17 Best Indoor Trees (and Tropical Plants) to Grow in Your Living Room
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Plus, tips for keeping them alive and well for longer than one second
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Not much can cause your shoebox of an apartment to feel like a lush, tropical paradise than indoor trees. A few things are non-negotiable to keep so grand a specimen alive and well—namely, tall enough ceilings to house it comfortably and enough natural light to make it feel like home (home being its native habitat, of course). So no, the dark interior corner of a room isn't probably the best place for it. And yes, you're probably better off buying a young tree and letting it grow and adapt to your home's conditions (which will be cheaper than buying a huge tree, anyway). It is doable! Many trees and tropical indoor plants can thrive indoors if cared for properly. Read through to discover 17 of the best indoor trees and tropical plants that will thrive inside your living room.
1. Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia)
"For jungle vibes," says The Sill's Eliza Blank. "Indoors, these usually max out around 6 feet tall and the leaves naturally split as they mature." Needs: Bright sunlight and high humidity.
2. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
"For that mid-century modern feel," Eliza recommends these tall, spindly plants. "Indoors, they can grow to well over 10 feet, but it won’t be straight vertical growth." Needs: Medium to bright, indirect sun ("it will drop leaves if it doesn’t get enough sunlight," she cautions).
3. Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
Though they somewhat resemble Christmas trees (and are sometimes used in their stead), this tropical plant has much softer, more delicate needles. Needs: Full sun and acidic soil.
4. Fishtail Palm (Caryota)
Featuring lush, jagged-edge leaves, this bushy palm varietal will transport any room to the tropics. Needs: Abundant bright light and lots of water.
5. European Olive (Olea europea)
So long as you're wiling to move them outside eventually (or regularly, during summer months) olive trees in containers can be very happy indoors for short periods of time. Needs: Good drainage and ample direct sun.
6. Triangle Ficus (Ficus triangularis)
"From the same genus as the classic 'Rubber Tree' and the ever-trendy but hard-to-keep-alive 'Fiddle leaf Fig,' but with a highly unique triangular leaf and open, airy growth habit," is how Jesse Waldman from Pistils Nursery describes this lesser-known (and far less fussy) pick. Needs: Bright light and some humidity.
7. Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
Unsexy name, but a perfectly delightful, palm-like silhouette and yellow-green striped leaves. Needs: Filtered sunlight and little else.
8. Parlor Palm (Chamaedora elegans)
The O.G. indoor palm tree: Long, palm-like leaves sprout out in abundance around a center stalk, and they can grow quite tall even indoors. Needs: Low light (hooray!) and plenty of moisture.
9. Umbrella Tree (Schefflera amata)
"This larger-leaf version of the classic 'umbrella plant' is easy to care for," Jesse says, "and the 'Soliel' cultivar has neon/chartreuse foliage." Needs: Medium light and standard watering.
10. Yucca (Yucca elephantipes)
Besides being great at air-filtration, these spiky-topped plants add a distinct desert flair to any room. Needs: Partial-sunlight and not too much water (they're drought-tolerant!).
11. Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
While not the easiest plants to keep alive, these broad-leafed beauties are super popular "and can grow well over 10 feet indoors," Eliza points out. Needs: Bright, indirect sun and "a very consistent environment" (so don't move it around or those leaves will drop!).
12. African Candelabra (Euphorbia ammak)
While technically not at all a tree (it's a succulent!), this tree-like plant recommended by Kristina Smith at the Jungalow can grow up to 20 feet tall (!). Needs: Full- to part-sun and good drainage.
13. Tree Fern
"Whether a Dicksonia or Cyathea, tree ferns are native to Australia and New Zealand and are absolutely incredible," Jesse gushes. "They grow really tall in nature (not quite as tall in your home) with large feathery fern fronds atop a furry/woody 'trunk'." Needs: Bright light, plenty of water (don't let it dry out), and high humidity.
14. Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)
While more commonly spotted in small sizes, these glossy-leafed beauties can be found come in tree form—"and it's beautiful when you do, as they often grow to be 3 to 6' tall," says Eliza. Needs: Bright, indirect light and some coddling (wipe the leaves clean when they get dusty!).
15. Rhapis Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
With finger-like leaves (it's often called a "Finger Palm") on fanned branches, these elegant plants are thought to be native to southern China and Taiwan. Needs: Indirect sunlight, as by an east-facing window.
16. Natal Mahogany (Trichilia emetica)
With "big and bushy dark green leaves that can fill a void," this low-light tolerant tree is full of personality and volume. "It will provide that lush summery depth that you might be searching for," says Tara Heibel, the owner of Sprout Home in Brooklyn and Chicago, as long as you water it regularly (even misting the leaves to simulate more humid environments). Needs: Medium light and water at least once a week. Most of the indoor trees on this list will survive if you skip a week of watering, but not the Natal mahogany. It will not recover if the soil dries out.
17. Split Leaf (Monstera deliciosa)
This robust, easy-to-grow tropical indoor plant can grow up to nine feet. Needs: Bright light, and 11 inches on either side of the plant so the glossy leaves have room to grow outward. Water weekly.
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