Houseplant Growing: Tropical House Plant Care Instructions

Most indoor houseplants are tropical, and they do require a moderate amount of care. Light, watering, fertilizing, and plant disease give the novice growers the most trouble.

Most indoor houseplants are tropical, and they do require a moderate amount of care. Light, watering, fertilizing, and plant diseases give the novice growers the most trouble.


Novice growers tend to believe the brightest, most direct sunlight is best for tropical plants. Actually, this is a myth. Direct sunlight, especially from a south window, can burn a plant's leaves. The light becomes magnified as it passes through the glass pane intensifying its heat. The best light for tropicals comes from a north or south window covered in sheer curtains. Now, the light's intensity is muted as it first must pass through sheers before it gets to the plant.


Novice growers also tend to over water their plants. Root rot and leaf spot result and, ultimately, the plant dies. Water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Watering once a week in warm weather is a good rule of thumb.

Although rain water is the best choice for tropicals, you may use tap water as long as it is permitted to set out over night so the chlorine can evaporate from it. Then water from the top of the plant's pot avoiding its leaves.

Humidity must be considered with watering for it refers to the moisture in the air. All plants require humidity for successful growth, but tropicals with slender, delicate leaves need added humidity. Mist these at least once daily.


Most commercial house plant fertilizers contain nitrogen, to promote growth; phosphorus, to promote root development; potassium, to promote root growth; and calcium to aide the plant's absorption of phosphorus and potassium. Fertilizing is most beneficial in the spring, but you will want to lightly fertilize all year around once or twice a month. Time release fertilizers do this for you. Apply this type in the spring.


Inadequate use of light, water, or fertilizer can leave your tropicals open to disease. Fungi, a plant themselves, are the most common disease in tropical plants. Caused by over watering, poor light, high humidity, and unsterilized potting mix, fungi can spread quickly and destroy all of your tropical house plants.

Some common symptoms are shriveled leaf tips and leaves with dark strips; infected leaves falling off; a grayish-white substance forming on the soil; and leaves with white, brown and black spotted centers. Treat these plants with a fungicide and water them less. Lower the humidity and increase their ventilation.

If you must repot these plants, first sterilize the soil: Place the soil in a baking pan and insert a potato in its center. Bake at 350 degrees. When the potato is done, your soil is sterilized.

Suggested Tropical Plants

Heliconias, Gingers and Plumerias are examples of unusual tropical plants which grow well in warm, humid climates, but thy can also be grown indoors when winter temperatures are too cold.

Heliconias give a showy display with their huge leaves and fantastic flowers. Ginger produces a heady fragrance. Most comfortable in moist, fertile, organic soil, gingers come in a variety of species. Finally, Plumeria, frangipani, a most beautiful and fragrant tree, comes in seven different varieties.

These are a few suggestions. Your own research will lead you to hundreds of tropicals. Follow this simple advice for caring for them, and they'll give you years of pleasure.

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