Indoor trees can transform an interior, adding nature and scale as they reach for the ceiling and dominate the room. Most trees only grow outdoors, so you need to choose wisely. Although we see constant images of Olives, maples, citrus and other sun-loving plants placed inside by eager stylists – they won’t make it indoors for longer than a day or two. But some of the trees that prefer a shadier position outdoors do well indoors, especially in a position with lots of natural light. A sunny atrium, or a bright spot next to a large window (avoiding western sun) is ideal.
There are a handful of ornamental fig species that are great choices for indoor trees. If you’re after a retro look, the weeping fig, Ficus benjaimina, was the go-to indoors tree in the ‘70s and ‘80s but in a contemporary interior a bigger leaf looks more modern.
The fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, is perhaps the best known currently, but my choice would be the long-leafed fig, Ficus longifolia, or the rubber plant, Ficus elastica.
Schefflera actinophylla is a rainforest tree found in east Queensland and the NT as well as in Java. It has large glossy green leaves, is often multi-stemmed and produces a fountain of red flower spikes from its crown. It’s easy to care for and will be happy to reach for the ceiling.
Left: Schefflera actinophylla Right: Strelitzia nicolai
Giant bird of paradise
Strelitzia nicolai is a tropical-looking plant with large banana-like leaves (and black and white flowers when its grown outdoors or in a very light position indoors). It’s a good choice if you want a lush feel in your interiors. Strelitiza needs good light – and because living indoors is a little bit stressful for this African native, it can be susceptible to mealy bug attack. You might notice sick-looking leaves before you spot the little fluffy insect that look like a twist of cotton wool. Minor infestation can be wiped away off with methylated spirits on cottonwool. A bigger problem might require some tablets of Confidor buried in the pot.
Images: Real Living Magazine, Maria Homer photography; Richard Unsworth; Instagram; Pinterest.