Plant Care Starts with Plant Origin

Grown in greenhouses in little plastic nursery pots – sometimes it's hard to imagine our plants living anywhere but in our favorite nurseries and our homes. But with the exception of nursery cultivars, all our favorite plants at home are out there in the world, thriving in their natural ecosystems. 

From harsh, mountainous deserts to lush tropical rainforests, these ecosystems, known as biomes, have unique conditions that led to the proliferation of plant species perfectly suited to them.

At Tula, many of our plants are not just labeled with the species name, but also the country of origin.

This is because understanding how to care for a plant starts with understanding where it came from. 

Tula's tropical and arid plants hail from many different biomes – and each plant will benefit from care tailored to those native conditions. Here are six example biomes with unique care requirements. 

A Cloud Forest, or Montane Forest, which receives nearly constant rainfall or fog.

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forests, also called Montane Forests, are cliffside jungles in tropical or temperate regions that are almost constantly subject to rain or heavy fog. These are the most humid regions on earth, havens for plants that like a little dew on their thin leaves at all times, and don't require too much sun. 

Calathea lancifolia, or Rattlesnake Plant, is a humidity-loving tropical plant.

Calathea lancifolia, or Rattlesnake Plant, is part of a group of humidity-loving plants that come from Cloud Forests. 


Caring for Cloud Forest Plants

  • Provide bright indirect light. An hour or two of direct sunlight should be fine, though.
  • Invest in a humidifier. While misting plants is beneficial, having a constant source of humidity nearby will keep leaves from crisping at the edges.
  • Water when the top of the soil is dry or vaguely moist to the touch.


A lush Tropical Rainforest biome.

Tropical Rainforest

When we think of tropical plants in the wild, most of us imagine a Tropical Rainforest. A lush, high canopy and shade-loving undergrowth. Seasonal floods, wet heat, and incredible biodiversity. Tropical Rainforests are known for ecological niches, mini biomes that exist at different levels of the forest's dense canopy. A plant's light, water, and growing medium depend on which of these niches it comes from.

Chamaedorea Elegans, or Parlor Palm, is an understory palm that thrives in indirect light, humidity, and nutrient-dense soil.


Caring for Tropical Rainforest Plants

  • Provide low light, bright-indirect light, or dappled sunlight depending on the plant's origin within the biome niches. For example, epiphytes like Bromeliads and Birds Nest Ferns grow on the limbs of trees where they receive dappled sunlight. Provide these plants with up to two hours of direct or filtered sunlight.
  • Growing medium should be airy, moisture retentive, and nutrient rich. Coco coir and compost are great amendments to all-purpose soil.
  • Water when the top of the soil is dry or vaguely moist to the touch.


A Subtropical forest in the American South.

Subtropical Forest

Subtropical climates occur in regions with hot, wet summers and mild winters. The American South, Mexico, India, China, and parts of Africa all have Subtropical Forests – wooded areas that rely on heavy seasonal rain, heat, and humidity for explosive leafy growth. Plants from this biome tend to be more cold-hardy and drought-tolerant than other tropical plants. Canopies in Subtropical Forests are not as thick as rainforests, and trees also sometimes lose their leaves in winter, so understory plants often can handle more intense sunlight.

Epiphyllum anguliger, or ric-rac cactus, a subtropical plant for sale at Tula Plants & Design.

Epiphyllum anguliger, or Ric-Rac Cactus, is a tree-dwelling epiphyte from Subtropical Forests. 


Caring for Subtropical Forest Plants

  • Provide filtered or dappled sunlight to 3 hours max. An east- or west-facing window is ideal.
  • Allow soil to dry out a couple inches beneath the surface.

 A semiarid desert biome in northern Mexico.


A Semi-Desert biome, also called Steppe Climate, receives low levels of rain, but not so little as to qualify it as a true desert. Lands of extremes, Semi-Deserts occur all over the world, at many different elevations. For that reason, several secondary biomes exist. But they are unified by their qualities of seasonal rainfall, low humidity, and temperatures that daily and seasonally.

Leuchtenbergia principis, or Agave Cactus, is the only plant in the genus Leuchtenbergia. It is uniquely suited to its Semi-Desert habitat in north-central Mexico.


Caring for Semi-Desert Plants

  • Provide full sun in a south- or west-facing window. 
  • Water when the soil is completely dry. This will happen quicker in the summer than it does in the winter.
  • Research the drought tolerance of your specific plant. Often, these plants benefit from having very little water in winter.


A Savanna biome with dry grass and spotty trees.


Savanna biomes occur is sub-tropical zones that receive seasonal rain. Here, summers are known as the wet season and winters as the dry season. Throughout the year, temperatures do not fluctuate much. This sprawling grassland forms the ideal environment for hardy arid plants that love the sun.

Euphorbia pseudocactus, from the Savanna biome, for sale at Tula Plants & Design.

Euphorbia pseudocactus will form shrub-like patches sporadically across the flatland Savanna. 


Caring for Savanna Plants

  • Provide full sun in a south- or west-facing window. 
  • During the summer, water thoroughly as soon as the soil is completely dry. Savanna plants are actively growing in the summer and will soak up water quickly. 
  • Research the drought tolerance of your specific plant. Often, these plants benefit from having very little water in winter.


Highland Desert, known for sparse growth and harsh winters.

Highland Desert

Deserts in high elevations like mountains and plateaus are known as Highland Deserts. These places are exposed to extreme heat in summer and below-freezing temperatures in winter. Drought is common, but so is snowfall. Plants here tend to be low-lying and uniquely prepared to take on long droughts, high winds, and intense UV radiation brought on by higher altitudes.

Senecio haworthii mont blanc

Senecio haworthii mont blanc, or Wooly Senecio, is covered in a densely woven white felt that protects it from intense sun in the high desert of Little Karoo, South Africa.


Caring for Highland Desert Plants

  • Provide full sun in a south- or west-facing window. 
  • Water when the soil is completely dry. This will happen quicker in the summer than it does in the winter.
  • Research the cold hardiness of your specific plant. Often, High Desert plants benefit from a period of cold, and might even flower because of the chill.
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