Plants for Sun Rooms, Solariums, and Conservatories

Author: Meera, December 29, 2012



The pool in the Miami sun room provides moisture for orchids

The pool in this Miami sun room provides moisture for orchids, ferns and even tomatoes


My husband and I grew exotic flowers in and around our Miami, Florida home. We had a sun room that sheltered a swimming pool in which I swam laps in every day. The space seemed near perfect for growing orchids in cycles of perpetual bloom. They loved loved the heat, light, and moisture provided by the pool and a fountain we installed. We also had an angel trumpet tree (Datura arborea) in the front of the house, adding drama and a luscious scent to the entry area.


But with the freezing winter temperatures on our Northern California farmette, such plants would not survive unless grown in a conservatory type of room with lots of warmth and light.


Since buying the farmette, my hubby and I have toyed with the idea of building such a space, also known as sun room, greenhouse room, tea room, and solarium.


A major consideration besides money and materials would be the direction the room would face. For our farmhouse, the direction (also known as “aspect”) could be north where the patio is already located or if positioned at the front of the house (where we had planned to create a wraparound front porch), the sun room or conservatory’s aspect would face south.


Camellias such as this Camellia japonica produces attractive blooms and foliage

This Camellia japonica produces attractive blooms in early to mid spring and would do well in a cooler sun room


A north-facing aspect permits plenty of light but less heat. In a cooler conservatory or sun room, we’d use more foliage plants such as camellia, begonia, geranium, anthurium, Australian bottle brush, fuchsia, ficus, gardenia, campanula, hypoestes , and various types of ivy and palm. We could also grow Cymbidium orchids that like dappled shade during summer but bloom in the dead of winter.


A south or west direction ensures intense light and heat and would allow us to grow  more flowering plants (especially ones found in the subtropics and tropics), including exotic orchids.


My husband grew up on a Caribbean island and loves orchids. The cymbidium orchids do well enough already outside. We put them in protected areas on frosty nights. But many of the exotic orchids require light, heat, and, in some cases, additional moisture.


We know Phalaenopsis, odontoglossum, and slipper orchids would thrive in a conservatory room that faces south or west as would many other plants such as hibiscus, jasmine, nephrolepsis, passion flower, plumeria, and African violet, to name a few. Also, many hybrid rhododendrons that profusely flower for long periods can be grown in containers in a warm environment.


I’m really an outside garden girl, but a conservatory room with a lot of interesting architectural detail and gorgeous blooming plants could make me want to spend more time indoors. It doesn’t matter to me whether it faces north or south. But dare I bring up the idea of adding a pool?

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