Rare Tropical Plants: List of 24 Hard-To-Find Varieties

Once you get into houseplant collecting, it can become something of an addiction, and pretty soon, you start adding ultra-rare beauties to a seemingly never-ending wish list (I blame Instagram).

Thanks to places like Etsy and private sellers, plant lovers worldwide can occasionally strike lucky with their rare-plant-owning dreams (although don’t get too attached to some of the following types as they are quite rare).

From fussy flowers to other-worldly leaf patterns and textures, the following tropical plant varieties are unlike anything you’ll find at your local Home Depot.

Here are 24 hard-to-source varieties from the tropics – catch them if you can!

1. Shenzhen Nongke Orchid

This man-made flower was developed in a lab for 8 years by agricultural scientists working in Guangdong at Shenzhen Nongke University.

It was developed from a Cymbidium, or boat orchid, with long bright green petals and a central purple/white lip and is said to bloom once every 4-5 years and have a delicate taste.

  • Common Name: Shenzhen Nongke Orchid
  • Average Price: $202,000
  • Average Size: 2 feet tall
  • Key Features: Man-made, vivid petals, rare blooming schedule

2. Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’

A single leaf of the Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’ plant on a black background.

Originating from a tissue culture lab in Thailand, this M. deliciosa cultivar is an upward-climbing shrub with large fenestrated deep green leaves with yellow and cream marbled specks – resembling a starry night sky.

This is caused by a mutation that resulted in a lack of chlorophyll.

  • Common Name: Thai Constellation Monstera
  • Average Price: $700-1,000
  • Average Size: 9-12 feet tall
  • Key Features: Marbled yellow, cream, and green pattern; large fenestrated foliage

3. Calathea majestica ‘White Star’

Lovely leaves of the Calathea white star plant showing a pink tinge at the base.

Cultivated from the Calathea ornata, this upright, bushy shrub features bold white stripes that fill the contrasting dark green leaf space.

A subtle pink blush is also observed on the leaves in certain lighting, and the undersides are deep violet.

  • Common Name: Majestic Prayer Plant
  • Average Price: $30-50
  • Average Size: 4-5 feet tall
  • Key Features: Vibrant white-striped foliage with pink tint, purple undersides

4. Philodendron erubescens ‘White Princess’

This compact, self-heading Philodendron variety has narrow, pointed leaves of glossy dark green with variegated patches of pale green flecks and bold white sections.

These white sections can appear in blotches or entire leaf halves.

  • Common Name: Philodendron White Princess
  • Average Price: $300-450
  • Average Size: 8 feet tall
  • Key Features: Variegated white patches/solid foliage pattern; bushy, compact habit

5. Alocasia sinuata

A critically-endangered species from the Philippines, this short, compact plant has dark-green, narrow, heart-shaped leaves with a puckered, quilted texture.

Combined with the near-black vein detail, this gives the leaf blades a 3-D jewel-like surface.

  • Common Name: Jewel Alocasia
  • Average Price: $30-50
  • Average Size: 1 foot tall
  • Key Features: Puckered dark-green foliage, dark green/black veination

6. Echeveria lola ‘Variegata’

Close-up look at the rare Echeveria ‘Lola’.

This small succulent is a hybrid of E. lilacinia and E. derenbergii and has a rosette growth shape formed of many broad and waxy pointed-tip leaves.

The leaves have a green/white/pink pastel variegation and develop pink margins in cold temperatures.

  • Common Name: Variegated Echeveria Lola
  • Average Price: $250-280
  • Average Size: 4-5 inches tall
  • Key Features: Rosette shape, pastel/pearlescent variegated leaves

7. Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Variegata’

The rare Monstera Albo in a red planter on a wood floor viewed from above.

An especially rare cultivar of M. deliciosa, this plant features giant, fenestrated, heart-shaped leaves with a glossy finish.

The leaves are bright green with striking blocks and patches of bright white, sometimes on entire leaves due to diminished chlorophyll.

  • Common Name: Half-moon Monstera
  • Average Price: $3,000-5,000
  • Average Size: 12-13 feet tall
  • Key Features: Bold bright white variegated leaves, large split leaf shape

8. Anthurium pedatum

Endemic to Columbia and the West Andes, this upright climber has large and shiny bright green leaves that begin with a heart-shaped form before developing elongated lobes with age – resembling webbed or finger-like leaves.

  • Common Name: Anthurium Fortunatum
  • Average Price: $80-100
  • Average Size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Key Features: Long-lobed leaf growth, glossy bright-green foliage

9. Hoya callistophylla

This tall climbing plant is native to Borneo and is recognized by its leathery elliptical emerald green leaves with contrasting dark green veins that create a stunning stained-glass-window effect.

Star-shaped cream/red flower clusters are also produced at maturity.

  • Common Name: Waxflower/Stiff-Leaved Hoya
  • Average Price: $35-60
  • Average Size: 6-12 feet tall
  • Key Features: Ornate, contrasting vein detail; star-shaped flowers

10. Cotyledon orbiculata ‘Variegata’

The rare Cotyledon orbiculata ‘Variegata’ succulent.

This South African native succulent is highly collectible throughout Asia due to its unusual cluster of bulbous leaves with delicate pastel rainbow strokes of faint green, blue, purple, yellow, and cream.

Each leaf margin is also marked by a bold red outline.

  • Common Name: Unicorn Poop
  • Average Price: $90-180
  • Average Size: 4-5 inches tall
  • Key Features: Rounded leaves; pale rainbow coloring; bright red leaf margins

11. Monstera obliqua

Lacy leaf of Monstera obliqua Peru.

Considered the rarest Monstera variety ever, this slow-growing Peruvian-native climber has medium-green, fragile, lacy leaves that are so highly fenestrated, the leaves of mature plants consist of around 90% empty space!

  • Common Name: Window-Leaf Monstera
  • Average Price: $4,000-6,000 (for a single leaf cutting)
  • Average Size: 3-4 feet tall
  • Key Features: Deeply-fenestrated leaves; delicate, paper-thin texture

12. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’

This upright snake plant features stiff, structural, lance-shaped leaves of pale green with silvery gray tones throughout the blades that can sometimes create a mottling effect.

A highlight is a thin band of dark green along the leaf margins.

  • Common Name: Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
  • Average Price: $66-80
  • Average Size: 11-12 inches tall
  • Key Features: Silvery green foliage, contrasting dark-green margin

13. Anthurium polyschistum

Originating in central and south America, this climbing plant features divisions of long, palm-like leaves that are glossy and deep green with pale, matte undersides.

The sunken dark-green veins and ruffled leaf margins also create an overall puckered texture.

  • Common Name: Anthurium Polyschistum
  • Average Price: $60-150
  • Average Size: 4-6 feet tall
  • Key Features: Long, narrow leaves; puckered appearance

14. Anthurium crystallinum

Leaves of a large Anthurium crystallinum plant with broad, white veins.

Found in the rainforests of Peru, this compact, bushy plant is characterized by broad and velvety heart-shaped leaves of emerald green with stunningly contrasted white veining detail.

These veins appear to glisten like mini crystals in certain light!

  • Common Name: Crystal Laceleaf
  • Average Price: $95
  • Average Size: 2-4 feet tall
  • Key Features: Large heart-shaped leaves, prominent white veination with a crystal-like sheen

15. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma ‘Minima’

Hailing from southeast Asia, this compact plant features fenestrated glossy leaves of bright green that often have it mistaken for a Monstera or Philodendron species.

Unlike these species, R. tetrasperma ‘Minima’ has horizontally-growing vines, making it ideal for hanging basket displays.

  • Common Name: Mini Split-leaf
  • Average Price: $25-30
  • Average Size: 10-12 inch spread, 8 inches tall
  • Key Features: Fenestrated, glossy, green leaves; trailing habit

16. Gold of Kinabalu Orchid

This super-rare flower has been in cultivation since its discovery in 1987, but the only known species remains in Malaysia’s Kinabalu National Park.

The orchid has striking purple/cream pinstriped petals with two long horizontal petals and a burgundy lip.

  • Common Name: Rothschild’s orchid
  • Average Price: $3,000 (single stem)
  • Average Size: 1-2 feet tall
  • Key Features: Long, thin, horizontal petals; central burgundy lip

17. Calathea lietzei ‘White Fusion’

The leaves of a Calathea White Fusion plant.

Native to the rainforests of south and central America, this clumpy and compact Calathea is collected for its gorgeous gray, green, and cream marbling that cover the broad lance-shaped leaves like paint brush strokes.

The undersides are a striking deep-purple color.

  • Common Name: Calathea ‘Fusion White’
  • Average Price: $60-90
  • Average Size: 1-1.5 feet tall
  • Key Features: Soft marbled leaf variegation, dark purple undersides

18. Hoya wayetii

The dark green foliage of Hoya wayetii.

This small trailing plant is native to the Philippines and features thick, narrow lance-shaped leaves of mid green with a dark green band lining the margins for contrast.

Its foliage can achieve a reddish-purple blush under bright light.

  • Common Name: Wax plant
  • Average Price: $35-50
  • Average Size: 2-2.5 feet tall
  • Key Features: Sword-shaped leaves with dark margins; small, red-ball flower clusters

19. Alocasia zebrina

Found in the Philippine rainforests, this sturdy, upright plant has thick and mostly smooth dark-green leaves resembling an arrowhead shape.

The leaves grow from tall, stiff stalks with a dazzling black-and-white striped pattern resembling zebra skin.

  • Common Name: Elephant Ear
  • Average Price: $30-45
  • Average Size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Key Features: Zebra-patterned stalks, large arrowhead foliage

20. Anthurium veitchii

Originating in Columbia, this climbing king-size plant features long, pendulous leaves that grow up to 3 feet.

The leathery, wrinkled leaves resemble a stretched, slender heart shape and are dark green with a subtle metallic shine.

  • Common Name: King Anthurium
  • Average Price: $85-100
  • Average Size: 4-6 feet tall
  • Key Features: Dramatic elongated foliage; metallic leaf appearance

21. Monstera adansonii ‘Variegata Archipelago’

Cultivated from the fenestrated M. adansonii, or Swiss cheese, plant comes this odd, eye-catching variety with variegated patches of white, pale yellow, and bright/dark green due to reduced chlorophyll during mutation.

The lighter shades can appear in blotches or entire leaves.

  • Common Name: Monstera Adansonii Ghost
  • Average Price: $2,000-2,500
  • Average Size: 10-12 feet tall
  • Key Features: White and yellow variegated pattern, fenestrated leaves

22. Peperomia columella

Two branches of Peperomia columella against a jet-black background.

This unusual climbing plant from the deserts of south America features fleshy green, horseshoe-shaped leaves that grow in tight clusters and ascend like a vine.

Each snake-like stem of leaf clusters helps the plant climb faster towards the light.

  • Common Name: Columnar Peperomia
  • Average Price: $18-25
  • Average Size: 0.8-1 feet tall
  • Key Features: Clusters of succulent horse-shoe-like leaves

23. Alocasia azlanii

Leaves of the rare Alocasia azlanii plant.

Originally found by the streams and forests of Borneo, this stunning compact climber has dramatic dark green/purple leaves of elephant ear shaping and deep purplish-pink veins that almost resemble forks of lightning!

  • Common Name: Red Mambo
  • Average Price: $150-300
  • Average Size: 1.5-2 feet tall
  • Key Features: Deep-purple/pink vein details; dark green leaves

24. Albuca concordiana

This quirky plant is an upright bulb succulent found in Concordia, South Africa and has distinctive corkscrew curled flat ribbon leaves that form in tight clusters together.

The leaves are blueish gray, and fragrant bright-yellow flowers appear on the stalk in dormancy.

  • Common Name: Ornithogalum concordianum
  • Average Price: $25-35
  • Average Size: 7-8 inches tall
  • Key Features: Coiled, ribbon leaves; bright yellow blooms

Conclusion 

Some of the above plants may be harder to source than others, but none will go particularly easy on your bank balance!

Not all budgets stretch to auction-house figures, so before you fall head-over-heels for the rarest color mutations or leaf detailing, it’s probably best to start out with the more low-maintenance tropical plants (see below) and go from there.

Happy houseplant hunting!

Image credits: K Succulents, Paul Gellatly, Oakdale Greenhouses