Fiddle leaf figs, with their big, sculptured leaves, make striking specimen plants. While they like bright light, they’ll show their dislike of drafts by dropping leaves. Water when the soil feels dry, and keep an eye open for pests like whiteflies and aphids. If they show up, treat your tree with the least toxic method, stepping up to stronger measures only if the bugs persist.
You’ve probably seen Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) decorated with small ornaments or red bows for Christmas, but they also make great year-round houseplants. Keep yours in medium to bright light and water often enough to keep the soil moist, but never soggy. If your pine starts to look weak and spindly, it probably needs more light; brown, dry tips on its branches mean it needs more moisture.
Known for their sword-shaped leaves and large, woody stems, or canes, yuccas come in shades of green to blue-green, with yellow, white or cream tones. These tropicals don’t need much water and can take sun to part shade in your home. If you move your tree outdoors in the spring, be sure to bring it back in before the first freeze.
Parlor palms once graced Victorian homes, but they’re still popular today, thanks to their ability to adapt to low light and humidity. They’re also on NASA’s list of 50 indoor plants that help clean the air. Most palms will develop root-rot if their soil stays wet, so be sure to use a container with drainage holes and a good quality potting mix.
Despite its common name, corn plant (Dracaena masseangea) is not edible. But with its thick trunk and strappy leaves, which are striped with lime-green or cream, corn plant makes a pretty indoor tree. Avoid over-watering or over-fertilizing the plants, and give them bright light and average to moderate humidity. In the winter, let the top two inches of soil dry out before you water again. Corn plants grow slowly to about 6 feet high.
Tough Madagascar dragon trees (Dracaena marginata) top out around 6 to 8 feet tall after about 10 years. But even when the plants are small, their palm-like leaves are lush and attractive. They thrive in average home temperatures and bright, filtered light; direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Keep the soil slightly moist during the growing season. Warning: these air-purifying plants are poisonous to pets.
Ficus species are sometimes called figs. You can find them in many different textures and heights, but weeping figs are among the most popular indoor trees. To keep your ficus from getting tall and lanky, give it medium to bright light and water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Most can be pruned back to keep them bushy, but watch for drips of their milky sap when you snip. Don’t worry too much if your tree drops some leaves when you first bring it home. Ficus often lose foliage when they’re moved to a new location, but new leaves should appear soon.
A slow-growing ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata), with its thick trunk and long, curvy leaves, is striking in a contemporary or modern setting. But it’s equally at home, and easy to grow, in any indoor location with medium to low light. If you’re a forgetful gardener, you’ll appreciate the palm’s ability to store water in its trunk and go without watering for a long period of time. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once in the spring and again in summer.
Add color to a bare corner with a Dracaena anita, a houseplant that even beginners can grow. It prefers bright light, but can tolerate low light conditions. It does need high humidity, however, so if your home is dry, group it with other houseplants or mist it often. Like many other houseplants, dracaenas help filter the air.
For an indoor spot with bright, filtered light, try a rubber tree (Ficus elastica). These glossy-leaved trees like regular water and well-drained potting soil. They’re heavy feeders, too, so give them some weak, liquid fertilizer while they’re actively growing. Expect to re-pot your fast-growing plant yearly, until it’s as big as you want.
Fishtail palms (Caryota mitis) get their common name from their fronds, which resemble fins and fishtails. They grow best in bright, indoor light where the daytime temperatures are warm and the nighttime temperatures don’t drop below about 55 degrees F. Fishtails also need lots of indoor humidity, so keep them near a humidifier or mist them often. They grow slowly.
Although they make lovely houseplants, majesty palms (Ravenea rivularis) look especially nice on a porch where their fronds can move gracefully in a breeze. Low light keeps them slow-growing; they’ll do better in medium to bright light. Keep their potting mix evenly moist, not wet. Try a majesty palm in a large, well-lit bathroom for a touch of the tropics.
Add a beautiful accent to your home with an easy-care indoor tree
You won’t harvest any dollar bills from your money tree, but it will add some welcome green to your home. Pachira aquatica is said to bring good luck, and some gardeners use it in their Feng Shui designs. Grow several plants in the same container, and braid their trunks together, if you wish; it won’t hurt them. Money trees like bright light and regular water.