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.
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.