How to Grow Tropical Plants Indoors

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Ask This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook teaches a homeowner to get a tropical feel from indoor house plants.

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Time: 2-3 hours

Cost: $400-500

Skill Level: Easy

Watering can

Shopping List:
Self-watering pot
Potting soil
Sphagnum Moss (Peat moss)
Orchid pot
See Below for Plant List

1. At the garden center, look for low-light tropical plants which naturally grow well without an abundance of sunlight.
2. Just like a normal garden, layer plants with tall and short, different leaf sizes and shapes and mix in a nice variety of color.
3. When planting and placing plants, think about which plants should anchor the space. Go tall in back, shorter in front.
4. A self-watering pot is recommended for larger plants.
5. Place the base inside the self-watering pot. This will keep a reservoir of water at the bottom.
6. Connect the water gauge and filler tube.
7. Place a small bag of stone on top of the base and spread it out evenly.
8. Remove plants from plastic nursery pot and tease out the roots.
9. Place a few handfuls of potting soil to cover the base and the rock.
10. Place the plant inside the pot. The base of the plant should be even with the top of the pot. Fill in soil evenly around the plant. Compact the soil.
11. For the first few months, be sure to water the plant with a watering can at the soil. This will help develop the root system. After a few months, the reservoir can be used.
12. To give height to smaller plants, use a table and place three or four plants on it.
13. If potting an orchid, do not pot when it’s in bloom. Remove it from the plastic pot and remove as much of the old sphagnum moss as you can.
14. Use an orchid pot for the orchid. It has holes it and it provides a lot of air circulation for the roots.
15. Pack in new sphagnum moss into the pot, all the way around the orchid.
16. Be sure to not overwater an orchid. Let the moss get crunchy and dry before giving it another good soaking at the faucet. When it gets dry again, repeat.
17. Tropical plants like high humidity. To recreate the effect, use a humidifier nearby to keep the air moist.
18. Keep the plants moist as well. Use a spray bottle to give the plants some droplets of water once or twice a day. Just be sure not to spray water onto the orchid flower.


Roger planted several tropical houseplants that are well-suited for low light environments including:
Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron monster)
Flamingo Flower (Anthurium)
Silver Vase Bromeliad (Aechemea fasciata)
Bromeliad (Neoregelia Tricolor)
Mother Fern (Asplenium bulbiferum)
Rex Begonia (Rex begonia ‘Red Kiss’)
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
Air Plant (Tillandsia)

The self-watering containers that Roger used are manufactured by Lechuza [

Special assistance with this project was provided by Carrie Kelly and Mahoney’s Garden Centers [

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25 thoughts on “How to Grow Tropical Plants Indoors”

  1. You do NOT want to repot the orchids back in spagnum moss. Orchid mix is usually 1/3 spagnum moss, 1/3 coarse bark and 1/3 perlite. If u plant in spagnum moss the plant will die in abt a year. They grow on trees so they need a very airy mixture. Moss is a bog plant and holds too much moisture for an orchid.

  2. Another fun tropical plant to grow is the TickleMe Plant. This is a real plant that closes its leaves when you Tickle it! Find the kits on amazon..Crazy but true

  3. I'm confused about the compass. It's probably an editing error but it shows north to the right of him so that first window is a West facing window. I might be missing something. 🙂

  4. the palm wasnt a kentia, im not 100% sure what time of palm it is, but it is not Kentia and the "philodendron" is a monstera….. jus sayin

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