The Tropics Inc. and Guide to The Easiest Indoor Plants

It’s no secret that I can’t keep a plant alive. It’s not a priority in my life and because of that I just don’t seem to care to remember. But the whole mentality changed when I decided to invest in a tree …

The Tropics My visit to

Thats right, I bought a tree. Not a plant, not a house tree. Like a proper tree that now lives in my living room. No, I can’t show you a picture of it yet because we have to wait til the spread in Domino comes out (september 3rd), but trust me that it is BIG (14′) and beautiful. There was a this big vertical space that I wanted to fill, and I wanted something sculptural. It took me a while to find the perfect tree. I went out to the valley and found some, but none that seemed worth the money. Then a friend told me about The Tropics in Hollywood and I dropped by and got just so excited about the possibilities – so many huge, old, exotic indoor plants ….

The Tropics Business card

They specialize in large, more exotic indoor plants. Not just fiddle leaf figs or money trees, but so many weird indoor plants that I had never seen before and that I didn’t know really existed. I will warn you, these larger trees are not cheap – most of these plants have been growing for a very long time (my tree is 30 years old) so they have to account for the care and maintenance of the plant. They range from $100 – well – $10K. Not for everyone, I know, but if you want to invest in a living sculpture in your house, this is the place to go in LA.

The Tropics Entry Area
The Tropics Inside 1

It’s a pretty inspiring space and they have lots of smaller plants that are more affordable. It’s this jungle of indoor plants that is so inspiring.

The Tropics inside

It’s a family owned/operated business on its second generation. Ryan, the son, was incredibly helpful and even texts me now and again to make sure my tree is doing ok. I wake up in the middle of the night terrified that my tree is going to die and I jump up to water it. The other day I realized that I hadn’t watered it in 3 days (it’s really hot right now, so that’s a lot of days) and I saw 1 leaf kinda shriveled and I freaked out. It’s worth it, though – that tree makes me VERY happy.

The Tropics Outdoor Area

The Tropics Desk

The Tropics Pots Collage

The Tropics with Ryan

Flowers Collage

So with the help/expertise of The Tropics team (thanks, Ryan!) we wrote up a little guide to the easiest to care for indoor plants/trees. You know I love a maiden hair fern but those things die within a week (although they are inexpensive). So we thought it would be a fresh exercise to talk about what plants we could actually keep alive and how to care for them. Here goes:

Flowers Collage Long Care Instructions:

Where to place: These will all thrive in good, bright, filtered light.

How often to water: Water about once every 4-5 days, to once a week, depending on the light. The rule is the more light the plant receives the more evaporation will occur. Also it is very important to water  slightly more frequently during the initial few weeks as it acclimated to its new environment. 

How to water: Water evenly around the topsoil until the water just begins to filter out through the bottom drainage holes. That way the plant thoroughly gets watered through the entire root system.

How much water to use: Use about a half to an entire gallon of water per watering period. It is very important to not let the plant ever dry out – so this might be every 2 days or every 4 days depending on 

Cleaning: The plant should be feather dusted every week or two to keep it clean and free from dust or other bacteria. 

Special extra thanks to Ryan from The Tropics Inc  for helping us with all the information and being so helpful. If any of you have any other tree suggestions leave in the comments. Now I must go and water my tree …

  1. kate

    I’m always looking for tips to improve my black thumb, thanks! Any I just can’t wait to see this tree!! Sept 3rd can’t get here soon enough :)

  2. Emma

    Just FYI, house plants more often die from being overwatered than from any other cause, so make sure not to drown your gorgeous new tree! In general, the top 1-2 inches of soil (depends on the pot/plant size) should be allowed to dry out between waterings, so don’t be afraid to get your fingers dirty checking the soil moisture. I can’t wait to see your living room and what kind of tree you got!

  3. Victoria

    Emily I would like some living plants inside except I’m concerned about my cats chewing on leaves and getting sick and in the case of a tree, if there was room/height, thinking I was nice enough to give them an extra litter box. I have a no flower giving policy unless the giver isn’t upset when they are put way above eye level.
    Just when I think perhaps I took all those notices and articles about terrible medical issues happening to curious kitties more serious then I should I hear about someone’s actual experience. These are my first cats but I’ve had them for almost 7 and 8 years. We’ve lived through multiple surgeries from injuries caused by an earthquake which was terrible but mendable are you ever worried or just trust you cats not to nibble or chew on plants and flowers?

  4. I have a fiddle leaf that I’ve successfully kept alive for the last 9 months but I think it needs to be transplanted. I’m terrified of shocking and killing it but i hate to see it suffer and stunt, too. any tips on repotting?

  5. Esther

    Thank you for this post! I just moved into my first apartment and I’m dying to have plants, but I don’t have a patio so all my plants have to be indoors. That combined with my black thumb make plants seem like an impossibility. But I’m super encouraged by this post…and I’m gonna give it a try! Thanks!

  6. Annica

    I wish I lived in LA so I could buy one of those beautiful trees!

  7. Ardis

    Thanks for the plant update Emily! Because of your previous post, my place is brimming with at least 10 plants including 2 full on fiddle fig trees that are over 9 feet tall. I even went back a few times for planter ideas and ended up getting the Mr.and Mrs. vase the last time I was in LA.
    Excited to see your tree and the Domino spread!

  8. Mar

    I stumbled into that store years ago and remember the salespeople being very nice.

    But I am so bad at keeping plants alive. I can’t even keep succulents alive. It’s bad. It’s so bad that I have a fake olive tree in my living tree that is sitting in a pot of REAL dirt.

  9. kelly

    This is great info. I still can’t believe the fiddle leaf is considered easy indoor plant. I’ve gone through 4 in 8 months, 2 are dead and 2 are alive. Not easy. I water, talk, feed, you name it..and I still have some brown leaves on the survivors. I’m in the midwest, maybe I can blame it on that, but its probably me. My money tree is doing great though. BTW – that tropics place is amazing! And this domino spread is taking forever. :-)

  10. Donna M Puterbaugh

    What are the spongy looking pots, boulders, or vases (some have holes)? Love the texture! If the plant dies, so what, the container looks great alone! Thank you.

  11. faith e

    Love a tree- indoors and OUT!
    One of my biggest regrets as a homeowner is not having had a tree planting plan for our yard. Time flies- now it’s more than 30 years and I could have had an orchard of mature trees by now instead of a few misplaced soloists.
    Trees are good for the soul and good for the planet

  12. Christine

    So what did you end up getting?

  13. Viva la happiness via trees! Don’t put your worries out there in the universe…just vow to do your best at remember to care for your tree. Happy tree caring!

  14. kari

    My goal is to grow a plumeria tree when we move to remind me of our current home here in Hawaii. Hopefully I won’t kill it. :) If only I could start the plant now but I can’t ship a houseplant and I doubt they would let me carry it on the plane.

  15. Thanks, Emily! Can’t wait to see your tree!

    Is your list mostly for people living in southern California?

    I bought a beautiful tree months ago in Costco, and placed it in a north-facing window in my living room, where it fit perfectly in the room, but it didn’t do well. I then moved it into a small south-facing room (a sort of guest room, but where I keep my rebounder, which takes up too much floor space), and placed it next to the windows. I leave the blinds open all the time so it gets direct sunlight. But it’s not doing too well there either.

    I might not be watering it often enough. It’s called a Roebellini Palm. (I live in south Florida.) I never really know how much water to pour into a plant pot, because in the past, I’ve had cases where it spills out of the dish under the plant, and ruins the floor. So now I water my plants with ice cubes. I’m afraid my tree is dying. :-(

    • Ardis

      Judy,
      It doesn’t sound like you’re watering it enough. The more sun it gets, the faster the water evaporates from tree (including the leaves). You should give it at least a 1/2 gallon of water a week. Palm trees need water. It’s dying of dehydration. :-(

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  18. I want a tree! SO cool! Love the tips, I, like you am always killing my plants. HELPFUL!! :)

  19. Catherine

    This is a great place to check out, thanks Emily. Have you been to Jackelope in North Hollywood…with their great pottery, yard accessories and fountains? Bet one of these great trees would be complimented with something from Jackelope – no vested interest for me, just love this place. And if you are in Glendale, not far down the 134 freeway for you (I live in Burbank)…

    http://www.jackalopepotterynh.com

  20. Jessica

    DO NOT water your fiddle leaf fig every 4-5 days! The roots needs to dry out in between waterings and that will kill it!

    • I’m confused by that, too. I water mine MAYBE every three weeks and it’s been thriving (knocks on wood) for 7 months.

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  22. Thanks for the tips! I used to think I had a black thumb, and only had a few fake plants in my house because I couldn’t be bothered to deal with the real things. But then I turned 30, and all of a sudden I had this urge to start growing herbs. Now I’m obsessed with my babies, and I love having real living things in my home :)

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  24. Min

    I’m a bit confused about the watering (blackest of the black thumbs here). If you move your plant to a solid pot, how do you know that it has gone through the drainage holes (aka. how do you know when to stop watering)? Or if you keep the temporary pot with the drainage holes, doesn’t the water get all over your floors?

    • Shelby

      You want to pot the plant in a larger container than the temporary one. You can buy very cheap, clear plastic reservoirs that sit under the plant and catch water. They aren’t as ugly as they sound, especially if you have a healthy plant. If you aren’t a green thumb I think this is the easiest way to go. You can also plant without any drainage but you have to be more intuitive with the plants needs. You can generally tell if it needs water by sticking your finger into the topsoil. If the first inch is dry you will need to water. The amount of water your plant needs will vary depending on location, size of pot, etc.

  25. Shelby

    Love this post! I’m looking for more trees for my house but don’t want another fiddle leaf fig… that olive tree has my attention.

    Perhaps my experience will help others, I have a fiddle leaf fig that was struggling for about 9 months and I nearly killed it but I have successfully brought it back using these techniques:

    Drilled drainage holes in my pot and got one of those plastic basins to put under it to catch excess water. Repotted with better quality soil. Moved plant in front of a window that gets morning light. Water once every week and a half or whenever the first inch is completely dry. I keep watering until water comes out the bottom. Put the tree on my covered patio so it can enjoy the humidity and heat of summer. New leaves almost daily. It’s remarkable how fast they grow when they are healthy! Truly my plant has grown 2ft just this summer! Don’t overwater. I think the fig likes to dry out a bit in between big waterings.

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  27. Elise

    Please keep in mind that some plants (like the fiddle leaf fig) are toxic to cats and dogs. So not a good idea to buy if you have pets.

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