6 Indoor Trees to Keep Your Home Green This Winter
Banish the winter blahs with forest green.
You could brighten your rooms this winter with a fresh coat of paint, or buy a new chair or couch. But it's much easier--and cheaper--to add a touch of green with an indoor tree.
Many of the trees sold in nurseries and garden centers hail from the tropics, but they'll make great houseplants, and live a long time, if you provide the right amounts of light and water. Try one of these beauties when you're ready to grow your own mini-forest.
You've probably seen these trees, commonly called fiddleleaf figs, in homes featured in design magazines. Ficus thrive in brightly-lit rooms with average household temperatures and don't need much water during the cold season. (In fact, it's best to let the top of their soil dry out slightly between waterings.) Give them extra humidity by misting the leaves regularly, and if the foliage gets dusty, wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
Fiddleleaf figs have a sculptural quality that makes a big statement in big rooms, but they do have a reputation for being a bit finicky. If you're a beginning gardener, you might want to try an easy-to-grow philodendron instead. It's another striking plant with handsome foliage.
Planted outside in a warm climate, Ravenea rivularis, better known as majesty palm, can mature to over 50 feet. indoors, this Madagascar native grows relatively slowly and needs medium to bright light.
Group majesty palms with other houseplants to raise the humidity in a room, and watch for spider mites, indoor pests that can show up in dry conditions.
Tuck a majesty palm into a bare corner, or let its graceful, feathery fronds add an elegant touch to a special room. If you’ve got lots of open space, line up several palms to make a living screen or room divider. Keep the plant's soil evenly moist (a self-watering planter is a big help), and don't fertilize during the cold season.
Need to dress up a large office or living space? An umbrella tree, or Schefflera arboricola, adds color and interest with its glossy, oval leaves. Variegated varieties with cream-colored markings are especially attractive.
Like most indoor trees, scheffleras prefer average room temperatures, high humidity and medium to bright light. Outdoors, they're hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. Try showing them off beside the dark green leaves and white blooms of peace lilies.
If you’ve ever brushed against a Yucca aloifolia, you’ll know why it's not sold as a houseplant; its sharp leaves can cut your skin. Y. elephantipes is another story. This so-called spineless yucca has pointed leaf tips, but the sword-shaped foliage isn't as sharp, making it a much better housemate.
Yuccas are sun-lovers, so give them a southern exposure. You may need to water once a week or more if your plant is in a very warm, very bright room. Otherwise, average household humidity and temperatures are fine for these slow-growers. If your yucca gets too big, you can shorten it by pruning in early spring. Simply saw the stem in half and wait for new leaves to sprout. It's a drastic measure, but it helps when your yucca starts scraping the ceiling.
Fishtail palms, or Caryotas, take their name from their fan-shaped leaves, which have ragged edges that resemble a fish’s tail. Give them a sunroom or other bright spot where the daytime temperatures stay around 70 to 80 degrees and drop to 55 to 60 degrees at night. Fishtails are happy in sunny bathrooms and around indoor spas and indoor pools. In other locations, mist them often or use a humidifier.
These graceful-looking plants are somewhat drought tolerant, so it's okay to let the top of the soil dry out before you water. Wait until spring to fertilize.
Fruit trees can flourish in a sunroom or in a window that gets southern exposure at least 8 to 12 hours a day. If you can't provide that much natural light, supplement with grow lights.
When the weather is reliably warm, move potted citrus, like this Key Lime, onto a sunny porch or patio. Bring it back inside before the first frost.
Lemons, limes and other citrus are rewarding to grow indoors, where they'll perfume the air with their flowers and even produce some fruits. Give them good air circulation, but avoid putting them near drafts or air vents. Spritz the foliage with water often or keep a humidifier nearby. After there's no more danger of frost, you can move your citrus outdoors until the temperatures drop again in fall.
Not sure which varieties to grow? Slightly sweet Meyer lemons are a good choice, as are Kaffir limes; you can use their leaves in Thai and Cambodian dishes. Calamondin oranges can yield enough tart fruits for a jar or two of delicious marmalade.