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How to Grow Tropical Plants at Home

These easy-breezy houseplants can add an instant island vibe to your home...
By Diane Blackford
Photo Credits - New Africa, Adobe Stock
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How to Grow Tropical Plants at Home

Baby it’s cold outside, but these easy-breezy houseplants can add an instant island vibe to your home no matter what’s happening out there.

Your dreams for a Caribbean getaway this year get dashed by a pandemic that most of closed the country’s borders, too?

While it’s not quite the same as frolicking on sugary soft beaches flanked by palm trees and lapped by shimmering turquoise waters, I’ve done my best to turn my apartment into a tropical oasis with palm trees and verdant foliage growing out of every available space. You can do the same, and I highly encourage it. Plants provide oxygen, clean the air, and are shown to elevate levels of happiness. Not to mention if you get enough of them growing, you’ll raise the humidity in your place—something every Coloradan needs. Trust me, your hair, skin, sinuses, and more will thank you for adding more moisture to the air.

My apartment’s large southern-facing windows deserve a lot of credit for helping to transform an empty apartment into a lush landscape, no doubt. But even if your place rarely sees any direct sunlight at all, you too can grow some palm trees a mile high.

Everyone can be a tropical gardener, and thanks to the houseplant-crazed millennials demanding more—and more exotic—greenery to grow in their homes, it’s easier than ever to cultivate a true island vibe indoors—even in the coldest of climates.

(Fun fact: the fifth-coldest temp this country has ever recorded was in Maybell, Colorado, when it dipped to -61°F on February 1, 1985. As I write this, it’s 14 degrees outside and the temps are falling into the single digits tomorrow, making Denver one of the coldest places in the country right now.)

“It may be a little tricky at times, but adding that special warmth and color to your home definitely can be done,” confirms Andrea Haywood, a certified master gardener from South Florida.

While Jack Frost is not a friend to most greenery native to climates where temperatures hover above 75°F, we’ve rounded up some of the easiest tropical plants that you can grow indoors all year long. You can find these varieties and others like them at your local garden center, where the staff can help you pick out the right type for your home’s light and offer tips to help you care for the tropical transplant. So take your green thumbs out of your gloves and get growing on your own tropical paradise.

Bird of Paradise

This colorful plant species got its moniker from its uncanny resemblance to the feathered creature with the same name. The unusual shape of its flowers makes the plant a superb conversation starter that adds a welcome burst of color to any household where it blooms, which doesn’t happen without a TON of natural sunlight. But even without the namesake flower, the large plan adds a ton of tropical flair to any room, thanks to its glossy leaves fanning out.

Bromeliad

There are over 3,000 species within this standout family of tropical plants. Most have bold leaves that are often colorful, but many bromeliads’ most distinguishing characteristic is an exotic flower spike. Given the long-lasting blooms and ornamental foliage, you may assume these are high-maintenance houseplants but you’d be mistaken. They tend to be among the easiest to grow, and you can find varieties in all shapes and sizes with different preferences for light and heat.

Dracaena Marginata

Often called the dragon tree, the spiky houseplant is native to Africa. The tricolor cultivar, also known as the rainbow plant, adds an instant island vibe to any household with its pink, cream, and yellow stripes on narrow, green leaves.

Hibiscus

Huge, dramatic blooms up to eight inches in diameter add terrific splashes of color (albeit short-lived) to this shrub. It needs plenty of water and well-drained soil to survive, and it needs lots of sunlight to bloom, which it can do from late spring through fall in the right conditions. You can find versions with flowers in a dizzying array of colors, making it easy to match your home’s color palette. If you don’t have bright, direct sunlight, don’t let that stop you from adding this stunner to your collection. Keep it indoors during the winter then move it to the balcony or porch when it warms up outside to enjoy its seasonal blooms.

Editor’s Choice: Ponytail Palm

The cascading curls flowing from the top of this plant just make it seem like all sorts of bubbly fun. It’s technically a succulent, not a palm tree, but we won’t tell if you don’t. A native of the dry desert states of eastern Mexico, it does well in Colorado’s low humidity, and its bulbous base stores water like a camel’s hump, making it a good choice for people who tend to neglect their plants.