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What Are the Pros and Cons of Growing Exotic Plants?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

Growing exotic plants can be rewarding because of their vibrant flowers and unique shapes, but the plants will not thrive without hard work and consistent care. Most exotic plants require constant attention to thrive, including maintaining a perfect environmental balance of the plants' temperature, light and humidity. They also require the grower to research the plant to ensure it is being properly fed and cared for.

A benefit of growing exotic plants is that they often offer the most colorful blooms and unusual shapes of the plant world. For example, the Huernia zebrina features striped maroon and yellow flowers with centers that are small and doughnut-shaped. The Stapelia gigantea, sometimes called the starfish or carrion flower, spans 11 to 16 inches (27.9 cm to 40.6 cm) and is beige or yellow with purple ridges; it also has a very bad odor. The ribbon bush is an exotic plant that resembles a tapeworm, with flat, segmented stems, and it grows up to 10 feet (3 m) tall.

Some exotic plants can become invasive to native species.
Some exotic plants can become invasive to native species.

A disadvantage of growing exotic plants is that each species has different growing requirements, requiring plenty of research whether a gardener plans to grow one or several different species. Orchids, for example, require an environment which simulates their natural environment to a large degree. Those native to the tropics and high altitudes, for example, prefer a high humidity of 80 to 90 percent, and orchids from warm climates need steady moisture and plenty of circulating air.

Recreating an exotic plant's natural preference for sunlight in a home or greenhouse can be difficult. Some exotic plants are native to the jungle, where they live in shade from the forest canopy. In contrast, others may best thrive in bright or indirect sunlight. Plants should be placed in the windows where the sunlight exposure is used to their best advantage.

Exotic plants can be costly, which can be a con for gardeners who want to grow a range of plants. Building and maintaining a greenhouse can also be expensive. Maintaining exotic plants and their soil can also be time-consuming; the plants need constant monitoring to keep pests at bay and ensure the soil contains the proper nutrients and moisture level.

For plant hobbyists, the end result of their time and money investment is typically worth the cost and effort. The unusual plants can offer years of visual enjoyment and an enjoyable pastime. Some plant growers find pleasure from entering their plants in contests or photographing them. A pro to gardening is the ability to share plant knowledge and seedlings with others who enjoy them.

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Discussion Comments


One thing that you really have to be careful with when you are planting exotic plants is to make sure that you aren't planting anything that couple potentially be invasive in the future.

I live in the midwest, and this is a huge problem as it is throughout many other places in North America. Two of the biggest problems are amur honeysuckle and winged euonymous, which a lot of people call burning bush. People originally planted them as bushes around their houses, because they have nice flowers and fruit that birds like. The problem is that one the birds spread the seeds, they end up getting carried into forests and other habitats in the area and choke out a lot of native plants. Unfortunately, a lot of people still plant these things without realizing the damage they cause. That is not to mention that there are lots of native species that are just as nice.

Outside of the Midwest, the southern states have a problem with kudzu, which spreads quickly over the ground, and can grow all the way up trees. In California, they have a plant called ice plant, which is very bad.


@JimmyT - Like the article says, growing plants outside can mean having to do a lot more work. Given the cost associated with it, I wouldn't undertake growing plants outside unless you are really dedicated to it.

My grandmother used to live in Florida, and she had a huge number of exotic plants growing all around her house. I do remember her talking about bromeliads, but I never really knew what they were. I remember her talking about how difficult it was to grow certain kinds of orchids. Apparently, they need special types of soil with certain fungi in it before they will grow.

She spent a lot of time every couple of days working on her garden, but she got a lot of pleasure from it. I know she had a lot of friends that did the same thing, so it was something fun for them to do together.


@TreeMan - You are right about rubber tree plants being able to stand a lot of stresses. I have had mine for well over 10 years, and it is still growing very well. It has finally reached the ceiling, so now I have to trim it down every couple of months.

I don't know if they are necessarily considered rare plants, but Bromeliads are usually good at growing in the shade. They are tropical plants that are relatively small most of the time. They usually grow with a bunch of thick, leathery leaves that spiral out from the base. The flowers are all clustered together on a central stalk, and they can be very pretty. They also come in a variety of colors depending on the species. I have an orange one that I keep in the house. I have it in a pretty dark location, and it seems to do well. I would definitely suggest looking into them.

I am not very familiar with how to grow exotic plants outside, though. I would be interested to learn more about it.


I would love to be able to have more exotic plants, but I just don't have the time needed to take care of them and do all the necessary pruning and fertilizing.

I have still found a few plants over the years that are exotic and don't require a lot of maintenance. I think most people are probably familiar with the rubber tree plant. They are very hardy and can withstand a lot of different conditions. I just like them, because my house is pretty shaded by trees, so anything that I grow inside needs to be able to grow well in shade or at least indirect sunlight.

I also live in a cooler climate, so planting tropical things outside usually doesn't work out very well. I am curious if anyone here knows of any other exotic plants that are good for growing indoors in shady places.

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    • Some exotic plants can become invasive to native species.
      By: Forest and Kim Starr
      Some exotic plants can become invasive to native species.