If you aren’t lucky enough to live close to a rainforest, never fear. You can create a tiny rainforest in your very own home with these tropical house plants.
What is the trendiest home accessory right now? Plants. Loads and loads of them. Today’s crop of plant-lovers adores indoor greenery not just for its beauty, but for its power to improve our physical and mental wellbeing. House plants are sprouting up all over Instagram, with influencers like @IPlantEven, @houseplantjournal, @houseplantclub, and @hiltoncarter snaring followings in the tens to hundreds of thousands. The most revered species of house plants have inspired tattoos, fashion, and even earned their own days of the week. And as if that weren’t enough, “Greenery” was named the 2017 Pantone color of the year.
It doesn’t surprise us a bit that some of today’s more popular house plants hail from the rainforest. Read on to learn more fun facts about these fascinating species, and how to help them survive—both in your home and in theirs.
1. Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
Declared the “it” plant of 2016 by the New York Times, the fiddle-leaf fig may be the first member of the plant kingdom to achieve true superstar status. And this favorite ficus shows no signs of losing popularity anytime soon—its deep-green, violin-shaped leaves dominate the backdrops of catalogues, storefronts, Instagram, Pinterest, and more. The fiddle-leaf has its roots in the tropical rainforests of West Africa.
Caring for your fiddle-leaf fig
As a native of the tropics, this beauty thrives in warm, wet conditions. Keep your fiddle-leaf fig happy by giving it plenty of light, and watering it when the soil feels dry to the touch.
2. Monstera deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa is perhaps the most likely to supplant the fiddle-leaf fig in the plant popularity contest. It is often called by its scientific name these days, perhaps because its common name—“swiss cheese plant”—doesn’t do justice to this majestic cacophony of glossy, exotically shaped leaves. The distinctive shape of the Monstera’s leaves has become a wildly popular design motif, so if you haven’t already noticed it, you will soon. Scientists named the plant for its size (it can grow to over 30 feet tall in the wild, with leaves more than two feet wide) and its delicious fruit. Monstera-lovers can get their fix every #MonsteraMonday on Instagram.
Caring for your Monstera
Monsteras are native to tropical forests from southern Mexico to Panama, so they love a warm, humid environment and indirect sunlight. Water moderately about once a week.
3. Staghorn fern (Platycerium superbum)
Somewhat of a cult favorite, the staghorn fern is not your typical house plant. Dominated by layers of dendritically-branching leaves that resemble the horns of a stag (hence the name), this fern is also an “epiphyte,” meaning it grows not in soil, but on top of other plants. As a house plant, the staghorn fern is typically mounted vertically on a piece of wood. A green trophy like this is sure to be a conversation piece.
Caring for your staghorn fern
The staghorn fern is native to rainforests of Australia and thrives in bright, yet indirect sunlight. It should be watered intermittently by both misting and soaking.
4. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
If you are a plant-lover who is cursed with a thumb-of-death, this may well be your gateway plant. With its sturdy, strikingly striped leaves, the snake plant is highly resistant to drought and low light. It is also an excellent air purifier—according to a NASA study, snake plants are efficient at eliminating significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from indoor air. Thanks to its narrow, pointed leaves, it is also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue.” This bewitching plant is celebrated on Instagram every #SansevieriaSunday.
Caring for your snake plant
Although it is native of tropical West Africa, Sansevieria trifasciata demands surprisingly little water. Every 2-6 weeks should do it, depending on the humidity and light conditions. Avoid direct sunlight in favor of medium to low-light.
5. Air Plant (Tillandsia)
The air plant is another fun, easy option for even the plant-care-impaired. Air plants are epiphytes; they typically grow atop tree limbs in the wild. Their freedom from soil opens up myriad decorative possibilities for this pint-sized plant. Air plants belong to the staggeringly diverse Bromeliaceae family of plants.
Caring for your air plant
Tillandsias like bright, filtered light. If your indoor air is dry, you’ll need to submerge the plant in water for 2-3 hours at least every two weeks. Check out the time-lapse video above to see what happens to your air plant when you do. It’s fascinating!
6. Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)
Don’t be put off by its name—the only thing the rattlesnake plant will strike is your fancy. This beauty has unique foliage: the long, slender leaves are light green with dark spots on the top side and deep purple on the underside.
Caring for your Rattlesnake Plant
A native of tropical Brazil, the rattlesnake plant thrives in a moist, warm environment. Bright, indirect sunlight is best. See more on rattlesnake plant care.
7. Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides)
With leaves like these, who needs flowers? The coleus plant has some of the most dramatically beautiful and diverse foliage in the house plant world. Their pink-to-burgundy coloration yields a perennial splash of color. Coleus was something of a 19th-century “it” plant, as a wave of coleus fever spread through Victorian gardens.
Caring for your coleus
Coleus plants are native to tropical areas of Southeast Asia, India, Africa and Australia. They come in many varieties, most of which do best in partial shade with moist, but not wet, soil conditions.
Love these plants?
If you love these plants, help us protect their habitat in the wild. Rainforests are home to 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, which means the next “it” plant is probably there right now, just waiting to be discovered. The Rainforest Alliance works hard to protect rainforests and the biodiversity within through the sustainable management of standing forests in tropical climates, the restoration of degraded land surrounding forests, and the protection of waterways. Join the Rainforest Alliance today.
A Note About Pets
If you have pets, please be sure to consult the ASPCA list of toxic plants before you bring any plant into your home.