Written By: Mary Clark Schnibben
For as long as I can remember Ive been fascinated by tropical flowers and plants. This love affair started with African violets (Saintpaulia). My search for easier-to-grow tropical flowers eventually morphed into colorful windowsill collections of Phalaenopsis (or Moth Orchid). Phalaenopsis isnt as hard to grow as its fussier cousins: it prefers a spot near a window but not in direct sunlight as well as moderate amount of water and a good well-drained potting soil. There are many different cultivars of this graceful orchid, resulting in a rainbow of pinks, purples, yellows and white.
Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) is a climbing vine that also works well in temperate as well as tropical climates. The juice from its fruit is used in making delicious tropical drinks and the large purple-blue flowers, which some say represent the crucifixion of Christ, are used in calming herbal teas. Passionflower requires average to full sun in a loamy well-drained soil, with moderate watering and a trellis to climb.
Canna (genus Cannaceae) plants are one of the most striking additions to a home landscape, with their tall leafy foliage topped with colorful flowers in vibrant shades of red, orange, peach and yellow. They are relatively easy to grow from their rhizomes; they do require plenty of sunlight and shelter from wind but are otherwise temperate-hardy. In colder climates, either mulch heavily or, where the ground freezes deeply, dig up and store the rhizomes in a cool dark place until the following spring.
Because many of these are native to jungles where there is plenty of shade from overhead trees, as a rule, dont put tropical flowers, other than cannas and similar plants, in full sun. Phalaenopsis prefers dappled shade and moderate temperatures; its blossoms will fade away faster in dry heat.
One caveat is your pet. Most plants, including tropical flowering plants, can be deadly to a curious cat or dog, so be sure to place them where they wont be nibbled on by Fluffy or Fido.