House Plants and Tropicals
Bringing plants into your home always brings the space alive. There is something magical about a beautiful plant growing among your personal possessions, or framing your sofa, that creates a unique atmosphere. Tropical plants create a wonderful welcoming feel in your entrance hall, and say that your home is a special refuge, full of greenery, just like the natural world outside. More and more homes today have solariums that can be turned into a tropical paradise, or tall atriums where a majestic tree will fill the space with beauty and magic.
Every room will benefit from the beauty of houseplants, and they bring freshness too. Indoor plants filter toxic chemicals like formaldehyde from the air and raise the oxygen levels, making your home a healthier environment for your family. By drawing up water from their pots and releasing it into the air, they make efficient natural humidifiers, keeping the air damper in winter, and reducing allergies and breathing difficulties. Research has proven that people are calmer and more relaxed when surrounded by plants, so they encourage both a healthy, and a happy, ,atmosphere in your home.
Houseplants can be grown indoors all year round, and if you have a balcony, a terrace or a garden, you can also place them outside during the summer, to bring their beauty to your outdoor spaces too. They are an ideal way of dressing up your terrace for summer activities, like barbeques, parties, or just relaxing and enjoying the summer. Place them around your pool and you can believe you are enjoying a tropical holiday.
If you do live in a warm-enough area, you can of course also grow these plants outdoors, taking advantage of the warm climate to grow spectacular plants from around the world. Generally, these plants will grow outdoors where there is no frost in winter, but some are tough enough to stand a few degrees of frost at the coldest parts of the year. Outdoors, growing in the garden, they will grow much taller and larger than they do indoors, becoming majestic additions to your outdoor space. You can also grow them all year round in pots outdoors, so even if you only have a terrace or patio, these plants are ideal choices.
Wherever you choose to grow them, at the Tree Center we bring you a spectacular selection of the best houseplants and tropical plants available. All our plants come from top growers, and we choose plants that are both interesting and easily grown. With a diverse variety, which changes regularly, we always have something special, so drop by regularly to see our great selection.
The Best Features of Houseplants & Tropical Plants
- Easily grown in the house for an indoor garden
- Improve the air-quality and living environment
- Attractive decoration in any style of decor
- Wide variety of shapes and leaf-forms
- Many bring beautiful blossoms or berries too
Growing Houseplants in Your Home
It is easy to grow plants in your home, if you choose suitable plants that have been tried and tested in a variety of home environments. Most of these plants come from shadier places in the wild, beneath trees or larger bushes, so they are already adapted to growing in the lower light levels found indoors. If you do have a sunny window area, some houseplants will thrive there too, so there is something for every spot in every home. For details on how to grow each plant well, see the individual entry for the plant on our Tree Center pages.
Almost all houseplants are grown in the same basic way, just adjusting the light levels, watering, and feeding to their individual needs. Use pots large enough for the roots to develop well, and move a plant into a larger pot once the roots fill the existing pot. Always use a pot that has a drainage hole, and when you water, a little should flow out of that hole. Usually they should not be left standing in a saucer of water, and never water a plant when the soil is still wet. Some should be left until the soil is completely dry, to protect the roots from rotting. Use houseplant potting soil, never garden soil, and use a foliage or flowering houseplant fertilizer, depending on the type of plant, during the growing season. Remove any dead leaves promptly. All houseplants can go outside when the night temperatures are above 50 degrees, and some can withstand temperatures as low as 35 degrees. Do not leave them out until the weather is so cold that they will be shocked by the sudden move into warmer indoor conditions.
Growing Tropical Plants in Your Garden
If you live in an area where there is no winter frost, then you can grow tropical plants. Some of these are also grown as houseplants, but outdoors in a hot place many will grow much larger, often into tall trees, so check their ultimate size and do not depend on your experience from growing them indoors. All need a well-drained soil, mostly in sun, although some will grow in shade. You will find details on growing these plants outdoors on the Tree Center pages about them.
Different Plants for Your Home and Tropical Garden
There are many different kinds of plants grown as houseplants. Most of them are tropical plants that will grow outdoors in zone 10 or some will even grow outdoors all year in zone 9. They come from all parts of the plant kingdom, and at the Tree Center we have a constantly changing range of these great plants available. If you don’t find what you want today – come back again and you will probably find it then. Many of these plants fall into larger groups, so let’s take a look at these groups, and some typical plants in them that we often have in stock.
- First, some plants grown for their beautiful and often dramatic foliage:
There are over 100 different species in this fascinating group of plants, and many can be grown as houseplants. They are all recognized by the thin, strap-like leaves growing in clusters at the tops of upright stems. Sometimes the leaves are green, other times they are striped in green, red, pink and white, but they are all beautiful. The stems are textured and dark-brown, and the look of this plant is very ‘modern’, fitting well into any space, but best against a white wall, where the dramatic stems can be shown best. They are all tough and grow well in shadier places, so they can be used in parts of your home where most other houseplants will not grow well. They are also very drought resistant, so even if you forget to water them for weeks, they will survive, and all they need is good watering once the soil is completely dry. In fact, we could say these plants thrive on neglect – good news for busy people – and can be killed with kindness by watering them too often.
Madagascar Dragon Tree
This Dracaena is one of the very easiest plants there is, for growing in your home. It will go for weeks if no months without watering, and grow in darker places too. It has slender stems, topped with clusters of narrow, arching leaves that are green with white and pink stripes. This colorful plant usually has multiple stems of different heights, creating an elegant form that will make any room more beautiful, whatever the decor.
There are hundreds of different varieties of fig trees growing all around the world. Only a handful have the special features that make them top choices as houseplants, and those plants are all easy to grow. They are tough and reliable plants that fit well into any home, no matter what the style of decor you have. Some bring the real look of trees into your home, and are unique for that, and so they are especially valuable. Others have fascinating foliage that brings drama to any room, and hits all the right notes for the latest indoor fashion trends.
Indoor fig trees are all evergreens, with smooth bark on a sturdy trunk, often in attractive shades of soft brown. Their leaves many be big or small, but they are all usually smooth, rich-green and glossy, bringing a look of class and quality to your spaces. They will all grow in medium light-levels, so they do not need a sunny window to grow well, and they are very adaptable to different light-levels too, so they fit in almost anywhere. They need very little care – just some watering and fertilizer during the summer months. They can all be placed outdoors during summer, to brighten your balcony or terrace, or they can grow indoors all year round. They are usually not troubled by pests or diseases, and all-in-all they make great houseplants, as well as terrific garden plants if you live in a frost-free area.
Here are some examples of fig trees that are available, and that make great houseplants or outdoor tropical plants.
Weeping Fig Tree
The Weeping Fig Tree, Ficus benjamina, is the perfect choice for your home if you want a plant that has the real ‘tree’ look, to really bring the outdoors inside. With its slender trunk and full crown of branches, it looks exactly like an elegant garden tree. The small, glossy leaves are smooth and taper to a graceful point, hanging down from the downward-curving branches. This tree can be trimmed as needed to fit into any space, and it always looks attractive every day of the year. It will grow easily in medium light-levels, and needs only basic care with watering and fertilizer to thrive in your home. It adjusts its growth automatically to changing light, growing more open and delicate in lower light, and denser and bushier in stronger light. If you move it into lower light – perhaps after spending the summer outdoors, some leaves may yellow and fall. Don’t be alarmed, this is a normal adjustment.
Outdoors the Weeping Fig Tree grows into a large tree as much as 50 feet tall, and makes a beautiful specimen, or it can be clipped into a stunning hedge of any size you need.
Fiddle Leaf Fig
This fascinating plant, called Ficus lyrata, has unique large leaves that are rounder and broader at the end than at the base. This gives each leaf the shape of a violin, which is why it is called ‘fiddle leaf’. The leaves are large – up to 18 inches long and 12 inches across, and they are attractively marked with deep veins on their dark green surface. The plant itself grows as a houseplant up to 6 feet tall, or even more, at first a single stem, but later as a multi-branched plant. With its dramatic look, it is perfect for modern decor, but it also fits well into traditional settings, and gives a special touch of drama to any space. It will grow well in moderate light levels, and it can of course spend the summer months outdoors. Water when the soil is moderately dry, and fertilize as needed to encourage new leaves to grow.
Outdoors the Fiddle Leaf Fig becomes a large, bushy tree, with many stems, growing as much as 40 feet tall and 30 feet across in time. It makes a dramatic lawn specimen, or a screening plant.
Palm trees are the queens of the tropics, with their dramatic tall trunks and crown of waving fronds. Outdoors many grow very tall, but there are also some smaller palms that are ideal for growing as houseplants. Those that remain small, or do not have the normal tall trunk of a palm tree are the best choices for houseplants. Here are two very popular palms that grow well in the lower light-levels of most homes.
This palm, called Dypsis lutescens, is a smaller kind of palm, that grows constantly from the base, making a clump of foliage, and not a tall trunk. It will grow to around 6 feet tall in the house, and it should be grown in bright light, but not in direct sunlight, as the foliage will turn yellow. Over time the fronds become longer and more arching, making this a graceful specimen for the house.
Pygmy Date Palm
Most palms like sun and bright light, but this palm, Phoenix roebelenii, grows naturally under larger trees, so it is adapted to lower light-levels. This is an ideal plant for a smaller place in your house, perhaps in a beautiful container on a low table, because it grows slowly, and only after a long time will it reach the 4 or 5 feet height it can grow to indoors. Its fronds are never more than 3 feet long, and usually shorter, so this is a palm that fits perfectly into smaller rooms of your house.
This tree is not a palm tree at all, but it does have a trunk with a cluster of leaves growing from the top, a little like a palm tree. However, the leaves are long, thin and strap-like, and often several feet in length on larger trees. The trunk is the most dramatic feature, as it is woody, with a gray bark textured like the skin of an elephant. Called Beaucarnea recurvata, some people do call it the Elephant’s Foot, especially because older trees develop a large swollen base to the trunk, that can literally be as big as an elephant’s foot. But don’t worry, this only happens on old plants, usually when growing outdoors, where the tree can reach 15 feet tall. As a houseplant, it stays just a few feet tall, and grows slowly, needing almost no care at all. It can live for months without watering, so you can go on vacation and not worry about it at all.
This is another ‘palm that is not a palm at all’, but it really does look like one, even though it is in fact an ancient relative of pine trees. Indeed, old plants outdoors do produce large cones that look like they belong on an evergreen tree. Known as Cycas revoluta, this amazing plant has a short, thick trunk, topped with a perfect circle of palm-like leaves that are glossy and rigid, not pendulous and rustling, like true palms. This slow-growing plant makes a beautiful specimen that will live in a bright place indoors for many years. Outdoors the plants will grow much larger, making dramatic features several feet tall.
- Now, some plants grown for their beautiful and exotic flowers:
Bird of Paradise
This plant really does live it to its name, producing unique and unforgettable flowers that look like the heads of fantasy birds. The flowering stem of Strelitzia reginae is tall and slender, and it bends over at the end like a head. Then flowers push from it in sequence, each one orange and purple, making the most remarkable flower you have ever seen. These plants are highly regarded by avant-garde flower arrangers, and yet you can grow them in your own home or garden. The plant itself is a clump of leaves, each with a long stem and a flattened leaf on the end, in a beautiful gray-green color. Flowers are produced for months on end, and this plant can be grown outdoors in frost-free areas, or placed outside on a terrace in a sunny place in summer. Indoors it grows and flowers best in a well-lit location, it is easy to care for, and grows rapidly into a plant 3 feet tall in a pot, or 4 to 5 feet tall in the ground.
These wonderful plants come in so many varieties, but they all grow in a similar way, forming deep rosettes of broad leaves. They mostly live in trees as epiphytes, and for water they rely on rain-water collecting in the cup made by the rosette of leaves. This is one plant where watering the soil is not important, but keeping water in the cup is. These plants are beautiful both as foliage and for flowers. Some are grown mainly for they beautiful foliage, which can be blue-gray, red, yellow, green – or combinations of all these colors at the same time. With all that color, they look like they are flowering even when they are not. Some do flower too, or are grown chiefly for their flowers, which usually come from the center of the leaves as a thick stem topped by spikes or clusters of flowers. Actually, it is rarely the flowers themselves which are beautiful, rather it is the colorful bracts, or modified leaves, that surround and protect them. These may be bright blue, reds, pink, gold, or like the leaves, combinations of these colors. Not only are they colorful, the colors are often neon shades, and the whole plant has a ‘space age’ look that fits well with contemporary decorating. In your home they will grow well in low light levels, and in frost-free areas some can be grown in shady beds under trees.
This plant, Schlumbergera, comes from Brazil, where plants grow in the forks of jungle trees. These kinds of plants are called epiphytes, and they are adapted to alternating wet and dry conditions – just exactly what happens when we suddenly remember we haven’t watered our houseplants for weeks. So they are easy to care for, and the Christmas Cactus is also very beautiful, with flowers that are usually red, but can also be pink, purple or white. As the name suggests, they flower in winter, and in summer they can go out in a shady place in the garden to rest and form flower buds for the next year. They have curious flattened green stems, in segments like a chain, and the flowers develop at the ends of these stems. Each flower is large and long, with a series of recurved petals and brilliant colors.
Beautiful citrus, in many varieties, from kumquats to grapefruit, all make marvelous houseplants in bright places indoors. Many are hardier than other houseplants, and they can often be grown in an unheated porch even when the outdoor temperatures are below freezing. If you only get a few days of light frost each winter, you can grow citrus outdoors all year round. In colder places, they are ideal for growing outside in a large pot from spring to fall, and then brining inside for the coldest months. In a sunny spot they can be grown indoors all-year-round as well. With their fragrant white blossoms, and golden fruits, sometimes on the tree at the same time, you will love the Mediterranean feel of growing citrus trees in your own home.
This ‘dual purpose’ houseplant is grown for its foliage and its flowers. It forms a clump of leaves 2 to 3 feet tall, each one with a slender stem and a broader upper part, in a deep, rich-green color. The glossy leaves arch over at the tip. This plant needs regular watering, but it will grow in very dark places happily, making it an ideal houseplant. From time to time it will flower, sending up individual flowers on tall stems above the leaves. The flower is like a broad, almost flat pure-white leaf, with a yellow column at the base. Often many flowers are produced at the same time, and in or out of flower, this is one of the most elegant and beautiful houseplants you can grow. Being easy to grow too is a great added bonus!