Lounge Room Rainforests: Only a small percentage of the Australian landmass is clothed in rainforest. The paucity of area covered is offset by the many species of trees, shrubs and ferns found in Australian rainforests, particularly those occurring along the east coast. Until recently most of these plants were ignored horticulturally with few species appearing in tropical and sub-tropical gardens. Fortunately this situation is changing with many nurseries now selling a wide range of species.
Those of us living in colder climates are precluded from using many of these plants in our external domestic environments. Frost is the limiting factor. Horticulturally all is not lost, as many rainforest plants will adapt to life inside and may be cultivated as indoor plants. Attractive trunks, foliage, flowers and fruits are the characteristics of many rainforest natives. They are as attractive as the exotic plants usually grown indoors. Even giants of the forest will adapt to life indoors as their growth will be restricted by container cultivation. Many rainforest shrubs are adapted to growing in low light conditions because they live under the dense forest canopy. They should adapt to life in the well-lit lounge room.
There is plenty of scope for experimentation both in cultivation and propagation. Propagation from seed is difficult with many species. The seed needs to be sown when fresh as they have a very short shelf life. Propagation from cuttings holds out great promise. Plants propagated from cuttings are at the same stage of maturity as their parent. They will usually flower earlier than seed propagated plants. Plants propagated from cuttings have a fibrous root system, which is more conducive to container cultivation than seedlings, which often develop a long taproot. Cuttings of rainforest species also develop a branching growth habit rather than tall single stemmed growth.
For container cultivation use a reliable potting mix that meets the Australian standard. An annual feed of slow release fertiliser would be appreciated and donít forget to remove dust from the leaves regularly.
These are a few species suitable for indoor cultivation: Doryphora sassafras (Sassafras), Ceratapetalum apetalum (Coachwood), Callicoma serratifolia (Callicoma) and Castanospermum australe (Black Bean).
We would appreciate feedback from visitors to the site who grow rainforest plants indoors.