Caring for tropical plants

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cactus dish
Many tropical plants are easy to grow and take very little effort when it comes to care.
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If caring for pets is too difficult, try tropical plants instead of puppies

Tropical plants—they’re a lot easier to maintain than dogs. A tropical plant never soils your rug, unless you knock over its pot and spill the soil. It never rips down your curtains, unless it’s a climber, long left untrimmed. 

A tropical plant has some of the same needs as a pet. It wants food and water. It wants light and air. But you’ll never hear it growl—or whine to go outdoors. Best of all, caring for tropical plants brings you the treats, for most tropical plants love you back by blooming, not drooling.

Some folks who think nothing of undertaking planting chores designed to yield baskets full of too many eggplants tremble at the thought of caring for tropical plants. There seems to be a prevailing assumption that caring for tropical plants is difficult. It’s perceived as an activity fraught with intricate machinations related to monitoring the intensity of ambient lighting and rigidly controlling every drop of moisture. Not so.

In fact, the aforementioned terms are gobbledygook that can be translated into the basic simplicities of caring for tropical plants: providing water and providing light. The timid are reluctant to undertake any responsibility for caring for tropical plants—lovelies they think are high-maintenance divas of the dirt. Converts go wild. Some build orchid greenhouses and attend tropical plant seminars.

Handy gizmos make growing tropical plants easy

The idea of caring for tropical plants becomes less intimidating when one learns how much help is available to do the job. There is an immense variety of plants available and an entire spectrum of accessories that make their upkeep easy. There are plants for every environment, living space and climate.

There are flowering vines, tropical herbs, flowers for watergardens and fruit trees that require little more than sun and water. Many do nicely in clay pots, plastic pots, hanging baskets or decorative containers. And you can forego lugging around a watering can by leaving the watering chores to super-sized watering globes that provide 24 ounces of water, as needed by the plant.

Exotic plants such as orchids thrive with less help from you when they are placed above a humidity tray that enables evaporating moisture to waft upwards and refresh the plants. Some who enjoy caring for tropical plants also enjoy placing their favorites on a growing table with wheels. The portability enables the flower-laden cart to be rolled nearer the action when guests are present for a poolside party or a summertime dinner on the patio.

There also are many low-maintenance tropical plants
There are many tropical plants that do best when largely ignored. Cactus and succulents, for instance, are ideal for growing in containers. They need no misting, for their natural habitat is dry and hot. Cactus and succulents are perfect for people who have little time for caring for tropical plants.

Cactus plants are spiny and usually leafless. Succulents—also known as “fat plants”—have leaves that are smooth, fleshy and retain water. Both cacti and succulents are interesting to look at and come in many shapes. They subsist on minimal amounts of water, applied at lengthy intervals. Go on vacation with no worries if you are caring for tropical plants that are cacti or succulents.

Most varieties will get along just fine should you need to enforce an absence of several weeks or more. Growing guidelines for your specific plants are easy to access online or at the library. Several plants of varying shapes can be attractively clustered in a wide, shallow container—a dish garden that can be dressed up with a layer of colorful pebbles or ceramic figurines. You may come home to a dish full of spectacular blooms if you consider caring for tropical plants such as those listed here.

• Red Orchid Cactus (Epiphyllum akermannii)
• Night Blooming Cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)
• Starfish Flower (Stapelia gigantean)
• Rose Cactus (Pereskia Grandiflora)
• Coral Bells (Kalanchoe uniflora)
• Strawberry Splash (Epiphyllum)

Some plants provide a sideshow

Numerous tropical plants come with an added attraction—the ability to eat bugs. Carnivorous plants provide a gruesome allure to those caring for tropical plants who are fascinated with nature at its most basic level.

The best known trio of insect-eating plants is a carnivorous combo including the Pitcher Plant, the Sundew and the Butterwort. All are small bog plants whose pots can be arranged side by side in a common container filled with water. The plants emit scents and have sticky or slippery surfaces that attract prey.

But don’t worry. Science has determined these pretty little carnivores are not interested in eating pets, or humans—especially kindly humans who are dedicated to caring for tropical plants.

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