Are you looking to add a touch of tropical beauty to your home or garden but know nothing about plants?
Tropical plants can have a reputation of being fussy, hard to maintain, or not suitable as indoor plants.
Luckily, here you’ll find everything you need to know about the best tropical plants that you can have as houseplants.
In this handy guide, we’ll highlight the 10 best tropical plants for beginners, and tell you how to care for them to ensure you have a lush tropical garden inside or out in no time at all!
Table of Contents
1. Bird Of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
By far one of the most iconic flowering plants is the popular Bird of Paradise.
This plant produces large, wide, waxy green leaves that grow up to 18 inches long and because of that, it can often be confused with the banana plant.
They’re best known for their distinctive flowers which protrude from tall stems and vary in color from bright orange to purple and blue accents.
They’re a great tropical plant that grows quickly and easily with little care and can be grown indoors or outdoors in warmer climates that do not get frost in the winter months.
The soil around your Bird of Paradise should be kept moist throughout the year.
Avoid overwatering and allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out before rewatering. If overwatered, the leaves will turn crunchy and brown in color.
They thrive in tropical environments with warm humid conditions.
If planting indoors, keep in an area that maintains around 60% humidity.
Read more here about humidity and how it can benefit your indoor plants.
2. Dwarf Banana Plant (Dwarf Cavendish banana)
Other names: Dwarf Musa, Cavendish.
This tropical native grows in abundance providing bright green, wide waxy leaves that grow quickly every week or so, if in the right temperature conditions.
However, these plants are not suitable for colder winter climates.
Therefore, they grow well in the Southern parts of the US such as Florida and Arizona.
If you’re looking to grow them indoors, make sure you keep them in large pots as they grow quickly.
You’ll likely need to re-pot them every 12 months. You’ll need to water them often and provide them with a good liquid fertilizer once a week.
Here’s an easy guide to repotting indoor plants if you want to know more about how and when you should do it.
For best-growing results, water regularly during the summer months – every day if possible, and cut back on watering drastically during the cooler months to avoid root rot.
3. Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
Other names: Golden cane palm, Areca palm, Yellow palm, Butterfly palm.
No tropical garden is complete without a palm, and this tall attractive palm clumps and grows much like the appearance of bamboo.
Native to Madagascar, Areca Palms have smooth golden trunks that grow upwards and sprout large bright green or yellowish palm fronds.
The Areca Palm is quite unfussy and grows well in various conditions from full sun to partial shade.
However, if exposed to extreme full sun in very hot arid climates, the roots may go brown or burn.
They prefer moist soil throughout the year. When watering, allow the top 2 inches to dry before rewatering.
If in a pot, ensure your pot is well-drained and use an evaporation tray underneath the pot.
Areca palm also loves humidity, so mist the leaves once every few days. Here’s a helpful guide on misting indoor plants.
4. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Other names: Zanzibar Plant, Zanzibar Gem, Zuzu Plant.
Native to Eastern Africa, ZZ Plant is a low-maintenance houseplant that gives any space a lovely tropical vibe and is very easy to grow indoors.
As tropical plants, Zamioculcas has rhizomes, a type of root that stores water for the plant to use later.
This means that they can literally go for months without water.
Although they don’t require regular watering, they grow best when the soil is slightly moist to touch.
ZZ plants can grow just about anywhere, from direct sun to full shade, although they thrive in bright-indirect sunlight locations.
They require little watering and are low-maintenance, making them a great addition to any room in your house if you’re a beginner plant owner.
All parts of this plant are toxic to humans and pets. Also, this plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which cats are sensitive to if ingested.
5. Blue Rain Bromeliad (Aechmea)
As a relative of the pineapple species, the Blue Rain Bromeliad is a beautiful and hardy exotic flowering plant that is native to Brazil.
Growing up to 3ft tall (1 meter), they have long palm-like fronds that grow outwards from a central stem, creating a well for catching water in the middle.
Their most defining feature is their flower, which grows once from the well of the plant and is a luscious fusion of colors.
The tropical flower features striking purple and white petals that grow in multiple directions from a vibrant pink stalk.
The flower lasts around 6 weeks then dies off and the plant will produce ‘pups’ which can be removed from the mother plant and repotted.
What’s interesting about Blue Rain is that it gets its nutrients from the foliage rather than the soil.
This means that you should fill the well (the center of the plant, where the flower comes from) with water, rather than focus on watering the soil.
Fill a quarter of the well with water (if you fill it completely, it will rot), the plant will draw from the water as required. In cooler months keep the well dry and water around the roots only to prevent rot.
Also, Blue Rain loves humidity, so misting with room-temperature soft water is highly advised.
You can refer to this detailed article about misting indoor plants if you’re interested.
6. Orchid (Orchidaceae)
One of the most common tropical flowering plants with over 28,000 species, orchids are known for their distinctive and fragrant flower that grows in a wide variety of forms and colors.
Orchid is one of my all-time favorite houseplants and I actually own 6 of them, 4 of which I have received as a gift!
When in doubt, I definitely recommend orchids as the perfect classy gift for a loved one.
Orchids are very hardy plants and grow flowers year-round, replacing an old stem with a new flower and stem over time.
They have thick, rounded waxy leaves that are quite beautiful and artistic looking in the way they grow.
They require little watering and care and grow in a wide variety of lighting making them an ideal addition to any home.
The normal color of orchid roots is fresh green. You know your orchid needs watering when the roots become pale in color and appear more white than green.
A good old trick with watering orchids is to place an ice cube over the soil once a week.
Orchids need to stay in clear pots, so the sunlight can penetrate the roots and aid in photosynthesis, which helps the orchid grow.
Temperature-wise, orchids are classified as either cool-growing, intermediate-growing or warm-growing orchids, depending on their temperature requirements. Most of them tolerate temperatures between 50 and 80ºF (10 to 27ºC).
7. Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
Other names: Paradise palm, Thatch palm, Palm court palm.
The Kentia Palm is native to Lord Howe Island, located off Australia’s eastern coast in the South Pacific.
They grow relatively slow but can reach up to a whopping 32 ft (10 meters) in height and 20 ft (6 meters) in width, with large fibrous trunks that grow large green palm fronds upwards.
They grow in various soil types and are fairly drought resistant, meaning they’re pretty easy to care for and maintain.
Kentia palms produce a large white flower and dull orange berries that bunch and hang from just beneath the line of palm fronds which are toxic to animals and humans if ingested.
8. Ti Plant (Cordyline fruticosa)
A hardy tropical plant that thrives both indoors and outdoors, the Ti Plant produces long thin spear-like leaves that often feature striking colors, from deep green, pink, and purple, to white around the edges.
In early summer, some species will bloom and produce small orange berries that last around 4-6 weeks.
The flowers are often sweet-smelling and are lavender, white, or pinkish in color.
The leaves, flowers, and berries produce saponins which protect the plant from fungi, insects, and microbes, however, the plant is toxic to pets or humans if ingested.
9. Painter's-palette (Anthurium andraeanum)
Other names: Flamingo flower.
This common houseplant is great for growing in cooler areas of the US.
The Flamingo Flower is best known for its striking pinkish-red waxy leaf that grows a brilliant white flower from its center that resembles a flamingo.
The flower lasts around 2-3 months and regenerates year-round when the plant is in its ideal climate.
Be warned that beauty often comes at a price, as the flower and leaf are highly toxic due to insoluble calcium oxalates that are harmful to animals and humans, causing a burning sensation and blisters in the mouth if ingested.
Grows well in indirect light, if grown in low light (shaded) levels, it will grow much slower and will flower less regularly. Avoid planting in direct sun as it will burn the leaves.
10. Umbrella Plant (Schefflera actinophylla)
Other names: Schefflera.
The Umbrella Plant makes a wonderful addition to any home or office due to the long shiny leaves that droop from a central stalk and resemble an umbrella.
They are hardy plants that do best when grown outdoors in bright, indirect light.
They will thrive in the right outdoor climate and can grow up to 3 feet (1 meter) per year.
Outdoor plants will often produce long pinkish-red tentacle-like flowers that hang from below the leaf line.
Indoors, they can tolerate direct light, but medium to low light usually makes them grow more slowly and become leggier.
Be cautious as these plants, including the flowers, are mildly toxic to humans and animals and may irritate the skin.