How To Grow Tropical Plants Indoors

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Credit: Shutterstock / Tatiana Buzmakova

Houseplants are more popular than ever, and countless people seek out tropical plants. They can be tricky to grow indoors unless you follow a consistent watering cycle and provide enough light. Understandably, many people struggle with how to grow tropical plants indoors.

Run your grow lights for 12-16 hours to ensure a healthy flowering schedule for your indoor tropical plants. It’s also important to use a humidifier to keep the humidity level from 60% to 80% to mimic the plant’s natural habitat. Water your tropical plants frequently enough to keep the top 2” of soil moist without soaking them.

You can also protect your indoor tropical houseplants from pests like spider mites if you keep the leaves moist. Many people mist their tropical plants frequently to maintain consistent moisture. Follow along as we explore how to grow tropical plants indoors.

How To Care For Tropical Plants Inside

Tropical plants aren’t naturally meant to grow indoors, and that creates some hurdles. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to grow tropical houseplants with modern grow lights and potting mixes. A few simple tricks can ensure optimal growth for your indoor tropical plants, such as:

1. Maintain High Humidity

The heat in tropical climates is only outmatched by the humidity. Humidity is vital to tropical plant growth whether it be inside or outdoors. Unfortunately, your home likely doesn’t have the ideal natural humidity that tropical plants require.

The ideal humidity level for tropical plants is from 60% to 80%, and you can reach that with a humidifier. Keep in mind that it can be quite hard to maintain such high humidity. You may need to buy multiple humidifiers if you have tropical plants throughout several parts of your house.

You may also experience a drop in humidity during the fall and winter if you run your furnace a lot. Furnaces naturally lower the air’s humidity level, so that’s why your house gets dry throughout the winter. You can avoid that problem altogether with a whole-house humidifier.

2. Set Up Grow Lights

Setting up grow lights is arguably the biggest hurdle when it comes to growing tropical plants indoors. It’s all too easy to burn tropical plants when you put the grow lights too close to them. If the leaves appear yellow, that means you burned them with your grow lights. In that case, you can simply move the light or the plant to avoid burns.

You need to adjust your lights or install more if you notice the plants start to grow in an odd direction. This can indicate that the plant is desperately searching for sunlight. Full spectrum grow lights provide the best results when it comes to tropical plants.

They utilize both blue and green light, which indoor tropical plants crave. How many lights you need depends on how big of a space you must cover. An average of 40 watts per square feet of space with tropical plants is ideal. This takes some trial and error, so watch your plants closely, as you may only need 20 watts per square foot.

3. Water Them Consistently

Tropical plants crave water more than the average plant. They are native to areas with high humidity and lots of rain. Ideally, you should water your tropical plants twice a week, but it depends on your watering habits.

For example, overwatering your tropical plants may leave them damp for days. Check the top 2” of soil in each tropical plant at your home. Water the plant if the top layer is dry, and wait until later or the next day if it’s damp.

4. Pick The Right Soil

Tropical houseplants don’t always do well with standard potting soil. Instead, you should look for potting mixes that include perlite and peat moss. Perlite can help boost aeration and ensure healthy drainage.

Many tropical plants, such as philodendrons and monsteras, prefer chunkier soil. You can make a DIY tropical potting soil with some store-bought earth, perlite, peat moss, compost, and soybean meal. Peat moss can significantly help your tropical plants retain moisture.

Coco coir and orchid bark are also ideal ingredients for DIY homemade tropical potting mix. Orchid bark makes the soil quite chunky, and you can find bags of it for $5 to $20 depending on the size. Avoid clay soil, as it doesn’t provide the best drainage and aeration.

5. Protect Them From Pests

Pests can wreak havoc on indoor tropical plants, so you must get rid of them. Spider mites are among the worst pests, as they are hard to spot at first and they reproduce quickly. They especially love dry leaves, and that’s typically where you’ll find them.

That’s why you must mist your houseplants and keep them somewhat damp to keep spider mites away. However, it’s difficult to kill a spider mite infestation, and you may need to take several measures. You can kill spider mites if you soak the tropical plant in water, but you may also kill the plant.

Your best bet to avoid damage is to trim the leaves and treat your plants with peppermint oil and miticides. Don’t give up if one of your methods doesn’t work at first, as many people will tell you that it’s difficult to control spider mites.

6. Maintain A Consistent Temperature

Tropical plants hail from places with consistently warm and humid conditions. Your tropical houseplants will struggle to grow if you can’t recreate those conditions as closely as possible. Of course, you can’t mimic a tropical rainstorm at home, but you can maintain a consistent temperature.

Keep the temperature betwen 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 55 to 65 degrees at night. Never let the indoor temperature fall below 50 degrees or your tropical plants may go into shock. They won’t grow as usual or appear as you’d expect.

Plants in shock often look saggy, and the leaves may turn brown or yellow. This can happen due to extreme temperature changes, transplanting, and overwatering.

7. Fertilize Your Houseplants

Fertilizer is just as important as choosing the right soil and watering your indoor tropical plants. Look for fertilizers that feature magnesium and phosphorous, as many tropical plants crave them. You can even safely fertilize your plants once every 1-2 months.

Your best bet is to mix the fertilizer with water to increase the absorption rate. Keep in mind that you may not need to fertilize your tropical plants as often during the winter. Some people even wait until spring to fertilize their houseplants again.

How Long Should You Keep Grow Lights On For Tropical Plants?

Tropical houseplants require an average of 14 hours of light, but some need up to 16 hours. You can leave your grow lights on for as little as 12 hours in many cases. However, it’s important to look up how much sunlight each plant in your indoor garden needs.

Group plants together that require the same amount of sunlight, so you can keep them under the same lights. The last thing you want to do is accidentally scorch a nearby non-tropical plant that only requires partial sunlight. Even some tropical plants, like pothos, don’t require direct sunlight.

In that case, you may want to put your pothos slightly further away from your grow lights. Darkness is just as important as artificial sunlight, so you shouldn’t leave grow lights on all day and night. Tropical plants often start to flower overnight in the darkness after a day with lots of sunlight and humidity.

How Long Do Tropical Plants Live Indoors?

Tropical plants typically live up to 5 years indoors, but they can die in as little as 2 years. However, your tropical houseplants can easily last up to 25-30 years or more depending on the type and growing conditions. Golden pothos and philodendrons can last for decades if you provide consistent sunlight, water, heat, and humidity.

That’s why it’s important to keep the soil damp, maintain a consistent grow light schedule, and change the soil consistently. Ideally, you should repot your tropical houseplants or change and add soil every 1-2 years. You must add more soil or change the pot once per year if the plant grows quickly.

That is quite common for plants such as African violets, which have fast growth patterns. Closely watch your tropical houseplants each day and keep track of your watering schedule for the best results.

Summing It Up

Maintain a humidity level between 60% and 80% to keep your indoor tropical plants healthy. You must also make sure the top 2” of soil stays damp to ensure healthy growth. Tropical houseplants also crave phosphorous, magnesium, and iron for ideal growth. Try to give your indoor tropical plants 12 to 16 hours of light each day for the best results.

Related Guides:

Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

More by Nick Durante