Have you ever been to a tropical cloud forest, those mystical mountainous places where everything drips with dew, the temperature is always perfect and the air is thick with the beating wings of butterflies and hummingbirds? If so, you know firsthand that the plant life such places is out of this world. If not, you may be intrigued to know that quite a few plants from the cloud forests of the world have made into nurseries and garden centers here in North America. Furthermore, many of them make excellent hanging basket plants — an appropriate way to grow them given the lush jungles they originate from, where colorful flowers and foliage seem to emerge from every direction.
Take fuchsia, for instance. Hailing from the tropical mountains of South America, this cloud forest plant is the queen of hanging baskets, its pendulous stems arching down to dangling flowers at the tips of each branch. Fuchsia is a veritable nectar buffet for hummingbirds.
The moist air of cloud forests supports many epiphytes, plants that live on the bark of other plants absorbing water and nutrients from the air. The immensely popular staghorn ferns are one example. They will grow in well-drained potting soil, but can also be mounted to the side of a tree or even on the wall of your living room with their roots wrapped in a moist ball of sphagnum moss.
Air plants, some ferns and various bromeliads are other examples of epiphytes that can be included in a cloud forest themed hanging basket.
It is important to realize that cloud forest plants have very specific growing requirements, which are uncommon in North America. Spritz them frequently to provide the humidity they crave and plan to move them seasonally to keep their temperature just right. Cloud forest species rarely tolerate more than a light frost, but they also grow best when kept away from intense summer sun and extreme heat. They usually need our help to survive!