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3 Low Cost, Low Maintenance Indoor Trees

I’ve never been good at keeping plants alive. After seeing what a huge difference they can make in a room, I’m learning. For me it was important to stick to a few varieties and learn to master growing those successfully.

Indoor trees are especially tricky because they can be a big investment if you end up killing them, but they make a huge impact. They can add so much color and texture. I picked up a few from Ikea since they are so cheap, $24.99 and under. Here are my three favorites and how to care for them.

Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig)

These tree are in every home decor photo you see on Pinterest. They are pretty expensive if you go to a garden center – $50-$100. At Ikea they are only $19.99. I’ve been able to keep mine going for six months, with a few bumpy patches. Here are my tips for keeping your Fiddle Leaf happy.

  • Where to Put It – Place the plant where it lots of light, but not direct light. Be sure not to put it in a drafty spot. I started mine off right inside a doorway and it drastically improved when I moved it away from the door. However, the pot is VERY HEAVY, so I recommend if you plan to move any tree start it off on a rolling dolly.
  • When to Water– Water this plant once a week if it’s warm and every two weeks in the winter. After watering once a week in the cold weather, the leaves started to get brown spots (as you can see in the photo). Once I cut back to every other week, the spots are going away. In the winter if your house is really dry spray the leaves with water.
  • What to Add (fertilize) – Figs should be fertilized once a month Spring to Fall. I like to use this organic fertilizer. When I went looking for this tree at a local nursery they recommended adding Superthrive, a vitamin solution, to the water every time you water. I bought some and use it most of the time.
  • How to Pot – Choose a pot that is a few inches larger than the root ball on all sides. Pot in organic soil that has good drainage.

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This is NOT the easiest plant to grow, but I had to try it after seeing them everywhere in design blogs. Watch this video for more information about caring for your fig.

Pachira Aquatica (Money Tree)

One of my favorite podcasts, Affordable Interior Design, talked about how easy money trees are to care for and the large ones are only $24.99. They also have such interesting braided trunks and are hard to kill, but not impossible.

If you are a believer in Feng Shui they are also best placed in a home office. We don’t have one, but we use our dining room as an office 360 days of the year. I placed our money tree inside the window of our dining room.

  • Where to Put It – These trees love bright indirect light. It’s good to rotate them every time you water them.
  • When to Water – Money trees like to be wet so it’s hard to over-water them.  I water mine twice a week when it’s warm and less frequently in the winter. You should test the top one to two inches of soil with your finger, and water when that’s dry.
  • What to Add (fertilize) – Don’t add any fertilizer in the winter. I add some organic fertilizer every two weeks in the spring and summer.
  • How to Pot – It’s a good idea to plant these in potting soil in a tall narrow pot if you want them to grow up instead of out. Whatever shape pot you choose, they do better in a smaller pot that holds less water.

If you want to learn more about caring for your money tree and learn why it’s called a money tree, watch this video.

Dracaena Massangeana (Corn Plant)

I like this tree because it can survive and thrive in low light. One of the issues with having real plants is that so many of them really need lots of sunlight. What if you want to use a plant in a spot where there is no window nearby? This tree is perfect for that.

It’s best to buy one that has three woody stalks of different heights so that it will always look filled out as it grows. They are only $24.99 at Ikea.

This tree has the added benefit of improving your indoor air quality according to a Nasa study.

  • Where to Put It – This plant can survive without direct sunlight. It should not be placed in a doorway or any place that is drafty.  
  • When to Water – Corn plants do better if they are under-watered vs. over-watered. They can be damaged by fluoride or chlorine in your water. The easy solution is to allow your water to sit in the watering can (or pitcher) overnight before watering your tree. In the winter you should let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering.
  • What to Add (fertilize) – I add some fertilizer to this plant once a month from the beginning of Spring to Fall. Don’t fertilize in the winter.
  • How to Pot – These like to be potted in loose soil and they prefer to be in a small pot.

Trees NOT to Buy at Ikea

Ikea has a number of other trees but I have stayed away from them because they are higher maintenance houseplants. I have avoided the palms below because they require a bit more than just water and fertilizer every now and then.

  • Chamaedorea Elegans (parlor palm) – I did not buy this one even though it is really cheap for an indoor tree. It likes humidity, so it needs misting regularly and I knew I would probably forget. If you don’t do this, it can be plagued by spider mites. I don’t know what a spider mite looks like, but it sounds like something in a horror movie.
  • Ravenea (majesty palm) – This plant thrives in a bright corner with plenty of water. You need to add Epsom salt to the water to make sure the plant gets enough magnesium. Since none of the other plants on my list require this, it was one step to many for me.
  • Chamaedorea cataractarum (cat palm) – These plants also love to be misted and are sensitive to a buildup of salt in the soil. They need bright light and not every home has that to offer.

How to Clean Indoor Tree

These trees have large leaves and on occasion they need a good wipe down to get rid of the dust that collects. It’s good for the plant and it’s good for your home.

Cleaning the leaves is pretty straight forward. You just need moist cloth. The easiest way to do it is to use one hand under the leaf as you wipe. How frequently you need to do this depends on how dusty your home gets.

If you have been waiting to test a real indoor tree, head to Ikea for some that don’t break the bank. If you don’t live near an Ikea, you can find these trees at your local Home Depot, but they won’t be quite as large or inexpensive.

Do you see all the images of amazing rooms online with trees?  They can be pretty pricey, but there are affordable places to buy trees and there are some trees that are more suited to neglect.  Click to read which ones.


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2 Comments

  1. This is perfect for me Andrea because I can’t seem to keep any plant indoors alive! Thanks for sharing.

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