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6 Tropical Houseplants Native to Asia and the Pacific That Everyone Should Know

From ferns to hoyas, each variety offers its own unique ambience
The IKEA Milsbo cabinets that Kanti Crain converted maintain the humidity levels for her hoya plants. She has several...
The IKEA Milsbo cabinets that Kanti Crain converted maintain the humidity levels for her hoya plants. She has several cabinets placed around her home, collecting several unique varieties of the plant.Photo: Kanti Crain

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As you might expect, some of the world’s most common houseplants hail from tropical climes. From the popular Pothos, with its heart-shaped leaves that drape down in vines, to the wall-mounted staghorn fern, there’s a tropical houseplant for every vibe. Many of the more beautiful and coveted varieties have roots in the tropics of Asia and the Pacific Islands, where tall canopies shelter the plants from too much sun exposure—a great feature for a houseplant to have if your apartment doesn’t get much sunlight.

As these locales tend to be more humid, their indigenous flora loves cozier, warmer spaces, making them ideal plants for our homes. While indoors, houseplants are shielded from environmental factors, such as frost, snow, and a lack (or abundance) of water. Indeed, as long as you aren’t making any newbie plant parent mistakes, houseplants from tropical regions do very well inside. Here are six houseplants that experts recommend from Asia and the Pacific, along with instructions on how to keep them flourishing all year round.

Wanting to be reminded of her original home in Indonesia, Kanti keeps her Hoya plants in these enclosed Ikea Milsbo cabinets that she converted into quasi greenhouses.

Photo: Kanti Crain

Rubber Plant

The flowering rubber plant, or Ficus elastica, is native to places in Southern Asia like India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, and Malaysia. According to Matt Aulton, cofounder of Plant Proper, this low-maintenance houseplant is one of the more popular Ficus plants. But for those wanting to create an urban jungle look, the rubber plant can grow into a larger tree depending on the quality of care that you give. “Ficus prefer bright indirect light throughout the whole day to thrive,” he says. 
The rubber plant can even slowly adapt to full sunlight and is rarely impacted by common houseplant pests. Matt notes that the plant responds best when the soil is allowed to dry between waterings. While it’s true that the Ficus elastica can reach greater heights, pruning the plant can keep it on the smaller side if a more compact and fuller houseplant is preferred. As a bonus, the plant loves to be root bound, “so there isn’t a rush to repot this plant very often,” Matt adds.

Chinese Fan Palm

The Livistona chinensis, known as the Chinese fan palm, can be found in southeastern China, southern Japan, Taiwan, and more. As gardening expert Lindsay Pangborn, of Bloomscape, points out, the plant has plenty of perks. In fact, it’s often beloved for its beautiful fanning leaves, light green stalks, and lush appearance. Plus, it’s easy to care for. “The Chinese Fan Palm is adaptable to many indoor settings and can thrive under bright indirect light, infrequent watering, and an occasional mist,” she says. This plant tolerates periods of drought, making it the ideal houseplant for those frequently away from home or those who have little time for constant plant upkeep. 

As with most tropical houseplants, the Chinese fan palm should be thoroughly watered to allow excess liquid to drain out. Lindsay advises that a planter with a hole at the bottom is best for this plant, reminding us to “maintain a somewhat consistent room temperature.” Doing so will allow the Chinese fan palm to settle into its new environment and consistently add new growth.


As a genus hosting over 500 species of plants, it might be hard to pin down the most popular or common Hoya, also named wax plants. In fact, The Re/Sprout co-owner Kanti Crain insists that there are almost too many to count. “There are so many varietals that just like Pokémon, you’ll want to catch them all,” she explains. “Not only are they gorgeous, but they are so easy to grow and propagate.”

According to Matt, the Hoya was very popular in the ’70s and has made a comeback, partly due to its flowers. Kanti agrees, pointing out that “the best part is its blooms,” and adding that some have a stronger fragrance. The Hoya, originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, reminds Kanti of home, so she enjoys fostering as many as she can. “Most of my Hoya are in an enclosed cabinet to maintain the humidity,” she says. “I converted Milsbo cabinets into small greenhouses for this purpose.”

Matt explains that Hoya can be grown in a variety of lighting conditions, but will respond best to bright indirect light throughout the day. “This will provide more compact growth habits, and you will have the highest likelihood of the plant flowering,” he adds. Each of the many varietals offer different levels of variegation or splashes of color. “The more light you give them, the more that variegation or color will show,” Kanti adds.

Common Hoya include Hoya australis, Hoya krimson queen, Hoya australis lisa, and Hoya krimson princess, many of which are native to a wide range of Asian and Pacific Island nations, ranging from the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia, to Vietnam and Indonesia. Regardless of the variety, Kanti notes that most Hoya have thicker shiny leaves, hence their common name of wax plants. “Not all Hoya require the same care, but generally, most of them love light so west or east windows will be best for this plant,” she adds. “If light is an issue, try to supplement it with grow lights and water them once a week, as they tend to develop root rot.”

Many Hoya plants grow like vines. Linh Tong uses poles to act like homemade trellises to train her plants to grow upward.

Photo: Linh Tong


Known for their ease of care, Pothos thrive in bright lit areas, but can tolerate lower light as well while offering a different vibe in most spaces. The plant is native to China, the Indian Subcontinent, Australia, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, and various islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The variations and colors range widely. Pothos can come in a bright green, as in the neon Pothos, or appear in more muted silver shades like the silver satin Pothos’s stunning heart-shaped leaves. Tara Steele, installation manager at Grounded Plant and Floral Co., says that her Pothos can last about 10 days without water. “It’s nice to know my plants can maintain themselves if I don’t see them for a while,” she explains. “Pothos have stunning vines, so they are great for high shelves or hanging from the ceiling. They are also great for decorating stairwells or for pinning the vines to your walls to fill bare space.”

Linh Tong of Cosy Greenery thinks that you can’t go wrong with a Pothos. “Growing up in Vietnam, I’ve seen them growing wild in nature,” she says. “Pothos come in different varieties and add an instant tropical vibe to a place, especially since they can be trained to climb up or trail down. I personally love attaching them to a pole or a shelf, as it helps the leaves grow bigger.”

Linh cares for her Pothos by watering them thoroughly whenever she sees their leaves start to droop. “They’re perfect for beginners or people with busy lifestyles.” Plus, pruning a Pothos also encourages more growth points and creates a more full and lush looking plant, she says. “The cuttings can be planted back in the same pot or put in water or damp moss to root.”

Staghorn Fern

Native to Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Guinea, the staghorn fern is both an air plant and a fern, although it doesn’t appear like most ferns. The plant has grown in popularity among plant parents because the staghorn fern is easily mounted on a surface and displayed on a wall, offering a different feel to a space than many other houseplants. Holly Nguyen of My Monstera Girlfriend says the fern’s odd name comes from its “uniquely shaped fronds that look like staghorns or elkhorns that collectors can mount on wood.” Holly shares that they also take pride of place, pointing out that they “grow to gigantic proportions if you’ve ever seen a mature one at a botanical garden or plant nursery.”

However, Tara says the staghorn fern is a great choice for many homes because it is so different. “These ferns are perfect for bathrooms or kitchen walls because they can tolerate lower light conditions and thrive with about 50 percent humidity,” she explains. “Staghorn ferns need water frequently, but unlike other ferns, the base needs to be dry before you water again.”

In other words, the staghorn fern can dry out a bit before rewatering. In the tropical regions it comes from, the plant’s roots grow on the sides of trees. “The plant’s roots should never become too wet. If you see brown or black at the base, you might have overwatered,” she warns.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

Much daintier than the staghorn, rabbit’s foot fern comes from Fiji and lives in cracks between rocks or on trees. Joan Eiger Gottlieb, a retired botanist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, recommends Davallia fejeensis, or the rabbit’s foot fern, because it’s “easy to care for and has soft, fuzzy rambling rhizomes and architecturally stunning features.” Lindsay also likes the ease of care afforded by the rabbit’s foot fern, combined with its beauty.

“The rabbit’s foot fern is one of the best choices for anyone who wants that classic fine-textured fern look but without the demanding care,” she says. “I’m not great at watering constantly, and this fern is very forgiving if I let it dry out a little too much between waterings.” Linsday prefers to keep her rabbit’s foot fern in a hanging basket, in bright, indirect light, near an east-facing window. “I occasionally pull out any fronds that have browned and fertilize once every 4–6 weeks,” she adds “It’s surprisingly low-maintenance!”

Burgundy Rubber Tree

Grounded Plants Golden Pothos

Staghorn Fern

Hoya carnosa 'Krimson Queen'

Rabbit Foot Fern