Horticulture Magazine

7 Indoor Trees To Brighten Your Living Spaces

a young lemon tree indoors

Plants and greenery breathe vigour and energy into indoor spaces. They’re a great way to bring a room to life, and to bring that little sprinkling of nature to cut through the man-made factors that can begin to feel a little bit oppressive.

If you live somewhere with no private outdoor space, incorporating plants and indoor trees can be the only way to invite nature in, so it’s deeply important to make the right choices.

Dracaena marginata tricolor in a clay pot on a timber shelf
Dracaena marginata is one of many indoor trees

In this guide, we’ll introduce seven indoor trees to make a fantastic addition to any indoor space. Whether you’re struggling to find room amongst your hundreds of other houseplants, or you’re a budding interior designer looking for their very first piece of indoor nature, there’ll be something in this list to align with your needs.

1. Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)

Let’s start with the indoor tree from the picture above, distinctive with its pinnacle of spiky leaves sporting the distinctive Dracaena tricolor pattern. Each leaf has a band of colour framed by green, with different varieties offering white or red.

While this tree can flower, it’s unlikely to do so indoors. It’ll also reach a far more diminutive height: probably around a maximum of 6 feet indoors as opposed to 20 feet and above if left to its natural devices.

Dragon trees like full sun or partial shade, and need to be in well-draining soil. Try to find a spot with indirect sunlight, as they are prone to scorching. Water regularly, although make sure the top half of the soil is dry before doing so. This can take a couple of weeks, so bear in mind that the definition of “regularly” varies between plants.

While dragon trees will probably be alright with the humidity levels in your house, you can give the leaves a spritz every once in a while to add a little moisture.

Beware that the leaves of this tree contain compounds that are poisonous to cats and dogs, so if your pets like to take a sneaky nibble of any

2. Yucca (Yucca Elephantipes)

This tree has a lovely exotic profile, adding a nice tropical feel to any room. The thick, deep green leaves lilt lazily to give a relaxed energy, and the thick trunk raising them away from the ground gives a distinctly tree-like appearance that not all indoor trees actually manage to achieve.

The care requirements for this tree make it great for gardeners with less experience. It requires less watering than the dragon tree, and it will make do with lower quality soil as well. In fact, one of the easiest ways to damage a yucca is by overwatering it, so be careful!

During the hotter months you may need to move your yucca outside to a spot with partial shade. When doing so, make sure to weigh down the container or put into a heavier pot. This will prevent gusts of wind from potentially knocking the plant over.

The yucca’s maximum size is bigger than what will fit comfortably into most of our houses, although it takes such a long time to grow to this size that it won’t be a problem for a while. You’ll need to repot every few years as the plant grows.

3. Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

The Norfolk Island Pine is native to – you guessed it – Norfolk Island. This territory flies under the radar of most people, unless they’re Australians looking for a local holiday or, more likely, gardeners looking for a nice houseplant.

Norfolk Island golf course lined with norfolk island pines
Bring a slice of island life into your home

The plant itself boasts the evergreen needle appearance you’d expect of a pine, the needles in dense and appealing clusters. Where most indoor trees bring an air of the tropical or the exotic, Araucaria heterophylla brings something a little more rugged and rustic, perhaps bringing to mind something Scandinavian.

Your Norfolk Island Pine will do best in full sun or partial shade, with a few hours of direct sun being tolerated. Water every week or so, and let the top section of soil dry before adding any more. In terms of humidity, slightly higher than average household humidity is preferred. Maybe give your plant the occasional spritz to make up for lower-than-ideal humidity.

This is also toxic to cats and dogs if consumed, so make sure to keep it away from their curious mouths!

4. Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)

The rubber plant is a popular choice for people looking to spruce up their interior design. The thick green leaves provide a nice shot of colour, and their care regime is undemanding.

As with some other indoor trees the ficus elastica grows to fairly lofty heights out in the wild, but it will stay within manageable limits when grown indoors. Over time as the size increases, you may find yourself needing to stake or otherwise support the branches to keep them steady.

The best spot for your ficus elastica will have a good amount of indirect sunlight. You only need to water when the top half of the soil is dry, and overwatering is a common source of damage – so take care! Repotting should be done every year for a young plant, and roughly every three years thereafter. You can tell when a young plant needs repotting because the roots will be bound.

Big leaves mean this plant is prone to collect dust, so give them a wipe down with a damp sponge if they get too dusty. And as with other plants in this list, keep away from cats and dogs as the rubber plant is toxic.

5. European Olive (Olea Europea)

If you often find yourself in conflicts and arguments, why not ensure a constant supply of olive branches to extend to people? Or, far more likely, why not choose this indoor tree as an attractive and distinctive way to liven up your drab indoor space?

Olive trees love a bit of sunlight, and will do best with at least a few hours per day. Think about it: these are trees that grow naturally in stunning Italian and Greek sunshine, so you’ll need to make certain concessions based on the warm and glamorous lifestyle they’re used to.

The tree will reward you, though. Their captivating clusters of miniature leaves come in a striking grey-green colour, bringing something a little different to the rich and exotic greens we’ve seen previously.

It’s quite unlikely that your olive tree will actually bear fruit – something to keep in mind. Some ornamental varieties are unable to do so, while others require time outside in the right conditions to bud. So if you’re looking for home-grown olives, you’ll need to do a little extra research.

Keep in frequent but indirect sunlight and water when the top of the soil is wet. Repot when the root ball is getting a little restricted to give your plant the best chances for a long life.

6. Calamondin Orange Tree (Citrus Mitis)

We really love this one. What’s more adorable than a plant that puts forth tiny oranges each year, and brings with it a charming and refreshing citrus scent?

a Miniature citrus tree in a white planter on a dark blue background
The answer? There’s not much more adorable than this

Also let us clarify. These aren’t tiny oranges, technically; they’re mandarins combined with kumquats. While this isn’t the type of plant you’d expect to see thriving in UK growing conditions, the saplings can be encouraged to have a long and healthy life if kept indoors and looked after well.

Perhaps the main draw of this plant is its scent: refreshing and orangey, and a lovely extra sensory contribution to your home. When it’s in bloom, the calamondin will catch the eye (and nose) of any guests, and is guaranteed to be a talking point.

Indoors these trees require temperatures above 13 degrees Celsius, and will appreciate being fertilised each spring. Keep the soil moist but only water when the top couple of centimetres are dry, and don’t overwater. Give the plant direct sunlight each day for a few hours if possible, and if you have the space, move outside for a few hours a day in spring. Calamondin can actually tolerate spending summer outdoors entirely if you live in the right climate – we recommend double-checking this before doing so, however, as misjudging can harm growth.

7. Corn Plant (Dracaena Fragrans)

The corn plant is an interesting-looking indoor tree. It’s got a thick green stem with beige markings – looking almost like slash marks – which then give rise to smaller offshoots from which leaves fan gently out.

It definitely shares an exotic aesthetic with plants featured earlier in this list, and would look great alongside a yucca, for example. The exotic visual appeal has ensure the persistent presence of corn plants in the interior decorator’s arsenal for many decades, and it’s easy to see why.

While the plant has nothing to do with the corn you find in barbecues and salads, the name derives from the tuft of leaves at the top of the plant which, as somebody noted when choosing the name, look a little like the tuft atop field corn.

This indoor tree can grow up to 15m tall in natural conditions, but in a container will most likely peak around 1.5-1.8 metres, making them ideal home companions.

Be aware if you’ve got dogs or cats in the house, as this is another toxic plant! Make sure to keep them out of reach to avoid any harm coming to your pets.

Tree-mendous!

Indoor trees are mainstays in interior design for a reason. They are attractive, versatile, and often relatively easy to take care of. Whether you go for a distinctly exotic ambience by combining a handful of trees from far-flung regions of the globe, or just add one or two around your home, you’re guaranteed to find something attractive and distinctive to complement your space.

While the trees in this list give a good introduction to the outdoor trees available, the suggestions are far from exhaustive. We hope they’ve given you some inspiration, and that you soon find the right tree (or combination of trees!) to lift your home to its full potential.

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