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Bring home the Tropicals

SIU_CactusTropical plants are a wonderful aesthetic for any indoor space, they provide bursts of colour and texture to your home. Some tropical plants even help to cleanse the air of pollutants!

It is important to consider the light conditions of your home regarding intensity, quality and duration. Will the plants be near south facing windows or in dark areas? The light conditions in the space will help you to determine what plants will grow successfully in that area.

Below are some tips for growing some of the more popular tropicals, including orchids. Download our printable information sheets so you have all the info easily at hand.

Cactus belongs to a specific family of plants but the species within that family can come from very different habitats. From dry deserts to mountain ranges, cacti are versatile plants. Succulents is a non-scientific term and basically can refer to any plants with fleshy parts that are adapted to store moisture in times of drought.

Watering & Fertilizing

While the plants are in a growth period they will need more water. Plants should be watered once a week, giving the soil a good soaking so water drains out of the bottom. Let the soil dry out completely before watering again. During the growing season a balanced fertilizer can be used but diluted to 1/4 strength. While the plants go into dormancy they will use less water and require no fertilizer. Extend the time between waterings. Pay attention to the plant and its soil to determine if it needs more or less water.

Growth Periods

For most cactus and succulents the growth period is from spring to fall. During this time the plant will put effort into new growth and maybe even flowering. After fall the plant will go into a dormancy period where it will grow a little or not even at all.


Most cacti and succulents like bright light but not all can tolerate intense direct sunlight especially with hot temperatures. Too much light: if the plant is looking faded out it may be receiving too much light. If your plant is moved suddenly into very bright sunlight conditions, or if the weather suddenly turns hot with abundant sunshine, your plant can scorch. This can happen rapidly and can scar the plant for the rest of its life.

Too little light: If your plant is receiving too little light, it might appear to really reach for the light source. Your plant will suffer if left in such light conditions for very long. When transitioning such a plant to stronger light, keep in mind that it will be especially prone to scorching, so make the transition slowly


These are some common pests that usually bother cacti and succulents.

  • Mealy Bugs
  • Spider mites
  • Scale
  • Fungus gnats

Download our printable Cacti & Succulents PDF

Download Cacti PDF

Though Bonsai trees are a little more delicate compared to the average indoor plant, a few basic rules should enable anyone to take care of its tree properly. Plants that are commonly grown as bonsai include pine, juniper, cypress, maple, fig, and schefflera.

Bonsai have been grown for many centuries by following some basic and simple growing procedures. Most important are: watering, fertilization and choosing the right position to place it.


Soil should be kept moist, not wet. Smaller pots require more frequent watering. To water, soak pots thoroughly in a pan, tub or sink, then let drain. While soaking, rinse the foliage to clean the leaves. Plants with or sending out new leaves require more water than those resting. In our dry Calgary climate, it is recommended to check the soil daily, to see if watering is required.

Bonsais may need more humidity than is offered in this climate. They can be placed on pebble trays filled with water to increase the moisture available to the plant. As the water evaporates that plant will receive that moisture. Be sure to replenish water as it evaporates. They should not be placed near heat vents which is a drying heat and will dry them out.


Filtered (shaded) natural light is necessary for growing bonsai. Avoid direct sunlight, as it may prove too intense for most varieties of bonsai.


As Bonsai trees are generally placed in small pots regular fertilization is required in order to replenish nutrients that are essential to the tree. Using a special ‘Bonsai fertilizer’ can be convenient, but any fertilizer will do (be careful not to use too much though). Follow the instructions as stated on the fertilizer’s packaging regarding quantity and timing.


Most bonsai prefer indoor temperatures between 15 – 25 ºC. Some varieties of bonsai will benefit from experiencing cooler temperatures in the fall, for a period of 8 – 10 weeks. During this period, the temperature can range between 10 – 15 ºC. These varieties include pine, juniper, cypress and maple.

For more details on growing Bonsai, please download our printable PDF.

Download Bonsai PDF

Orchids are beautiful plants that can be easily be grown at home simply by following a few guidelines. Orchids are less trouble than many other plants if their conditions are as close as possible to those in their natural home.

Careful choice of the varieties to grow is the first requirement. It is difficult to keep a type that needs steamy jungle conditions in your living room. Even among the plants recommended there is considerable variation in needs and these individual quirks are explained with the plant descriptions. There are basic requirements common to all orchids—heat, humidity and light. The most important factor is light.

The intensity of light that orchid plants receive in the wild varies widely from the Amazon forest to the Colombian Cordilleras. But all tropical and subtropical regions have at least 10 – 14 hours of daylight. If the plants can get at least ten hours of light daily—if necessary boosting natural light with artificial—this will go along way towards achieving good growing conditions. Exposure to light for more than 16 hours a day may prevent orchids flowering. Also, except in winter in cool temperate regions, direct sunlight is too overpowering for most orchids.


The Phalaenopsis Orchid likes filtered sunlight. They do well in or directly adjacent to an east window. There should be no curtains on the windows or trees outside to reduce the light levels. A second location is in a south window that has a lace curtain or a tree outside to reduce the light levels to an indirect level.

Watering & Fertilizing

Orchids like to have their roots damp, but not wet. In the summer that means watering about twice a week and in the winter, during periods of lower sunlight, about once a week. After purchasing your Phalaenopsis, in bloom you can regularly fertilize at about half strength (not more) with a general household plant food. As long as the tip of the spike is alive it will continue to produce flowers. After the tip has died, cut it back to a lower “node” on the stem, and a new spike will likely start.


Phalaenopsis like high humidity. Keep away from forced air heat vents. If you are concerned about humidity you can place the pot on a tray of wet gravel that is an inch or two deep. Add water as evaporation occurs. DO NOT let the pot or roots sit in water as this will cause rot.

Download our printable PDF about Orchids.

Download Orchid PDF

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