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Tropical Plant Care

March 20, 2019
Written by Aaron

Having a tropical plant in your home is like creating a tiny little oasis of lush greenery that’s with you no matter what life throws at you. Especially after a chilly winter like the one we’ve had, it’s easy to see the appeal of having a leafy green friend inside to help us mentally escape the frostbite-inducing temperatures outside. It’s no wonder how having these green acquaintances in our homes has become so popular - and with your own, you’ll have a little bit of homegrown happiness in your everyday life.

Tropical plants don’t have to be difficult to care for, even though they are so far away from their balmy and sunny homes! We have all the tips to make sure that your new tropical friend is happy, healthy, and ready to flourish in your home. Here’s how to have a tropical getaway inside, no matter how green your thumb is (or isn’t).

How To Take Care of Tropical Plants

The secret to keeping a plant healthy - and alive - is to picture their homeland, and do what you can to replicate those conditions. Your plants might have grown up in a greenhouse but their species has spent a long time adapting to their native territory. Giving them an environment that meets their needs will reduce the work and fussing you have to put in to keep your plant looking fabulous.

For example, while you might try to make sure that a cactus or succulent is kept dry and sunny, your tropicals are going to love some moisture and humidity. In the tropical landscapes most of them come from, water is not in short supply, and while they enjoy some sunlight, many times they’re used to sharing the sun with so many plants and in such high humidity that they prefer indirect or partial light. No plant likes soggy roots, but you’ll generally be watering tropicals regularly and trying to keep the humidity at a nice level - usually not much of a struggle in our neighbourhood of Southern Ontario.

Each tropical plant will have its own care requirements that are unique to that plant so checking the tag or doing a quick search is the best way to make sure that you care is specific to its needs. That said, there are a few rules of thumb that you can stick to:

Watering Tropical Plants

The right amount of moisture can be tricky when you can’t just ask your plant if it’s thirsty! Generally, waiting until your plant is wilting is stressful for your cute leafy friend and should be avoided, so you can test the soil to anticipate when they’ll need a drink. Nobody likes soggy soil and roots, but you won’t want to dry out - tropical plants are a little like Goldilocks in that respect. Too much water will stifle the roots and prevent them from getting crucial oxygen, but too little will leave them parched. There are two great ways to check the moisture of your plant to tell you when to water to keep that level just right:

  • Poke your finger into the soil to feel the moisture. This method is so direct you can’t go wrong! Poke a finger into the soil and stop when you feel moisture. Water your plant when you poke the soil and it’s dry up to your first knuckle.
  • Go by weight. Water weighs a lot, and your dry container will be a whole lot lighter than a well-watered one. Get used to how much your plant weighs when thirsty and quenched and use this as a guide, too. You can even use both methods at the same time for extra confidence.

More Watering Tips:  Some tropicals are quite sensitive, and the salts and minerals dissolved in our tap water can burn their roots, even if they’re safe for us to drink. When you water, keep going until water pours out the drainage holes at the bottom of the container, flushing out any leftover salts from last time you watered. You can even choose to use distilled water to avoid build-up in the soil. When you’re watering use a dish under the plant to catch what flows from the bottom, or for even less mess, relocate your plant to the sink or bathtub to water them, let them drain for a few minutes, and put them back.

Light for Tropical Plants

Each plant from different areas of the world might have different requirements, so lighting isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Many tropicals love to soak up the sun, but aren’t used to getting too many direct rays and might be prone to getting sunburns. Check the tag on your plant to get an idea of its needs and find a spot in your home that suits them - while plants don’t like being moved around too much, you can always relocate if you need to.

Your beautiful tropical can’t talk to you, but if you pay attention you can see signs of what it needs. Look out for pale or yellowing leaves, or a “stretching” plant that seems lanky - these are signs your tropical is craving a little bit more sunlight. Brown spots on the leaves, though, could be a sign of burning from too much direct light.

Fertilizing Tropicals

We want our plants to grow big and strong, and giving them the right fuel is certainly a way to do that. Fertilizer is an option to give your plant a little boost - especially during the growing season - to grow more lush and healthy. Be careful, though, as your plant’s roots are already in cramped quarters in a container, so only use half concentration doses, and only once or twice a year. Just a little goes a long way! Choose a fertilizer with close to equal numbers, like a 20-20-20 for a healthy mix to meet your plant’s needs.

Growing Tropicals - Moving Up in Size

With a happy and healthy plant, you’re sure to eventually need to give your plant a bigger home to let it stretch out its roots! When the plant looks “rootbound” or that almost all of the soil and space in the container is roots, it’s time to size up. You might notice visible roots at the top of the container, growing out the bottom, or that you need to water your plant more because it has less soil to hold on to water.

Sizing up is as easy as getting a larger container and repotting. It’s simple, but it can get messy. Here are some of our tips for sizing up for a healthy, growing tropical:

  • Choose a container only one or two sizes bigger. You might be tempted to go much larger but not only will the proportions of your chic living decoration be off, the excess soil will also hold too much moisture and might invite rot into your container.
  • Choose a container with good drainage. No matter the size, you’ll always want a spot for water to drain out the bottom. If you fall in love with a decorative pot without drainage, never fear! You can DIY by drilling holes yourself or cheat by planting your beautiful tropical in a container with drainage, and simply hiding that well-draining container inside your decorative one.
  • Buy potting soil suited to your tropical beauty. Buying tropical-focused soil will give you something with the drainage and nutrition your plant’s needs - and planting from a sterile bag instead of taking soil from outside can help to keep pests out of your home and away from your plant.

Tropicals are one of our favorite ways to embrace the trend of houseplants, and we can’t get enough of their rich green and glossy leaves. They’re perfectly suited to our cozy, temperature-controlled homes and can be easy to take care of when you know how to give them what they need and speak their language. Taking home a tropical is a great way to boost your mood at home with a chic and stylish living decoration that’s ready to impress for years to come.

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