Tropical Edibles – Wish List, Part 1

Last week, we had a few days in the mid-60s, and we were able to get some yard cleanup completed, and some early planting.  The bulbs and perennials were beginning to green.  This morning we woke up to an inch of snow, and freezing temps.  Took a trip to a local conservatory.  Where better to shed some of that spring fever.

Papaya tree with unripe fruit.  Papaya can be grown in containers.

Papaya tree with unripe fruit. This tree was about 7ft tall

Every time I visit, I’m reminded of all the amazing edibles that I’d like to add to my collection.  Below are a few of my favorites.


Papaya, or Carica papaya, is a New-World tropical. It grows as a single-stalked, non-woody, tree-like plant with unique leaves and fruiting habit. The tree is easily grown from seed that can be gathered from store-bought fruit.

Small papaya tree with fruit.

Small papaya tree with fruit. Papaya can be grown in containers.

The full sized varieties of Papaya can grow rather large (30ft or more), but there are dwarf varieties available that remain under 10ft. Plants are male or female, so for indoor fruiting, often two plants are necessary. There are some self-pollinating varieties of papaya.

Dwarf papaya can be grown in medium sized pots and size can be kept to 5-6ft. I’d like to grow this for the foliage alone, as it reminds me of a tropical forest.

Monstera deliciosa

Giant Monstera vine engulfing a Date Palm

Giant Monstera vine engulfing a Date Palm

Monstera is a large epiphytic vine that is commonly sold as a houseplant. It is easily propagated through cuttings due to the copious amounts of areal roots it produces. This plant, like it’s name implies, can get absolutely huge. At the arboretum, there is a Date Palm that is at least 50ft tall. Notice the Monstera overtaking this palm!

My Monstera deliciosa is tiny compared to the giant at the conservatory.

My Monstera deliciosa is tiny compared to the giant at the conservatory.

This plant can produce flowers that look very similar to peace lily flowers. Fruit is edible, and supposedly tastes like jackfruit. It’s unlikely that a home-grown specimen will ever flower or fruit, due to the sheer size of a mature plant, however, it makes an interesting jungle-looking addition to an indoor garden.

Monstera light requirements are low. It grows quickly, and can be trained or pruned to whatever shape or size desired. This plant likes a lot of water, however, and must be soaked once a week.


Dwarf banana variety in flower.

Dwarf banana variety in flower.

Banana is an easy indoor plant, and grows quickly. It likes humidity, and water, and is not picky about light requirements. Certain species, such as Musa basjoo, are also hardy outdoors in zone 5 with mulching, but will not have a growing season long enough to fruit. Fruiting is possible with Musa basjoo in zone 6-7 and warmer. This tree grows about 12ft in zone 5, and dies back to the ground in the winter.

My Dwarf cavendish banana.

My Dwarf Cavendish banana.

Indoors, dwarf bananas take approximately 1-2 years to reach flowering size depending on growing conditions. My Dwarf Cavendish will only grow a few feet tall before flowering. It’s about half it’s mature size currently.


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