The average home is too warm for trees that come from temperate climates to grow indoors. However, tropical trees which are native to warm equatorial climates can often adapt to indoor conditions. Growers and plant sellers have selected several types of tropical trees that are suitable for home, office or indoor public areas. They are easy to care for and tolerant of constant warm temperatures and the lower light levels found indoors.
Norfolk Island Pine
The Norfolk Island pine (scientific name Araucaria heterophylla) is native to Norfolk Island, which lies just north of New Zealand. The tropical climate allows this tree to be one of the only conifers that can adapt to indoor conditions. It becomes a large tree in its native habitat at over 200 feet tall, but indoors it grows very slowly, at a rate of only 2 to 3 inches per year. These trees are often used as living Christmas trees and are decorated during the holidays.
Norfolk Island pine trees like bright, indirect light. Indoors place them in an east- or west-facing window and turn the plant once or twice a week so each side gets exposed to the light evenly. The trees prefer high humidity, above 50 percent, and temperatures that stay between 55 degrees and 95 degrees. Water the tree only when the soil feels slightly dry to the touch. Use a liquid houseplant fertilizer every three to four months.
An excellent tropical indoor tree is the parlor palm (scientific name Chamaedorea elegans). It is a classic houseplant originating in Mexico and Guatemala. It grows to 6 feet tall, very slowly, and its size can be easily managed with pruning. It has shiny green pinnate leaves on a central trunk that is also shiny green.
Parlor palms like medium light from an east- or west-facing window or a shaded southern window. They need an organically rich and well-draining potting soil that remains slightly moist, but not wet. It benefits from monthly liquid fertilizer and high humidity levels.
The dragon tree (scientific name Dracaena marginata) comes from Madagascar and makes an excellent indoor tree. It has narrow green leaves up to 3 feet long with red margins on top of woody stems. It grows to 15 feet tall and can easily be pruned to size by cutting the top off.
Dragon trees like bright to low light and do well in a slightly filtered southern window. They need well-draining soil that is allowed to dry slightly between watering. Although they are tolerant of poor soils, they prefer soil to be fertile. This tree easy to care for and tolerant of neglect.