looking to add a little Feng Shui to the home? Go with lucky bamboo. The key to growing lucky bamboo is to change its water weekly with non-chlorinated water.


Clivias are also very easy on the eyes. They have a plain rosette of leaves, yet hold a very attractive simplistic form when not in bloom. When they are in bloom, you will want to be in that room, until they are not in bloom. Flowers are naturally orange, but there are yellow varieties. Prices range to well over $100 to five dollars. Seek these disease resistant houseplants out at flea markets. The Swap Shop used to have a circus. They also used to have a good houseplant vendor. Try the Swap Shop for unique houseplants like this.


Peperomia is so very unique and so very tolerable of indoor growing conditions. You can choose a unique look and grow the Emerald Ripple Peperomia, or you can go all out disease resistant and durable with Peperomia obtusifolia. Peperomia obtusfolia will hold strong in what some consider as poor growing conditions. This is the best choice for a desktop with no natural sunlight under fluorescent lights. Need a gift for a cubicle dweller? This is it. Not only are they durable but they are highly resistant to pests and disease.


Philodendron is old fashioned. This is a good quality to have. There are a number of time tested philodendron species that look great with very little care. Philodendron means “tree loving”. Many philodendron are climbers. Try these plants if you forget to regularly water your houseplants. Many philodendron climbers can take a pitcher of water every two weeks and be fine. Philodendrons are great space fillers for those awkward corners. Philodendrons are attractive up-lit with artificial light.

Philodendrons have very attractive bold leaves and are highly disease resistant. Mealybugs and scale may hide in their many leaf folds. If a plant is not thriving for one of many reasons, they may become susceptible to insect pests and disease. Indoors or out, if your plants fall prey, please contact us for your plant healthcare needs.

This article was written by: Shawn Payne of Lakewood Exterminating Photo Credit Shawn Payne

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