Growing tropical plants like birds of paradise is a wonderful way to introduce a little exotic flair and beautiful colors into your home. This is especially true if you live in a colder climate. Some people love tropical plants for their brilliant colors, but other people have them because they have large, variegated or unusually patterned foliage that is very eye-catching. They’re a nice choice if you want to bring a touch of the rainforest or jungle to your home.
There are dozens of tropical plants to choose from when you start looking if you’re ready to mimic their favored growing conditions. They will require slightly higher humidity and temperatures than other plants, and some prefer to have a lot of sunlight, but they’re relatively easy to keep alive and thriving once you get the hang of it. If you’re not sure what tropical plants to pick, this is for you. We’re going to highlight several popular options that you can incorporate into your home.
This is a tropical plant that is very popular due to the bright, stately flowers it produces. You can choose from several different cultivars when you pick out this plant, and this makes it a slightly more versatile choice. This is a more challenging plant to grow, but it’s very rewarding when you figure out what the plant prefers and how to get it to open those beautiful flowers. If you get it right, you’ll get rewarded with very bright red blooms that contrast sharply with the plant’s bright yellow spadix.
This tropical plant does very well when you plant it in a location that gets bright but indirect lighting. You want to avoid full sunlight to avoid scorching the plant. You should try to keep this plant evenly moist without saturating the soil. You’ll want to use a loose but very rich potting soil with this plant. If you want plants that have pink-hued leaves and flowers, try the Mexican shrimp plant.
2. Dumb Cane
Indoor plant care can be a journey since each type of tropical plant likes something slightly different. Dumb cane can be ubiquitous when you have it as a houseplant. This makes it easy to forget that it is, in fact, a tropical foliage plant. It produces large leaves with pretty green and white coloring that is very eye-catching. The leaves are slightly glossy too. It does produce caustic sap, so you always want to wear gloves when you handle it to avoid it irritating your skin. Also, keep it away from areas where pets or children can get to it.
During the winter months, put this tropical plant in a place that gets bright light. You can switch this to indirect light or dappled shade during the spring and summer growing months. During the summer and spring, water this plant twice a week. Cut back when the cooler temperatures come to once a week or once every other week. You’ll need a fast-draining potting soil mix to keep it happy, and fertilize it using a 20-20-20 mix. It should be in a draft-free location that is over 60°F all the time.
3. Bird of Paradise
When someone mentions tropical plants, most people think of birds of paradise. This is arguably one of the most tropical-looking plants in the world. It has very distinctive and large flowers that can look like a bird’s beak and head. It’s a very quick-growing indoor plant that is surprisingly easy to grow, despite the fact that it looks like it would be finicky. It’ll need to grow for three to five years before it produces flowers, and it can easily get up to six feet tall under the correct growing conditions. You’ll need a larger pot and a lot of space for this plant.
You want to keep this tropical plant pot-bound as it grows, and make a point to fertilize it once a week to encourage rapid growth. You’ll want to put it in a location that gets bright light with a few hours of direct sun every day, and you should keep the soil moist but not saturated. It comes in blue and orange coloring for the flowers. Finally, the soil should be very rich and loose. You want most of the water to flow through it instead of getting stuck around the root system.
The ficus is a tropical plant that is very fussy. This makes a large and healthy ficus the pinnacle of any houseplant you could imagine. You’ll get a very glossy, large, and imposing plant as it grows, and it’s well worth the effort you put into keeping it healthy. They can produce small yellow or white blossoms that offset the darker foliage beautifully. What makes this plant harder to grow is that it doesn’t like to be moved around much, so be prepared to put it in a spot and leave it there as it grows.
This tropical plant does require adequate warmth, light, and humidity to do well. You want to make sure that you water it regularly during the growing season and allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions. Reduce how much you water in the fall and winter, and make sure you don’t overwater it. The leaves will fall if you have cold or drafty conditions too. They need bright but indirect sunlight for several hours every day. The soil should be rich but loose. It has to drain well or the plant won’t do well.
Cordyline is one tropical plant you’ll see all over if you ever go to Hawaii. It produces colorful and bold foliage that is a treat to look at, and you can choose from a huge range of leaf colors. If you take care of it correctly, this plant will make a very dramatic accent piece for your home. You could hear it called Hawaiian Ti Tree or Ti Tree too, and you can pick from red, green, white, yellow, purplish-red, or purple foliage. It has very narrow leaves that explode from the center of the plant.
This tropical plant requires that you find a draft-free and warm location for it to grow. You’ll want to have indirect but bright sunlight each day. Also, you want to keep this plant continually moist in the spring and summer months before backing off for the winter. Pick out a high-quality potting mix that is very rich and loose. Also, to encourage strong growth, make a point to feed this plant once a week. The pH levels should stay between 6.0 and 6.5 to keep the plant happy.
Not all tropical plants are a huge challenge to care for and grow, and bromeliads prove it. These are actually tropical air plants, and you can very quickly and easily adapt them to grow in pots. They’re generally a lot more tolerant that many other lush-leaved plants from the tropics, so they’re a great way for beginners to get into growing these types of plants as they can act like a confidence booster. You can pick from a large range of textures and colors, and you get a nice range of growing conditions that allows you to mix and match this plant to your needs.
For example, this tropical plant does wonderfully mounted on logs or boards and hung up on the wall. If you don’t want to do this, you can put it in a pot with a very fast-draining potting soil mix. The soil should be a mix of sand and peat-based soil to ensure it’s light and loose. It needs indirect but bright light every day, and you want to water it weekly. Avoid watering it so much that it stands in water. You can pick from purple, green, red, yellow, orange, stripes, spots, or banded colors and designs.
Better known as the umbrella plant, this tropical plant offers glossy, broad leaves in a thick abundance on every plant. They work very well as background plants, or you can put them in a warm, bright, large container to get a fun canopy effect in your room. Depending on the type of plant you get, it can get anywhere from 4-feet tall up to 10-feet tall. Outside, it can reach 40-feet tall, but you won’t see these heights with your indoor plants. It’s slightly easier to take care of too.
You’ll want to put this tropical plant in a location with indirect but bright light. Additionally, warmth, light, and humidity are the keys to keeping this plant happy. It does best in loose but rich potting soil. Mix in a healthy amount of moist compost for nutrients, and fertilize the plant twice every month to encourage growth. It can flower, but this is rare indoors. For water, you want to mist and water once a week in the summer and reduce it in the winter to every other week or so.
The philodendron plant does very well indoors as a tropical plant. You can choose from non-climbing or climbing varieties when you pick out this plant, and this gives you some flexibility about where you could put it. For example, you could get a climbing variety and encourage it to climb up parts of your wall, or you could get a non-climbing variety and have it grow lush in a pot on your table. This is another plant you can pick if you’re a beginner as it is slightly easier than other varieties of plants to grow.
There are newer hybrids of this tropical plant that were specially bred that mix the convenience of growing non-climbing varieties with the ease and vigor of the climbing varieties to make them easier to keep healthy. They do need indirect, medium light to thrive. YOu should water it mist it at least once or twice a week to keep the humidity up in the summer months and cut back in the winter. The potting soil should be very loose and drain quickly, and you want to add a small amount of fertilizer once a month.
9. Kentia Palm
When you imagine the tropics, do you see palm trees? A lot of people do, and they may not know that palm trees are one tropical plant that you can easily grow indoors. They do well in the corner of sunny rooms or in your entryways, and this pick isn’t any different. It has a maximum height of 40-feet outside, but most of them top out at 12-feet indoors with a 2 to 3 foot spread. This is still significantly large, but it can take years for them to reach this height because they’re extremely slow growing.
You’ll want to give this tropical plant bright filtered sunlight every day. Water it weekly during the summer months, but make sure the soil dries out between watering sessions. This plant loves fast-draining potting soil, and you’ll want to fertilize it once a month. Also, warmth is the key to keeping this plant healthy. It should never get below 55°F in the room this plant is in because it doesn’t do well with colder temperatures. Put it in a larger pot so you don’t have to replant it as it grows.
A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of growing orchids, but this is a gorgeous tropical plant that may just take less work than you think to keep blooming. This is one of the most varied of all plant groups, and they can come from all over the world from woodlands and deserts to tropical forests. However, most people go for the orchids that hail from subtropical or tropical climates. You can get yellow, white, purple, pink, orange, red, and variegated coloring on the blooms, and the flowers tend to sit way above the plant on a thin green stalk with waxy foliage.
This tropical plant does require you to avoid having it in a place that has a lot of dry air. You also need to avoid direct drafts or heat, and direct sunlight. The goal for this plant is to provide it with a very warm, humid environment to thrive. Generally speaking, you’ll water this plant once a week. Don’t overwater it, and allow it to dry out between watering sessions. You can give it an ice cube or two each week for water. The lighting should be indirect but bright, and it doesn’t require a lot of soil.
11. Peace Lily
Peace lilies are a beautiful tropical plant, and this is especially true when you mass them together and they all bloom at once. As a bonus, this is one type of plant that is easy to maintain and grow, and it can bloom for several months straight without a break. You’ll get large, glossy green leaves that grow in an upright pattern, and the flowers are a creamy white with a yellow center. This plant is very toxic to children and pets, so exercise caution if you choose to have it in the house.
This tropical plant can be slightly challenging to overwinter, but it’s worth the time you put in. You always want to keep the temperature above 40°F if possible, and put the plant in a location that gets indirect, medium light. It won’t do well with direct light because it can get too hot. The soil should be evenly moist, and you want to mist it frequently during the summer months. Also, get a damp rag and wipe the dust off the leaves to keep them healthy.
12. Amazon Elephant’s Ear
Did you know that elephant ears will clean your indoor air and help strip toxins out? This is a very common tropical plant, but it has a very regal and distinctive look to it. You’ll get very large leaves in an arrow shape that are deep green and ribbed with silver. They’re a lot easier to grow inside than other tropical plants, and they give you seasonal displays of gorgeous foliage. It originated in southeast Asia, and it’s a popular pick all around the United States today. You should note that this plant is poisonous, so you want to be cautious if you have it around pets and children.
To keep this tropical plant happy, put it in a place that gets filtered sun. It’ll also do very well in a shady location. You’ll want to have a very fast-draining but rich potting soil for this plant, and you’ll have to make a point to feed it regularly. The soil should be kept moist, but you do want to avoid saturating the soil so the roots don’t stay wet and rot. If you get the growing conditions right, you’ll get huge leaves with a waxy, glossy appearance that drape over the pot.
13. Dragon Tree
Anyone who is after a modern mid-century feel will like this tropical plant. The dragon tree is a very spindly but tall plant that grows a thinner stem with a surprising ball of leaves on the top. The stems can twine together and curve gracefully, and the leaves will rise above the pot in deep green shades. You won’t get straight vertical growth indoors, but it can easily reach up to 10-feet tall with the correct growing conditions. Plant it in a larger container when you first get it to avoid having to repot it as it starts to take off.
This tropical plant does best if you put it in a spot in your home that gets bright to medium light that is indirect rather than direct. It won’t handle direct light well. If it doesn’t get enough light, this plant will start to drop leaves. The soil should drain quickly between watering sessions, and it should be very rich with a mix of natural compost. Allow the soil to dry a little between watering sessions. Avoid overwatering it, and make sure the temperatures don’t get below 50°F.
14. Parlor Palm
You’ve most likely seen the parlor palm growing in someone’s house or in an office. This plant can get very large with the correct growing conditions, and you get a pretty green coloring. It grows dozens of thick branches that produce long, thin leaves in an oval shape with a slightly pointed tip. The palm-like leaves will all sprout from around a center stalk. They can get up to 12-feet tall, and this is a relatively quick-growing plant that will require a bigger pot.
As a bonus, this is one tropical plant that requires low lighting. It does great indoors in a slightly dimmer room, and it doesn’t even need a huge amount of sunlight to do very well. The soil should drain rapidly between watering sessions, but it needs plenty of moisture. You can mist the plant once a week or so to increase the moisture levels without saturating the plant’s roots. Getting an african violet soil mix is a good idea because it won’t clump easily. Fertilize the plant regularly during the spring and summer months, but don’t overdo it or you’ll burn the plant.
If you’re someone who habitually forgets to water your plants, you might think that keeping a tropical plant alive is impossible. However, you should try the yucca plant. This is still a tropical plant, but it’s surprisingly hardy and drought-tolerant. So, if you forget to water it for a few weeks, it’ll bounce right back when you do. It adds a desert flair to any room, and it’s a spiky-topped plant on a thick stem. The leaves are dark green, oval, and come to a sharp point at the end. They grow all over the top of the plant and stand up to give the plant more height.
This tropical plant is also an excellent choice for filtering the air and removing toxins. It needs partial sunlight that is indirect for a few hours each day. The soil can be more sandy and loamy, and it should drain well when you water it. Don’t overwater this plant. Instead, water it sparingly. Remember, it does fine in drought conditions, so it’s easy to give it too much. It can get two to four feet-tall and wide indoors and 30-feet tall and 25-feet wide outside.
16. Tree Fern
The tree fern is native to New Zealand and Australia, and they are a gorgeous tropical plant. Outside, this plant can grow very tall. They have a very woody or furry trunk to them, and they produce very large fern fronds that have a feathery look and feel to them. This is a slightly pickier indoor plant to grow, and it’ll take a little trial and error on your part to figure out what works for it. Humidity is the key here, so it won’t do well if it’s very dry and arid in your home.
This tropical plant needs a lot of bright light. It can survive direct light, but it does better when you plant it in an area that is bright but indirect. You can’t let this plant dry out as it won’t tolerate it, so make sure you give it plenty of water. You also have to keep the humidity really high. To do this, you can mist the plant a few times a week or put it in a tray of water with rocks to hold the plant directly out of the water. This will increase the immediate humidity levels around the plant and keep it happy.
These 16 tropical plants are excellent contenders if you’re looking at growing something indoors to add a splash of color or drama to your decor. Some of these plants are much more finicky than others to grow, so you should take your skill level into consideration when you pick out plants. Start with one or two and slowly add more to your collection as you learn how to keep them happy and thriving. Do it correctly and you’ll have a whole jungle or rainforest right in your living room in no time!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.