Indoor trees are the Houseplants of the month for January 2016: Big, calming, air-purifying and thanks to the large amount of foliage, they provide a woodland feel indoors even when everything outdoors is still chilly and bare.

Choice of indoor trees

There is an extensive range of ‘indoor trees’ on offer. The most common indoor trees with a trunk are Dracaena and Beaucarnea, which are both members of the Agavaceae family. Pachira is a plant from the Malvaceae family, and Polyscias is a member of the Araliaceae, which also includes ivy, for example.

Dracaena is the most common genus in the trade. The range features many different species and cultivars, which vary in terms of leaf shape and colour. The size or appearance of Dracaena has nothing to do with the name. The plants are easiest to distinguish from one another by looking at the width of the leaves at species level. D. marginata is 1 cm wide and always has a red edge, D. deremensis is 2-3 cm wide, D. fragrans is 4-7 cm wide. There is also D. reflexa with rather short, bent leaves. A number of species are less well-known: D. surculosa and D. sanderiana. There are various cultivars of all these species available for sale.

There are two forms of Beaucarnea recurvata available. The adult form is sold as Beaucarnea and always has an attractive, fairly smooth trunk. The young plant is sold under the name Nolina, but is actually the same plant and is characterised by the small ball out of which the narrow leaves grow.

We see many different forms of Polyscias, from fine jagged leaves (P. fruticosa) to P. scutellaria and P. balfouriana with almost round leaves.

Only one type of Pachira is sold – P. aquatica. However, there are many different forms, from small trunks to trees which are several metres high.

Care tips

  • The more variegated the plant, the lighter its position needs to be. If the leaf contains more chlorophyll, it can cope with less light. Foliage plants should never be placed in direct sunlight otherwise the leaves will scorch.
  • The larger and thicker the trunk, the easier the plant is to look after. The trunk stores water – too much moisture can even lead to the trunk rotting. Generally speaking the plant should be watered regularly with water at room temperature, and standing water should be avoided. A shower in the form of some rain is an option in spring and summer by placing the plant outdoors briefly. After all, that’s what happens in nature.
  • Leave any yellow or ugly leaves to dry out and then remove. If an indoor tree has become too tall or less attractive, it can be pruned, preferably during the months when there is less sunlight. They can sometimes also flower, particularly if they are subjected to some ‘loving neglect’.
  • Houseplant food once a month is recommended to help indoor trees last a long time.
  • Just to be totally clear, indoor trees are purely decorative and not for consumption. Source: BBH

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