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Back to My Roots

Trendy tropicals: Enrich your space with something bold

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Back to My Roots

A fiddle leaf fig plant. 

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Tropical plants are enticing if you love large foliage like me. They grow to be massive and usually aren't too much of a hassle, making them excellent plants to invest in for any space.

I've been filling my space with them since last summer and I still can't get enough. Although you probably can't replicate a tropical climate in your Seattle space, these plants can still thrive if given the right conditions and a whole lot of love.

Monstera deliciosa

When I first started getting into houseplants, my eyes were drawn to the monstera deliciosa. This beast of a plant produces massive heart-shaped green leaves with fenestrations (natural leaf holes) when they are more mature. This plant grows quickly, is low light tolerant, isn’t needy of water, and is stunning to decorate with. 

I purchased my monstera deliciosa last June from my local Home Depot in a 10-inch pot for $20. Compared to local plant shops in Seattle, this price is a steal.

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A monstera deliciosa plant. 

This plant puts out new leaves continuously, slowing in the winter months and picking up during the growing season. Even with the minimal light I give this plant, about six feet away from a north facing window in my dorm room, it thrives.  

The monstera deliciosa is also popular because of how easy it is to propagate from leaf cuttings. You can cut below the plant node, stick it in water or soil, and it should sprout roots and begin growing. I’ve been too afraid to propagate my own monstera yet, but I did purchase a leaf cutting from Cultivate Propagate this winter, and it has put out long roots and started growing another leaf. 

Fiddle leaf fig

Known for their large pear-shaped leaves, these plants are popular in homes as long-term plants. This plant loves sunlight; the more light you can give them, the better. They can tolerate direct sunlight if they’re acclimated to it over time. Fiddle leaf figs also prefer to dry out completely between watering. 

I potted my fiddle leaf fig in a mixture of succulent and indoor potting soil, so the soil is very airy. To test when I need to water my fig, I pick up the pot to check its weight; if it’s light, then I know to water it. 

However, if you tend to overwater, be cautious about purchasing this plant. Fiddle leaf figs are prone to oedema (also spelled edema), which is a condition where the plant roots take up water faster than the plant can use it, causing the cells to burst in the leaves. This causes rust-colored spots on the leaves to develop. On my fiddle leaf fig, these spots have faded overtime and the plant has continued to grow. If you water your plants at the end of the day or during the night, they can be more susceptible to oedema because the water is not able to evaporate into the air and the soil is unable to dry out. 

I purchased my fiddle leaf fig in a 10-inch pot from my local Lowe’s in the clearance section for $10 last June. The non-clearance Fiddle leaf figs were selling for about $30 at this time. The Fiddle leaf fig I purchased had been damaged at the store, with most of its roots torn out of the soil. It looked like it could potentially be saved, so I purchased it, repotted it into dry soil, and nursed it back to health. 

These plants have a stigma of being finicky, but with proper care they are pretty easy plants to keep happy. 

Bird of paradise

My newest trendy tropical is a white bird of paradise, meaning if it blooms — though it rarely does indoors — the bird shaped flower it produces is white. This plant has been on my list since last summer, but I thought I should wait on it. When visiting home before everything shut down, I picked up a bird of paradise from my local Home Depot for $30. My 10-inch pot has two birds of paradise in them and both plants were producing new leaves at the time of purchase.

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A bird of paradise plant. 

It’s known for its massive foliage — the leaves are as long as my forearm and oval shaped. The only downside to the stunning leaves is that they tear easily if the plant is moved around a lot or exposed to strong wind. It’s kind of inevitable for the leaves to tear, and this is something I’ve been trying to come to terms with.

These plants love bright light like the fiddle leaf fig and also prefer to dry out completely in between watering. I am still trying to figure out the best watering schedule for them and have mostly been winging it. So far, the plant doesn’t seem too needy. 

Something essential that I’ve been trying to remember to do is dust off their leaves. Because each leaf has so much surface area, it can collect dust quite easily, which can prevent the plant from photosynthesizing as well. I also do this with my fiddle leaf fig and my monstera deliciosa.

If you’re in the market for some nice tropicals without breaking the bank, I recommend checking out some big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot and looking at their clearance sections. If you don’t mind getting a smaller tropical and growing it for a while, check out local plant shops and nurseries. 

Reach writer Iseabel Nance at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @iseabel

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