How to bring the tropical rainforest into your home
With green plants that originated in the tropical rainforest.
By: Annemarie Silkens
Costa Rica is known for its amazing flora and fauna, especially in the rainforests and cloud forests. Costa Rica‘s plant world is very extensive and varied. Over 12,000 different plant species (of which more than 1200 species of orchids!) are found. Climate, soil conditions and altitude account for the great diversity. The area of rainforest has unfortunately been drastically reduced in recent decades, but through the Foundation Adopt Rainforest we are doing everything possible to protect and even expand the remaining rainforest.
Plant growth and flowers of the rainforest
The warm humid conditions of the tropical rainforest provide optimal conditions for plants throughout the year. This is why so many different species are found in the tropics. Sunlight on the forest floor of the tropical rainforest is so minimal that few plant species can thrive. This has resulted in the evolution of plants that can live on trees: Epiphytes. They can grow on tree trunks, branches, leaves and on top of other Epiphytes. Each tree is an ecosystem in itself on which grow many different plant species, such as bromeliads, orchids, cacti, arum-like plants, mosses, ferns and lichens.
With more than 2,000 species, Bromeliads are very abundant. You sometimes find them on the ground, but mostly as Epiphytes on branches. The leaves of Bromeliads grow around the stems creating small cavities where rainwater accumulates. These small pools of water provide a safe environment for many invertebrates and amphibians, as well as other critters, such as snails, beetles, mosquito larvae, etc. When animals die in the water, they decompose and serve as fertilizer for their host plants. Because Bromeliads occur in many colors such as purple, blue, orange, red, yellow they are becoming more and more fashionable as ornamental plants. You alreayd know one: the pineapple, also a Bromeliad. If you have become so enthusiastic that you want to have a bromeliad in your home, take a look at one of our partners, the Bromeliad specialist in De Kwakel.
No group of plants is as large as the orchid family. More than 20,000 species are known, and they grow mainly as epiphytes on trees. The many species come in all colors of the rainbow, including green. Orchids are popular because of their brilliant shapes and colors and the durability of the flowers.
The sexiest flower from Costa Rica is the psychotria elata. The fiery red flower resembles a beautiful set of lips and is sometimes called hot lips.
Climbing plants and lianas
In addition to the many beautiful flowers, the rainforest contains many climbing plants and lianas. Climbing plants grow upward along tree trunks at a rapid rate to reach daylight in the treetops. They attach themselves to trees with suction cups and climbing roots, or work their way up along their hosts while writhing with climbing vines. Lianas are thick woody climbers and some can grow to several hundred feet long. They wriggle upward like a thick rope around tree trunks and branches to get sunlight.
Let’s go bananas!
The banana plant is one of the oldest commercially grown houseplants, dating back to the 6th century! The first official banana plantation was found in Costa Rica but today this beautiful tropical plant is indispensable all over the world. Bananas are an important food source for large parts of the world but thus also a beautiful plant for your home! They come in many shapes and sizes.
Some care tips from our partner Nieuwkoop Europe BV.
1. While this sun-lover likes a light position, do not place it right in front of the window.
2. To mimic tropical conditions as much as possible, make sure the soil is moist (not too wet).
3. Provide a spacious pot to encourage healthy growth. Because to make that homegrown smoothie, the plant needs to shoot a few feet up in height.
Heliconias are beautiful colorful flowers with a multitude of colors, shapes, patterns and sizes, which is why they are starting to become increasingly popular as ornamental flowers. Some flowers have very special shapes that allow only certain species of hummingbirds and moths to reach their nectar glands. Heliconias bloom everywhere in Costa Rica: from deep in the rainforest to people’s front yards. The exceptionally beautiful flowers on this plant are actually bracts, in which small inconspicuous flowers are hidden.
Care of tropical plants
Tropical plants are not only found in the jungle or terrariums, but can also be kept in the home with the right care. This way you bring a piece of tropical rainforest into your home and create a beautiful, green and healthy oasis in your room. Because their origins are in the tropical rainforest, they are naturally accustomed to a lot of heat. They thrive in a climate that is relatively warm and humid. Did you know that the temperature in a tropical rainforest never goes below 16°C? During the day it even averages 29°C. The almost continuous cloud cover blocks the bright sun and barely allows the heat to escape. The light is also diffused by the dense vegetation. Therefore, there are few tropical plants that can tolerate bright and direct sunlight.
On the soil, where the plants naturally grow, the fertile layer is very thin. Organic waste is very quickly converted into nutrients by insects, fungi and bacteria and then directly absorbed by the trees and plants. Because there is no cold season in the rainforest, nutrients are absorbed throughout the year. The soil of the plants is therefore best continuously slightly moist and you can add nutrients regularly. A big fan and visitor to our project, Ilse from Mama Botanica has many more tips on caring for tropical plants. www.mamabotanica.nl
Did reading this piece also make you excited about the rich plant life in the rainforest? Then help protect and preserve this important ecosystem by adopting a piece of rainforest.