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The What, Why, and How of Tropical House Plants

January 1st, 2010

What Exactly Is a Tropical House Plant?

Dieffenbachias in my yard

First of all, is it supposed to be houseplant ( one word ) or house plant ( two words )? I just googled *house plant*, and it asked me “Did you mean: houseplant”. So Google wants to make it one word. However I looked in my old Webster’s Dictionary, and houseplant is not even there. I guess that makes it optional.

A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors, in your home or office. Most often it is used for decoration, but it also helps to purify the air, since plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.

Tropical houseplants are those that are native to the tropical regions of the world. In such a climate they thrive year-round, and grow to much larger sizes than they would reach in your house. Since I live in the tropics, I can vouch for the fact that my outdoor gardening consists largely of cutting back the foliage, so that it doesn’t take over.

The term “tropical houseplant” is somewhat redundant, since most house plants are originally from the tropics, and consequently have a better chance of surviving in the warm interior of a home or office.

Why Would I Want to Grow Tropical Houseplants?

Oleander - pretty, but not a houseplant

My personal reason? What makes it all worthwhile is the sense of satisfaction when the cutting I get from a friend finally turns into a beautiful plant. It takes skill and a lot of luck to deal with the unique problems of each individual plant. And sometimes, I fail. But, more often than not, I end up with a plant that I am proud to exhibit.

How Do I Take Care of Tropical Houseplants?

Bananas

Each variety of plant has its own requirements. In nature, a plant will thrive in a location that has what it needs. But when we put the plant in a pot, and bring it into our house, we have to make sure that we simulate its natural setting as much as possible.

To survive, tropical houseplants need light, warmth, and moisture in varying amounts. To thrive, we must also consider such factors as nutrients, size and type of pot, and pest control.

Future posts to this blog will go into more detail about the what, where, and how of growing tropicals indoors.

Note: The pictures above were taken of the Professor’s garden, and show the rampant growth of tropical plants in their native environment. In future posts, I will show pictures of some of my houseplants.

May your thumb always be green

…The Professor, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands



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