You don’t need to live on a Hawaiian Island to enjoy the tropics! By growing tropical plants indoors, you can enjoy lush beautiful plants, fragrant flowers and succulent fruit year-round. Here’s how:
The best Tropical Plants to grow Indoors
Not all tropical plants grow well indoors, and of those that do only some can flower and produce fruit in a typical indoor environment. Fortunately, it’s becoming easier to grow and harvest tropical fruit inside, thanks to the efforts of plant breeders like the Logee family.
The tropical plants listed below are ideal for growing indoors, as long as your home receives plenty of sunlight.
Ideal for the beginner, Meyer Lemon trees make great patio plants in summer, and houseplants in winter. They can tolerate cooler, drier conditions than most other tropical plants, and are prolific bloomers and fruiters, so long as they receive enough sunlight. Believed to be a hybrid between a lemon and an orange, the Meyer Lemon produces delightfully sweet and flavorful fruit that is prized by chefs. As a bonus, all citrus trees have fragrant leaves and produce flowers with a lovely jasmine scent.
Most avocados take years and need a height of 10ft or more to set fruit, but the ‘Day’ Avocado tree from Logee’s can fruit at only 3 feet tall and will perform even in a pot indoors. This tropical tree is even somewhat cold hardy, able to withstand temperatures below freezing. Although a little more temperamental than a lemon tree, your avocado tree will reward you with lush foliage and delicious buttery avocados for many years.
Gardenias are known for their fickle nature, and are difficult to grow indoors. The closely-related African Gardenia plant, however, is a fragrant, prolific bloomer that thrives inside, and flowers year-round. It’s the perfect plant for bringing that tropical flower aroma indoors, and ideal for beginners. Maxing out at a compact 12 inches, African Gardenia is another great option for smaller spaces.
Also known as Passionfruit or Passionflower, the Passion vine is a vigorous grower, even indoors, and the ‘Panama’ Passion vine from Logee’s is the perfect specimen for fruiting and flowering. In spring and summer, stunning flowers emerge and set into dark purple fruit. The fruit is sweet and tart, and full of flavor. This is a tough plant that’s perfect for beginners. Just make sure that you have plenty of room, and are willing to prune this vine back to keep it manageable; ‘Panama’ Passion vine can grow to 20 feet long.
One of only a few plants that physically move, the aptly-named Sensitive Plant quickly folds its leaves together in response to touch and when it gets dark. Adults and children alike will delight in watching this fascinating plant react to their touch. Sensitive plant thrives in warm, sunny locations, and its compact habit makes it perfect for keeping on a windowsill. Keep in mind that sensitive plant has very poor tolerance to cold; keep it in a place where temperatures don’t drop below 60 degrees.
Tips for Growing Tropical Plants Indoors
Growing tropical plants indoors is relatively easy, so long as their humidity, light and temperature requirements are met.
Often the biggest challenge in growing tropical plants indoors is providing enough light. Generally, tropical plants that fruit and flower need as much light as possible – 3-4 hours or more of sun exposure would be ideal. Place your tropical plants near a bright window that faces East, South or West. If your home just doesn’t get enough light, you may want to supplement with a full spectrum grow-light. In spring and summer, after the danger of frost has passed, you may also want to set your tropical plants outside, where they can take advantage of the warm summer sun all day. For plants like the passion vine and citrus, being outside in summer is the best way to get them to fruit and flower.
Many tropical plants, such as avocado and sensitive plant, do best when humidity hovers around 50% or so. This can be a huge problem indoors, especially during the cold, dry winter months. You can increase humidity by doing the following:
- Keep plants close together to allow moisture to get trapped among the leaves
- Place several large trays of water near your plants
- Keep plants in a closed room, such as a sunroom, to keep dry air from getting in
- Use a humidifier, especially in winter
- Do not bother misting the plants – it has very little effect on humidity levels
Tropical and sub-tropical plants have a wide range of temperature hardiness. Some, like citrus trees, can tolerate a light freeze, while others show signs of stress when temperatures dip below 50 degrees. Seasonal temperature changes, and even temperature changes between night and day, can have a profound effect on a tropical plant’s health and flowering ability, so make sure to do your research. All tropical plants, however, suffer if temperatures change suddenly. Keep your plants several inches away from windows, and away from drafty areas.
Growing tropical plants indoors isn’t just for experts, or people with a greenhouse. With a little research and planning, just about anyone can enjoy fragrant tropical flowers and tangy fruit right in their own home.