If you’re ready to add indoor trees to your home decor, dive into this research on the best trees for every spot in the house.
You may have tried keeping houseplants and killed one too many orchids, or maybe you’ve got dreams of your own biophilic interior design and have been waiting for the right digs to go crazy with the plants. Either way, we recommend brushing up on some of the best growers for all indoor lighting situations and determining whether or not your favorite indoor plants will work in your home.
If you’re ready to make your big plant dreams come true, we’ve got a round-up of some of the most popular indoor trees, along with a few that are lesser known or are making a comeback and can take your home interiors to a new level.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the tree types, you need to know the basic plant care required for these trees. They’re low-maintenance and often forgiving, but a few essential ingredients are necessary for the perfect indoor potted tree experience.
One issue houseplants face that their outdoor counterparts don’t is poor soil drainage; they need water, but they can’t sit in it for days. All of these trees would benefit from having some filler, like gravel, in the bottom inch or two of the pot, followed by a potting mix. Most plant owners will say indoor plants are forgiving on the type of mix you use, but purchasing potting soil made for indoor pot plants is key.
If your soil has enough filler and your plants can drain well, your biggest hurdle may be loving too much (Isn’t this always the case?). In a desperate attempt to finally keep a houseplant alive, you may inadvertently give it too much water.
Over-watering can cause root rot and powdery mildew to form on your plant. Keep your new plant baby in a well-draining pot so that the soil can dry out enough between waterings.
All plants below can survive in the average climate-controlled temperature home (around 55 to 80 degrees), with the exceptions noted. This leeway in temperature means you can sometimes set your plant outside to let it soak up direct sunlight or get a little rain (nothing quite compares to rainwater for plant growth). Then, pull them inside when temperatures drop or rise.
Take inventory of the rooms in your home and see which ones receive full sun for much of the day. Then, use Spoak’s room visualization tool to find the right location for a tree as a focal point in your space. Visualize it at its current size and as high as it is projected to grow.
The trees below will flourish in bright sunlight, elevating your space with their sculptural presence:
Norfolk Island pines (araucaria heterophylla) are wintery-looking pines but amazingly prefer full sun. They can be moved from indoors to outdoors, but beware — despite their Christmas tree appearance, they don’t tolerate freezing temperatures well (a little first-hand experience here).
Citrus trees like orange or lemon trees need full sun. Even in cold climates, you can have fruit trees if you keep them indoors.
Fruit-bearing plants need acidic conditions, so use a fertilizer for acidic-loving plants at half strength. Adding some peat to the potting mix will help keep the pH levels correct. As for pollination, you’ll need to take on the role insects would have outdoors by gently shaking the stems or flicking the flowers with your fingers.
Yuccas (yucca elephantipes), or spineless yuccas, thrive in full sun but can grow in bright, indirect light if that’s all your home gets. Rotating them outside occasionally in warmer months might aid faster growth.
Ponytail palms (beaucarnea recurvata) can take indirect or direct light. The name is misleading, as it isn’t really a palm tree but a succulent. Sometimes called an “elephant foot palm,” this succulent stores water in its stump-like base that also resembles a head with a ponytail extending from it.
Household banana trees (musa acuminata) are dwarf versions of the common banana tree and don’t grow to the great proportions of the original. However, they can still produce fruit during the growing season. When potted indoors, these trees don’t require as much water as they would outside, so let the soil dry out before watering again.
Olive trees (olea europaea arbequina) are native to Spain and require full sun but reward you for the trouble with a sturdy, tall stalk and a multitude of delicate leaves. The plant brings to mind an ancient olive grove — but on a scale just right for indoors.
Dwarf olive trees have been trending lately as an alternative to the ever-present ficus. These can grow up to six feet tall inside and can even produce fruit if you let them sit on a patio for a few mild months each year.
Some of these plants can endure brighter or lower light, as you may see in the trial-and-error process of placing plants around the house.
In general, these will grow in the bright, indirect sunlight of your interiors:
Money trees (pachira aquatica) are said to bring good luck, getting their name from the tale of a poor man who sold its seeds to gain a fortune. They’re popular as patio plants or indoor trees due to their thin, flexible stalks that are often braided. The braided stalks harden into woody trunks over time and can add texture and interest to any living room. Just be careful if you have pets around the house because this plant is toxic to both cats and dogs.
Majesty palms (Ravenea rivularis) are palm trees that send out multiple stems with beautifully arching fronds that grow slowly indoors but add a singular, tropical presence to your decor.
Like many tropical plants, they prefer bright light and higher humidity. (So a spritz from a water bottle here and there wouldn’t hurt.) You may find majesty palms one of the more particular plants in this list, but when they thrive, they can grow up to ten feet tall.
Parlor palms (chamaedorea elegans) are less finicky and can grow up to six feet indoors. As the name suggests, these plants have long been popular in home settings. Let your parlor palm dry out completely between waterings to prevent root rot.
Fishtail palms (caryota mitis) can thrive with indirect light but can also handle full sun. They are fast growers outdoors, often planted instead of bamboo as a garden screen, and can also grow quickly indoors. They will, however, eventually outgrow your pot and need to be moved outdoors.
Corn plants (dracaena fragrans) produce textured stalks that split at the top to form a few heads with arching, variegated fronds. Besides adding interesting curves and vertical height to your greenery, corn plants have been shown to remove several toxins from the air in a NASA study.
Umbrella trees (schefflera) earned their nickname because of the umbrella-like fronds that extend gracefully out from their branches. Their colors can range from a striking deep green to a green and yellow variegated variety. They also don’t mind being a little root-bound.
Fiddle leaf figs (ficus lyrata) have been plastered all over Instagram for a few years now, but there’s a reason for their popularity. The fiddle leaf checks so many of the plant decor boxes: It grows tall, has vibrant green leaves, the waxy sheen of the leaves adds texture to their surroundings, and it grows well in full sun to indirect sunlight indoors.
Weeping figs (ficus benjamina) are most commonly called by their true name: the ficus tree. If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, this was the plant you saw on the set of every TV sitcom. It ruled the world of indoor plants for years, and its popularity has come around again due to its easy-care nature and air-purifying abilities.
Dragon trees (dracaena marginata) have textured, woody stems that split off near the top into an explosion of sword-like leaves. The dracaena name comes from the myth of Hercules, who killed the 100-headed dragon Ladon. Where Ladon’s blood spilled on the ground, this family of plants is said to have sprung up.
If your room has minimal sunlight and you’ve felt your excitement waning as you read, don’t lose hope! Although you can always employ grow lights, there are a few indoor trees that can get by with low light:
Lady palms (rhapis excelsa) love bright indirect light but can tolerate low light very well. They can grow up to six feet indoors and will take being root-bound with grace, but well-draining soil is a must. You might try an African Violet potting mix to ensure the roots don’t stay too wet.
Rubber trees (ficus elastica) have been popular indoor trees for decades due to their ability to survive with indirect light and grow to be real showstoppers, with dark green leaves with a purple underside for contrast. Try rooting a cutting from the top of your rubber plant, then planting it next to the mother to encourage a fuller-looking tree as it grows.
Jade trees (crassula ovata) are a favorite low-maintenance houseplant that may not grow as tall but make up for their lack of height by being easy, low-key additions to your decor. They tolerate being root-bound to an extent, so you won’t have to rush to repot it every year.
If you’ve read this far, you clearly want an indoor tree that works with your small home layout. We have good news: Many of the trees on this list can be grown as bonsai trees. Some options include the umbrella tree, Norfolk Island pine, dragon tree, and jade tree.
The beauty of these bonsai is that you can have all of the graceful geometry of a full tree: From gnarled, exposed roots, to a tapered trunk and an elegant spray of branches and leaves, without having to make space for a large pot and a fast-growing tree.
The traditional bonsai tree (ficus bonsai) that most of us imagine when we think of a miniature tree is of the ficus type and is considered the easiest bonsai for beginners to nurture. This little guy will grow up to two feet tall, which may be enough of a tree for your small space.
After you’ve given your plants all the love you know they need, the only thing you can do is wait and watch them grow. If you’re new to growing trees indoors, you may feel anxious about any changes in your plant’s appearance. Some stress is expected when a plant is moved from a nursery or greenhouse setting to your home, so relax and look them over each week when you water them.
Now that you’ve been educated, or received a refresher on growing indoor trees in your home, start looking for gaps in the interior design of your rooms that certain trees might fill. For instance, the ponytail palm’s curvy trunk and the long spray of leaves may be the softness your living room needs.
Experimentation is your best bet. In no time, your green thumb will match your green walls. How cohesive!
Photo Credit: (Left) House Beautiful
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