HO-52 
LARGE PLANTS FOR
HOMES AND OFFICES
ISSUED: 2-81
REVISED:
by Bob Anderson, Extension Horticulturist

Large houseplants enjoy a special position in a homeowner's indoor life or occupy a fundamental role in the design of offices, shopping malls and hotels. Large, living plants are important in everyone's life as they bring the natural beauty of the outdoors to an interior and as they affect people with their daily changes.
People get involved with large houseplants as they watch them live and grow. Most plants sold for interior environments will tolerate the conditions that people prefer and many will grow for years if a few special requirements are met. Success with large houseplants occurs only when the environment is designed with plants in mind or when the correct plants are placed in areas with environmental limitations. The purpose of this publication is to discuss the care recommendations these plants require. All the plants mentioned will live and grow indoors when given the correct conditions; however, all these plants are intolerant of poor conditions whether through misuse, abuse, poor installation, or poor maintenance.

The Plants
The plants used as large houseplants in homes and offices are trees and shrubs in their native habitat. Actually, all of these large plants are used as landscape plant materials in Florida and southern California. Although the plants listed below are often sold in small containers, most, will attain a height of 6 to 10 feet and a width of 3 to 4 feet in a few years.
Growers with production facilities in Florida, Puerto Rico, Central America, and southern California supply all the large foliage plants to the United States. The majority of production is under shade structures. This is extremely important to the plant and to you the consumer. These plants could be grown in full sun, but would be unable to adapt to an interior environment and would die within 3 to 6 months. Large plants should always be purchased from a reputable dealer who can assure you that the plants were shade grown (plant retailers may designate these plants as conditioned, acclimated or acclimatized for interior conditions).

Plants that cannot be pruned for site limitations to size:
Alexander Palm
Lacy Tree Philodendron
Chinese Fan Palm
Coffee Plant
Macarthur Palm
Bird of Paradise
Sentry Palm
Dwarf Banana
Pygmy Date Palm
Sago Palm
Queen Palm
Pony Tail Palm

Plants that tolerate cool temperatures 45-50 degrees F:
Australian Laurel
European Fan Palm
Bird of Paradise
Lady Palm
Prickly Pear Cactus
Pony Tail Palm
Corn Plant
Oleander
Japanese Yew
Silk Oak
Sago Palm

Trees
(15 feet and larger)
Alexandrian Laurel
Balsam Apple
Benjamin Fig
Corn Plant
Indian Laurel
Fiddleleaf Fig
India Rubber Tree
Alexander Palm
Areca Palm
Fishtail Palm
Queen Palm
Pony Tail Palm
Schefflera
Silk Oak
Spanish Cherry

Erect Medium Shrubs
(Up to 8 feet)
Balfour Aralia
False Aralia
Ming Aralia
Arboracola
Bougainvillea
Calamondin Orange
Candelabra Cactus
Coffee Plant
Copper Leaf
Corn Plant
Croton
Janet Craig Dracena
Madagascar Dragon Tree
Warnecki Dracaena
Pleomele
Flowering Maple
Giant Dumbcane
Hibiscus
Japanese Yew
Bamboo Palm
Reed Palm
Lady Palm
Oleander
Sea Grape
Spineless Yucca

Large Shrubs, Small Trees
(8 to 15 feet)
False Aralia
Dwarf Banana
Bird of Paradise
Candelabra Cactus
Corn Plant
Madagascar Dragon Tree
Benjamin Fig
Bo Tree
Fiddleleaf Fig
Indian Laurel
Rusty Fig
India Rubber Tree
Japanese Yew

Mounded Medium Shrubs
(Up to 8 feet)
Arboracola
Australian Laurel
Organ Pipe Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus
India Rubber Tree
Meyer's Lemon
Areca Palm
Chinese Fan Palm
European Fan Palm
MacArthur Palm
Pigmy Date Palm
Pony Tail Palm
Sentry Palm
Lacy Tree Philodendron
Sago Palm
Schefflera
Screwpine
Sea Grape
Spanish Cherry

The Environment
The first step during the selection of a large houseplant for your home or office is to evaluate the environment where the plant will be located. Large plants are quite expensive so it pays to evaluate all of the interior conditions carefully so your plant will enjoy its new location rather than merely endure it.

Space
In a discussion of large plants for interiors, it is clear these plants require a large area for continued growth. If space may be limited in the future, be sure to choose plants that can be pruned easily.

Light
Light is the most important condition and it must be judged carefully. For continuous growth large houseplants generally require the brightest areas of the home or office. The best location would be within five feet of a window. Partially shaded windows with west, south, and east exposures are acceptable when the plants receive three to five hours of sun per day; unshaded north exposure windows are satisfactory for many plants.
Large houseplants are outdoor trees and shrubs in their native habitat or in cultivation in the south. Many of the species tolerate full sun outdoors day after day and some require very high light intensities for normal growth. However, in the same way that young white pine and oak tree seedlings tolerate the shaded conditions of a temperate forest, some of these tropical trees tolerate shaded or moderate light conditions in interior environments. Some will tolerate low light conditions away from an unshaded window but not indefinitely.
Always place your large foliage plant in the brightest possible location. Move it to less light only when the plant shows symptoms of being bleached or burned by too much light and heat. If your home or office does not have a location that receives full sun for three to five hours each day or very bright light all day. choose a large plant that will tolerate moderate light intensities or use small plants that enjoy lower light levels.

Water, Fertilizer
Large houseplants are easy to water and fertilize. The plants grow vigorously and even though they are often rootbound, it is not a problem. Regular irrigation and regular fertilization applications are necessary as plant growth indicates.
Never allow the plant roots to remain in water for long periods of time. Make every effort to use containers with drainage holes regardless of the location or use of the plant. It is much cheaper and easier to use the correct containers than to replace the plants annually or hire a professional interior plant maintenance firm.

Soil, Growing Media
A lightweight, well-drained soil mix or growing medium is a must for the successful growth of large indoor plants. Professionally prepared growing media (available from interior plantscaping firms or greenhouses) are best for large plantings in homes, office buildings or shopping malls.

Containers
Containers of all sizes. materials and descriptions can be used for large indoor plants as long as they permit water to drain from the soil. All containers in which the growing medium is less than 12 inches deep require drainage holes. Drainless containers with more than 15 inches of growing media may have a 2 inch layer of pebbles in the bottom to act as a reservoir. This system is not fool proof, however, and overwatering may still occur.

Temperature, Humidity
The typical temperature and humidity of interior environments are generally adequate for all large houseplants. Some large interior plants will tolerate cool temperatures down to 45 degrees F if your home or office is conserving energy; but most plants are damaged by cool temperatures. On the other hand, do not separate a hot, full sun plant location (e.g. greenhouse window, atrium. etc.) from the remainder of an office or home to reduce air conditioning costs. Very high temperatures and very low humidity will result from the "greenhouse effect" and damage the plants severely.

Pests
Large foliage plants seldom have insect or disease problems. A few plants are quite susceptible to a few pests and most plants may become infested if pests on neighboring plants are not controlled.
General-use pesticides are adequate to control insect and disease pests in the home as long as pesticide label instructions are followed explicitly.
Few restricted use pesticides can be used in public interior environments. If these pesticides are used, an individual with a commercial pesticide applicator's certificate must apply them. The most efficient way to apply pesticides in a public interior is to remove all infested plants to a separate room not connected to the central heating/air conditioning system. More thorough and consistent control can be obtained this way, however all plants must be containerized for this method.

Major Shortcomings of Interior Plantings:
1. Inadequate light. Plants are often used as "window dressing" in homes and public interiors by inexperienced designers. Light requirements should be considered from the beginning of the design.
2. Nonacclimatized plants. The cheapest plants are often used to save money even after an expensive design has considered all the plants' needs.
3. Unprofessional installation. Single large plants for the home or many large plants for large plantings require careful shipment, handling and installation at all times of the year.

Figs
The figs (Ficus) are the most common trees used indoors in homes, hotels. shopping malls and conservatories. The dark green, glossy foliage of various sizes and shapes remains on the trees for long periods of time and gives these species their special value. The fig's ability to adapt to or tolerate most light intensities from moderate to full sun is another major asset. Figs bring the outdoor appearance of trees into almost any interior; some are small sized or easily pruned to fit small locations. The plants are available from production facilities in almost any size from small cuttings to 30 foot trees. Propagation is a simple matter because the small leaved species are easy to propagate from cuttings, the large leaved species root easily in air layers and most species can be grown from seed.

Figs with small leaves:
Benjamin or Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) --The most common large plant used indoors. Always buy acclimatized plants. Heavy leaf loss always occurs when plants are placed indoors and plants should be pruned 20% to 40% so they can adapt to their new surroundings.
Indian Laurel, Nitida Fig (F. retusa)--Similar to Benjamin Fig but branches are coarser and not weeping.
Mistletoe Fig (F. deltoidea)--Small size, tolerates moderate light intensities.

Figs with large leaves:
India Rubber Tree (F. elastica) -- A very tough plant for interiors, but it requires high to very high light intensities for normal growth. Various forms are available including 'Decora' with broad dark green leaves, 'Rubra' with dark green/red leaves, 'Variegata' and 'Doescheri' with variegated foliage.
Fiddleleaf Fig (F. lyrata), Kaffir Fig (F. nekbudu)--Both enjoy very high light intensities for normal growth.
Rusty Fig (F. rubiginosa)--Grown as a large spreading shrub.

Palms and Palm-Like Plants
Palms are an important part of nearly all tropical forests. For this reason palms are a very large and diverse group of plants, but only a few species are grown indoors. The ability of most palms and their allies to tolerate adverse conditions makes them ideal for interior environments. Because of their natural adaptions, palms can be selected to grow in hot, dry interior locations as well as cool, moist locations with moderate light levels.
Palms are best in bright interiors. Their unusual form with slim smooth trunks and large pendulous leaves contrasts with the typical tree and shrub form of other large houseplants. Palms vary in size so they can be used as large or small specimens planted individually in containers or in groups in large beds. Some species branch freely from the base to form large clumps of shorter plants while other species grow singly to form treelike individuals. Do not try to propagate any of your palms from cuttings because you will not succeed; palms are seed propagated only.

Fan palms usually have a short thick trunk with erect fan-shaped (palmate) leaves.
Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)--An individual palm that forms a graceful mound in moderate to high light.
European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)-An individual or clumping palm for high to very high light.
Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)--These small palms are planted to form a dense palm thicket (4 to 8 feet tall) in moderate light.

Feather Palms appear similar to a fountain with short or tall thin trunks and long, pendulous feather-like (pinnate) leaves at the top or along the trunk.
Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans), Bamboo Palm (C. erumpens), Reed Palm (C. seifrizii)--These small to moderate-sized palms tolerate low to moderate light. They are susceptible to mealy bugs and mites.
Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)--A short, thick stem and finely divided leaves make this plant excellent in moderate light.
Areca, or Yellow Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)--This palm forms a thick clump of stems 4 to 30 feet tall in moderate light but is susceptible to mites and overwatering.
Clustered Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis)--High light intensities are necessary for this large, vigorous, clumping palm.
Macarthur Palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii) --This clumped plant with slender smooth stems has a sparse appearance.
Kentia, Sentry Palm (Howea forsterana)-This slow-growing solitary palm tolerates low light.
Alexander Palm (Ptychosperma elegans), Queen Palm (Arecastrum romanzoffianum)-These are solitary palms that require very high light.

Palm-like plants
Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)--Very high light is necessary for this unusual plant with a greatly swollen base and thin trunk terminated by many long, narrow leaves.
Screwpine (Pandanus spp.)--Stiff, narrow leaves form a mound around the short stem of this plant.
Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)--This plant is slow growing and produces sharply pointed leaves.

Dracaenas
The form of dracaena is well known because these plants appear in most interiors. The leaves which may be green or variegated are long, narrow and borne along all the young stems. Tree-like older plants have thick woody stems which branch to form young leafy shoots. Dracaenas are easy to propagate from cuttings or air layers. In fact, many large plants are produced from leafless stem sections, up to 6 feet long, that are simply placed in containers until roots and leaves sprout.
Dracaenas and yuccas enjoy moderate light in interiors, but will tolerate low light for long periods.
Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana')--A vigorous plant whose green leaves have a central yellow band; cv. Victoriae has the opposite variegation.
Janet Craig Dracaena (D. deremensis 'Janet Craig') Striped Dracaena (D. deremensis 'Warneckii')--'Janet Craig' has green leaves and leaves of 'Warneckii' are green with white stripes.
Madagascar Dragon Tree (D. marginata)--Leaves are dark green with maroon edges. The dragon tree is susceptible to mites and requires high light levels.
Pleomele (D. reflexa)--This plant has shorter leaves than previously mentioned plants.
Spineless Yucca (Yucca elephantipes)--This rather drab plant tolerates low light to full sun conditions.
Ti Plant (Cordyline terminalis)--Leaves of this plant are broader than dracaenas and have green, red and maroon variegations.

Aralias and Relatives
Aralias are easily distinguished by their palmately lobed or compound leaves and their glossy foliage. These plants stand out in indoor plantings because of their graceful form and excellent foliage. Aralias require good conditions in the interior and can be quite a problem when they don't receive appropriate care. They deteriorate in low to moderate light intensities and grow best in high to very high light. Aralias and their relatives are susceptible to mealybugs and mites and lose foliage easily when overwatered, given cool temperatures, or grown in low light conditions.
False Aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima)-The graceful foliage of this plant is best in a very bright location.
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)--This plant may be a good interior plant but its growth pattern is often inconsistent.
Dwarf Schefflera, Arboracola (Heptapleura arboracola)--A new plant that tolerates interior conditions better than its relatives.
Schefflera, Umbrella Tree (Brassaia actinophylla)--Everyone is familiar with schefflera and almost everyone has had problems with it. The best growth and fewest problems occur in locations with high to very high light.
Balfour Aralia (Polyscias balfouriana), Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa)--These aralias succeed in locations with insufficient light for their relatives but only when the site has higher than normal humidity.

Miscellaneous Large Plants
A number of other plants not related to the previous groups are also used in homes and offices. Each has a place in indoor planting as indicated by their preferred conditions and description.

Moderate to High Light Intensities
(200 to 500 Footcandles or 3 to 9 watts per square meter)
Coffee Plant (Coffea arabica)--This excellent small shrub has glossy green leaves.
Japanese Yew, Buddist Pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus)--This well-branched plant with narrow dark green leaves is one of the many species of Podocarpus that succeeds in interiors.
Giant Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia amoena 'Tropic Snow')-This erect plant has large green and white variegated leaves.
Lacy Tree Philodendron (Philodendron selloum)--The very large lobed leaves of this plant makes it an outstanding accent or specimen plant as it grows larger.
Sea Grape, Platterleaf (Coccoloba uvifera)-This shrub with large round leaves tolerates moderate light to full sun conditions.

High to Very High Light Intensities
(500 to 1500 Footcandles or 9 to 24 watts per square meter)
Unusual or Colorful Foliage
Alexandrian Laurel (Calophyllum inophyllum)--This fig-like small tree has dark green foliage.
Banana, Dwarf (Musa acuminata)--This plant with very large leaves has a truly tropical look.
Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana 'Macafeeana')--Brilliant copper-red and olive green colors are developed in the foliage of this plant.
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum) --Croton foliage develops the best colors-green, yellow, orange, red, maroon--only in high light situations.
Silk Oak (Grevillea robusta)--A small to large tree that produces graceful bronze-green foliage.

Flowering Plants
Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)--This plant has a truly tropical appearance and produces unusual flowers that look like a bird of paradise.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea x buttiana)--A shrubby or somewhat climbing plant which has flowers surrounded by bracts of scarlet, rose. orange, or yellow.
Calamondin Orange (Citrofortunella mitis)-This small tree has glossy foliage, fragrant flowers, and orange fruit.
Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii')--Yellow-spotted, maple-like leaves highlight this shrub with yellow-orange flowers.
Hibiscus, Rose of China, (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)--Many cultivars of this shrub with glossy green foliage are available and produce large flowers of white, yellow, orange, pink and red.
Meyers Lemon (Citrus limon 'Meyer')--This small tree produces edible lemons.
Oleander, Rose Bay (Nerium oleander)--This plant with poisonous sap must be pruned regularly to keep its growth under control.

Very High to Full Sun
(more than 1500 footcandles or 24 watts per square meter)
Candelabra Cactus (Euphorbia lactea)--This large upright succulent with a candelabra like form has poisonous sap.
Organ Pipe Cactus (Lemaireocereus marginatus)--This fast growing columnar cactus has tiny spines.
Peruvian Apple (Cereus pervuianus)--A tall columnar cactus which has large spines borne on deeply grooved stems.
Prickly Pear (Opuntia spp.)--This shrubby cactus has large spines spread across the oval stem sections; spineless cultivars are available.