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Best Houseplants to Grow as Trees

Best Houseplants to Grow as Trees

By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms

Ever notice how a houseplant instantly adds something to a room? Plants bring in a sense of homey-ness, warmth, and life. If you’re looking to give your favorite room a fresh look with some instant impact, try a tree! There are a variety of houseplants you can choose from, so there’s a perfect choice for practically any space.

Don’t have a lot of room? No worries! Trees come in a variety of sizes, from tall to small. And many varieties are available as young plants, so you can enjoy the experience of nurturing a baby plant into a statement piece over the years!

Here are eight of our favorite houseplants to grow as trees.

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Since Bonsai are miniature trees, they’re great on desks, tabletops, and other spaces in your home. Because bonsai isn’t a variety of plant, but rather a way of growing a plant to keep it small, you can grow pretty much any tropical tree or shrub to enjoy as a bonsai.

Some of the most common bonsai varieties you’ll see offered as houseplants are:

  • Fukien Tea, which has dark green leaves and can produce white flowers when it’s happy.
  • Ginseng ficus, which offers a thick trunk and shiny dark green leaves.
  • And elephant bush, also called Portulacaria afra or baby jade, a succulent that has thick, dark green leaves and can survive a few weeks without water if it needs to.

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Madagascar Dragon Tree

Madagascar Dragon Tree, known botanically as Dracaena marginata, is a tried-and-true houseplant that features thin, elegant leaves and a bamboo-like trunk. It can tolerate low light, but truly thrives in brighter conditions. Because it comes in several colors, including magenta, green, and variegated with white, it’s easy to match this houseplant with your décor style. And for a more sophisticated look, go for a Madagascar Dragon Tree that has multiple trunks braided together.

Over time, it can grow six feet tall or more.

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Ponytail Palm

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is one of the easiest houseplants to grow. Native to areas of Mexico, it features a thick trunk that stores water during times of drought, so it’s forgiving if you forget to water it now and again. A really slow grower inside as a houseplant, ponytail palm can reach 25 feet tall or more outdoors in a frost-free area. It likes bright light and doesn’t mind low humidity.

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Money Tree

Commonly called Money Tree (Pachira aquatica) because it’s said to bring good fortune and positive feng shui to your home, it’s one of the most adaptable houseplants you can grow as a tree. The plant features light green, hand-shaped leaves that add a nice texture to your favorite space. Outdoors, this tropical tree can grow 50 feet tall, but don’t worry—inside you can keep it at six feet or less. Money tree does best in bright, indirect light and with moist potting mix.

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Corn Plant

A tried-and-true houseplant grown for decades, Corn Plant (also called Mass Cane) is a type of Dracaena fragrans that shows off rich, dark-green leaves decorated with a golden-yellow band up the center. You might see it offered with varying numbers of trunks. Like many other trees, it can grow quite large—to 20 feet or more—outdoors in the tropics but stays manageable at home.

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Yucca Cane

Yucca Cane is a relative of corn plant that also makes for a stunning—and easy to grow—houseplant. Yucca cane is drought tolerant and shows off stiff, sword-like gray-green leaves. This makes it a natural fit for modern and contemporary décor. Grow it in bright light and take care not to overwater yucca cane for best performance.

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Fiddle Leaf Fig

Perhaps the most common houseplant grown in tree form thanks to its trendiness, Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) sports large leaves shaped like a violin. Its big foliage offers a stunning textural contrast to a lot of other plants commonly grown indoors. Fiddle Leaf Fig can grow 100 feet tall in Africa where it’s native, but you don’t need to worry about it trying to bust out of your ceiling. Give it bright light to thrive.

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Norfolk Island Pine

A beloved houseplant often sold during the holiday season as little starter plants, Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) eventually grows into a majestic specimen you can enjoy all year long. While it’s not actually a type of pine tree, this tropical sports rich green needles and can be a medium to fast grower in good conditions. It enjoys bright light and average to above average humidity. Don’t let it dry out.

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