A City Dweller’s Guide to Indoor Trees

April 9, 2020

Text by Erika Ayn Finch

Indoor trees are having a moment. Here are the best ones for city living.

indoor trees fiddle leaf figFor the Influencer

We’re here to report that one tree still reigns supreme on Instagram: the fiddle-leaf fig. Jordan Ford, co-owner of Jordan’s Jungle in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, credits tidying-guru Marie Kondo for the tree’s popularity, but they aren’t for everyone. “They tend to be finicky when you move them around, and humidity is key,” says Ford. “Spray your tree with water or get a humidifier for the room.”

indoor trees bengal figFor the Trendsetter

“The Bengal fig—or ficus Audrey—is the new fiddle-leaf,” says Virginia Orlando, co-owner of Seed to Stem in Worcester, Massachusetts. “The leaves are smaller, and they are hardier than a fiddle-leaf.” The biggest issue when it comes to caring for tropical plants like ficuses is overwatering. If your tree receives a lot of light, it needs more water. Less light equals less water.

indoor trees pothos totemFor the Urban Dweller with North-Facing Windows

Just because your condo doesn’t let in much light doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams of living in a jungle. Consider vines such as philodendron or pothos that have been trained to grow up a trunk or totem. Seed to Stem stocks vines that are already eight feet tall, perfect for a loft with soaring ceilings.

indoor trees hibiscusFor the Flower Child

Exotic hibiscus plants can be pruned into trees, says Ford. Seek out trees where three separate plants have been braided together, which will yield three different colors of blooms. Your flowering beauty will require a lot of light, but growing your hibiscus indoors as opposed to outdoors means you won’t have to combat the pests that frequently plague outdoor plants.

For the First-Time Plant Parent

The dracaena cane is the tree for you, agree both Orlando and Ford. They tolerate low light, provide interesting tufts of leaves in various hues, and can reach brave heights. “They are slow growing though,” says Ford, “so they won’t outgrow their space for five or six years.”

indoor trees lemon treeFor the Gourmet

“Citrus trees are gaining in popularity,” says Ford. “You can purchase grafted trees, which are self-pollinating and will provide fruit.” If you love to cook, this means you can grow exotic citrus such as Meyer lemons, ponderosa lemons, and tangerines that aren’t readily available at the neighborhood bodega.


Tree Tips from the Experts

• The key to a healthy tree is researching where it comes from in order to know what type of light it wants and how much water it needs.
• Dust your tree’s leaves regularly so they can work to the best of their abilities.
• Trees do an excellent job of cleaning the air, something all city dwellers can use. Trees also have a big presence, which can make you feel like you’re outdoors, even when you aren’t. “We have a giant fig in the shop that people will actually go sit under,” says Orlando.
• Love the look of braided trunks like those found on money trees? Shop for a tree that’s already braided. It’s a process that happens when the tree is small. Your local tree expert will be able to teach you how to braid the tree as it grows in height.
• For light-loving trees, place them in a window where they can see the sky to ensure they are receiving enough light. South-facing windows are best.
• Still having a hard time pleasing your new family member? Take photos and send them to the shop where your tree was purchased so they can help diagnose its needs. “The more you live with plants and trees, the easier it becomes to intuit what they need,” says Orlando.

Jordan’s Jungle, Pawtucket, R.I.
Seed to Stem, Worcester, Mass.

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