October 20, 2013 5:22 PM   Subscribe

This is a really silly question but whatever. I would like to get a small tree for my apartment. What are my best options?

I have a moderately sized Brooklyn apartment with fairly tall ceilings. I'd like to get a small tree that I could place in the corner, by my bedroom window. I don't have a ton of space, so I'd like something that's not super wide. Height isn't as much of an issue. What are my best options?
posted by prunes to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I heard lemon trees are good. They are very lush, beautiful, and live well indoors. I had a young lemon tree for about a year--more of a seedling. It was very cute, but I had to move and gave it to a friend. Here's a picture I found off of Google images:
posted by tenlives at 5:37 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dracaena can be bought/pruned in tree-like configurations, and it's incredibly hardy. Mine has done quite well over years of neglect.
posted by limeonaire at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2013

Do you have any windows? Which direction do they face? How cold is your apartment?
posted by purpleclover at 5:55 PM on October 20, 2013

If you can find one -- even a seedling -- I highly recommend a bay tree. Sp. laurus nobilis, as in bay leaves for cooking and accept no substitutes like California bay. They make a terrific indoor tree, and fresh bay leaves beat any dried alternative for cooking a hundred times over.
posted by vers at 6:00 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

My parents have three avocado trees growing in our some-times chilly house for over 20 years and they're lovely!

I don't know if they started them from seed, or transplanted them from when they lived in southern California, so ymmv.
posted by Grandysaur at 6:01 PM on October 20, 2013

I've seen quite a few Norfolk Island pine trees and ficus trees in homes and offices.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:04 PM on October 20, 2013

Bays are nice, though very slow-growing. Avocados are lovely. But I like citrus. Bergamot?
posted by holgate at 6:09 PM on October 20, 2013

Hibiscus are nice, though a bit picky.
posted by windykites at 7:22 PM on October 20, 2013

Fiddle-leaf fig trees are nice and tend to grow in a narrow shape.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:03 PM on October 20, 2013

posted by BlueHorse at 8:04 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love my Norfolk Island Pines, especially because they can double as living Christmas trees.

I also have a dragon tree, or a Dracaena. I got it as a tiny little plant in college in 1993. It's still going strong and has withstood my cat peeing on it and me forgetting to water it, as well as a move where we had to cut it back to the soil level.
posted by Ostara at 8:17 PM on October 20, 2013

I've got a bay tree and a coffee tree (arabica), the bay is nice for cooking (though I prefer to use the leaves dried rather than fresh) but the coffee tree is much better looking and super low maintenance.
posted by foodgeek at 8:39 PM on October 20, 2013

No way to know without knowing how much light and what direction it comes from.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:05 PM on October 20, 2013

I've had a bay leaf plant growing for about three years from a seedling and it's now a scant foot and a half tall. It's a handsome plant but I doubt it will ever be a tree.
posted by zadcat at 10:05 PM on October 20, 2013


They say it's Latin for "the tree that dies indoors" but YMMV.
posted by Rash at 11:49 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) is the classic one. The mistake people make is to place them in drafty areas and not water them properly. They are more tolerant of not getting tons and tons of sunlight although they like full sun. They also get a bit potbound and their soil ages. At that point the leaves drop off pretty quickly and they look threadbare and sorry for themselves. At one point I operated an informal rescue service for friends' ficus trees and they can be brought back from the brink with a bit of care. My main issue with them is that they are a bit boring though and risk your home looking a bit like Dunder Mifflin.

Another option is a lemon tree. The same sorts of rules apply - they hate, hate drafts and can be sensitive. They need more sunlight than ficus and also need specific winter and summer food. They also need to be pruned carefully. They also don't like being near heating sources like radiators.

Another option is an indoor olive tree. Badly looked after they will shed leaves, but otherwise are an attractive plant with pretty flowers. Again, they need lots of sunlight, careful maintenance, not to be overwatered and the right temperature - away from drafts, not disrupted by drafts or changing hot and cold temperatures from home heating.

Bays are a good choice - a handsome plant that can take a bit of abuse. They will grow eventually though and you need to prune carefully to keep them in the shape you want. Pruning carefully and regularly is the key. Skip that and you end up with a bush.

I also like yuccas and palms, which have the benefit of wanting to grow upwards rather than out and won't shed like a ficus, citrus tree or olive. Something like a pygmy date palm (phoenix roebelenii) would be a good option - it likes sun and will need some pruning but will be less maintenance and hardier than a citrus tree. There are lots of options though - from yucca-related plants like a ponytail palm which have a large trunk through to leafier palm types like the finger palm.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:59 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved my rubber tree. Doesn't require a lot in care (but moderate sunlight), is beautiful, and lasts forever.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:09 AM on October 21, 2013

Response by poster: Hopefully I'm not responding to this thread too late but the window that I'd place the tree near faces east and catches the morning sun well, although the natural light dissipates as the sun goes higher. I also have a livingroom that doesn't get much direct sunlight that I might be interested in putting a tree in as well.
posted by prunes at 1:17 PM on October 21, 2013

I have a bay/laurel tree that I grew from a tiny three inch plant into five foot about now. I live in a place with real winters and it over winters just fine with house light, so I think that would do well for you in an apartment. The benefit is that you also use it to cook with!
posted by syncope at 1:34 PM on October 21, 2013

I love our lemon tree. Plain looking for much of the year, but the few weeks when the blooms are in is heaven, and it can amazingly be impressive when it's covered with lemons--skinny tree holds a lot of lemons.
posted by anaelith at 4:24 AM on October 24, 2013

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