12 Day Tropical North Queensland Rainforest Road Trip

12 Day Tropical North Queensland Rainforest Road Trip

12 Day Tropical North Queensland Rainforest Road Trip|
July 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog

Strap yourself in, this one is a long one. I’m about to take you on a journey through the tropical rainforests of North Queensland. A stunning and inspiring landscape of open roads and amazing scenery. Grab yourself a warm beverage & find somewhere comfortable to sit as I immerse you in an aussie road trip adventure. 

Millaa Millaa road trip

Our road trip through Millaa Millaa 

We spent 12 days traversing national parks, exploring rainforests and driving through stunning landscapes. We gorged on delicious pub food, slept in motels & hotels and swam in roadside swimming holes. We saw so many species of tropical plants thriving in their natural habitats, we ventured through rainforests, by waterfalls and even met a crocodile on the way. If you love the outdoors, don’t mind the heat & enjoy a bit of adventure, then you’ll love North Queensland. 

Daintree Rainforest

Daintree Rainforest

D A Y  O N E:
C A I R N S

We started the trip flying into Cairns from Sydney, spending one night at the Palm Royale. A little out from the main esplanade, the hotel provides two huge swimming pools and a bus service in case you don’t hire a car.

view from the spa, the pools & gardens - Palm Royale Cairns

View from the spa, the pools & gardens - Palm Royale Cairns

We walked around the esplanade in the evening after catching up for lunch with friends at Wharf ONE Cafe. The view from there is stunning, I definitely recommend walking along the boardwalk and enjoying the waterfront and garden landscape. 

Bromeliads are epiphytes all over palm trees in Cairns and surrounds

Bromeliads are epiphytes all over palm trees in Cairns and surrounds

D A Y  T W O:
C A I R N S-P O R T   D O U G L A S

After a night in Cairns we headed to the Skyrail, a cableway that travels across the Atherton Tableland Rainforest to Kuranda,  a quaint village in the rainforest. We purchased tickets on arrival for a return trip coming back on the Kuranda scenic railway.

Our cable car travelled over the top of the rainforest - Atherton tableland Queensland

Our cable car travelled over the top of the rainforest - Atherton tableland Queensland

During our journey on the Skyrail we stopped to explore the middle of the rainforest, walking on a short guided tour through the giant trees littered with birds nest ferns - epiphytes.  

The Atherton table land is Australia's oldest rainforest

The Atherton table land is Australia's oldest rainforest

Insects camouflage on the tree bark

Insects camouflage on the tree bark

On the second stop we viewed Barron Falls, a massive hydroelectric waterfall before crossing just metres above the treetops and arriving in Kuranda.

After a short stroll down to the markets, we stopped for lunch at a rainforest view restaurant where the view was exactly as promised.

With full bellies we took a leisurely bushwalk back to the railway station, it was beautiful & truly showed off what a visit to the North is all about.

Fan palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

Fan palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

Variety of palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

Variety of palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

The train ride back offered a different perspective. The journey was accompanied by a pre-recorded narration presenting a historic recount of the early life in the area & detailing the building of the railway tunnels. A captivating story which greatly enhanced the experience.  

Kuranda scenic railway

Kuranda scenic railway

Along the journey the landscape shared the deep floors and valleys of the rainforest, climbers and understory ferns and a close up with a stunning waterfall. 

From Cairns our next stop was Port Douglas, the drive there takes about 1.5hrs & was full of winding roads and a strong breeze. But the views were breathtaking, mountains meeting the sea. We stopped at Rex lookout for a few snaps before finding our bed for the night at the Retro Apartments Port Douglas.

Rachel & Scott at Rex Lookout

Rachel & Scott at Rex Lookout

I can’t rave about this accommodation enough, the facilities provided were excellent, the pool was a small green oasis & the proximity to everything was a short walk.

We found dinner at a local restaurant named chillies, a fun outdoor venue with a great family running the kitchen & a separate bar. The pasta was fantastic & the vibe was truly North Queensland.

The retro apartments pool

The retro apartments Port Douglas

The retro apartments Port Douglas

The retro apartments Port Douglas

D A Y  T H R E E:
P O R T  D O U G L A S

We organised a snorkel tour to the Low Isles with the Reef Sprinter which takes you out to the reef in a speedboat. The Low Isles are a great way to experience the Great Barrier Reef, we saw tons of fish, coral and a turtle! 

Port Douglas cruise terminal

Port Douglas cruise terminal

Reef Sprinter snorkelling tours

Reef Sprinter snorkelling tours

Floating by Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland

Floating by Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland

Heading back from our snorkel on the reef to Port Douglas

Heading back from our snorkel on the reef to Port Douglas

The tour brought us back to the wharf at the perfect time for lunch so we headed down towards the beach for a burger.

Later in the afternoon before sunset we wandered up four mile beach and climbed the stairs to the lookout for another incredible view. 

Four mile beach - Port Douglas

Four mile beach - Port Douglas

D A Y   F O U R:
C A P E  T R I B U L A T I O N

We continued our journey north towards Cape Tribulation, stopping on the way to take a cruise down the Daintree river and meet some crocodiles. The Daintree river cruise is a few more minutes up the road from the Cape Tribulation ferry turn off, and takes you down the daintree river with a very knowledgeable guide for one hour.

The road to the Daintree river cruise centre

The road to the Daintree river cruise centre

Another angle of the tropical North Queensland rainforest, the tree canopy almost covered parts of our float down the river. We had a great guide and were fortunate to spot a large male crocodile sunning himself on the river bank, a juvenile croc of about 2 years perched over a rock and a female crocodile hiding in the scrub. Our guide shared a lot of information about the history of the rainforest and how it interacts with the river and its life. 

The Daintree river

The Daintree river

Back on the road, we headed to the ferry to cross the Daintree River, before meeting a stunning scenic drive through the Daintree National Park. A drive that could take one hour point to point took us most of the afternoon as we stopped along the way at a lookout, plenty of walking tracks and a secret swimming hole.

A secret swimming hole

A secret swimming hole

Fan palms in the Daintree rainforest

Fan palms in the Daintree rainforest

A walking track in the Daintree rainforest

A walking track in the Daintree rainforest

Canopies cover the road as you drive past Cassowary warning signs, dozens of varieties of palms, figs and stringy barks, covered in climbing and hanging vines, ferns and other epiphytes. I was in awe. The rainforest is one of the best places for a plant nerd like myself. I’m in love. Arriving at our accommodation we wandered along Cape Tribulation beach to soak up the marvelous views of mountains meeting the sea. 

The Daintree Rainforest lookout

The Daintree Rainforest lookout

D A Y  F I V E:
C O O K T O W N

Up and ready for another adventure we wandered the beach just after sunrise on a cloudy day. The ocean lapped at the sand and a few birds sang. We passed a few sleeping campers as we made our way to the Cape Tribulation Lookout offering a short walk through the thick mountain forest to a stunning panoramic lookout of the Cape.

Cape Tribulation beach at sunrise

Cape Tribulation beach at sunrise

Cape Tribulation Lookout

Cape Tribulation Lookout

Back in the car we marvelled at the landscape as we wound our way back through the Daintree Rainforest National Park one last time before heading on our drive to Cooktown via the inland road.

There are two ways to reach Cooktown from Cape Tribulation, one is suggested 4WD only via the Bloomfield track although we were told later by some locals at Mission Beach that the drive isn’t that bad. I’ll have to let you know because we didn’t see it ourselves, a 4WD hire from Cairns isn’t as easy or inexpensive as you might think and unfortunately not in our budget, so off we went. 

To reach Cooktown via the inland road we travelled south, back across the Daintree River on the ferry and towards Port Douglas.

Feeling hungry, we stopped for Breakfast in Mossman, where you can find the Mossman Gorge. Deciding against another stop we travelled on the Bruce HWY for about 2.5 hours to reach Cooktown.

I don’t know if it was the time of year or the time of day, but we hardly passed any cars or trucks on the way up & saw more cows on the road than anything else!

The road to Cooktown

The road to Cooktown

The landscape on this drive was like nothing I’d ever seen coming from Sydney. Expansive views from a mountain top over the Savannah landscape. Closer to Cooktown we saw huge Banana plantations, mango farms and then just on the outskirts we stopped at Black Mountain.

The road to Cooktown - Black Mountain

The road to Cooktown - Black Mountain

Black Mountain is made up of hundreds of gigantic granite boulders, some the size of a house. We were told by some locals, people say they were deposited here by aliens, but according to wikipedia “The national park's distinctive hard granite boulders and range originally formed out of magma that first slowly solidified under the Earth's crust about 250 million years ago”. I thought it looked pretty cool myself.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

I did learn a valuable lesson on the drive to Cooktown, sunscreen is a priority for those with a more pale complexion like me. The sun is stronger in the North and while driving in shorts my legs got incredibly sunburnt, I now sport a permanent shorts tan line! 

Sovereign resort pool

Sovereign resort pool

The band at Cooktown RSL

The band at Cooktown RSL

The view from our room at sovereign resort

The view from our room at Sovereign resort

Cooktown is a small town like no other I have visited, the main road boasts several storefronts, Sovereign Resort & the local RSL. On arrival we checked into Sovereign resort & after a swim we joined the locals down at the RSL. We drank Great Northern Beer while listening to live music by the local band on a Sunday Afternoon. We drank so many beers while the band sung and swore and laughed together. The lead singer was very entertaining and as Aussie as they come, when singing “I've been everywhere man”, he substituted most of the towns in the song to Cooktown repeated and the whole crowd roared and clapped along. We chatted with some locals about the beauty of the town and surrounding areas, the life there was a slow one & work was hard to find. We headed back to the resort for dinner before retiring for the night in our beautiful suite. 

D A Y  S I X:
M A R E E B A 

After a nice swim in the resort pool we headed up to the Cooktown Botanic Gardens, the plaques helped me to confirm plant identifications for my future jungle garden that I’ve dreamt up, inspired by the rainforest. The gardens offer 200 plant specimens and walking tracks to finch bay and cherry tree bay. We wandered over to the secluded finch bay beach for a few snaps before making our way up to some of the best views I’ve ever set my eyes on at Grassy Hill lookout. This is where Captain Cook climbed to, in order to figure a way out of the harbour when his boat ran aground and needed repair back in the 1700’s. The water is aqua blue & coral reefs jut out from the steep coast line. In the other direction, grassy islands mound out of the deeper blue ocean.

the view from grassy hill lookout

The view from grassy hill lookout

The old cooktown lighthouse

The old Cooktown lighthouse

The town of Cook

The town of Cook

Next we were headed down to Mareeba, a halfway stop of sorts that we really didn’t research all that well. You could visit the safari lodge for a wilderness escape which is what we should have done, but on our budget we grabbed a motel instead and thought we’d visit the wetland the next day. 

D A Y  S E V E N:
M I L A A  M I L A A

After a night in the motel doing laundry and dinner at the local sport club we headed to the coffee plantation Skybury. The view was beautiful from the quiet deck, we even spotted a young Kangaroo hopping below in the open plane as we sipped our coffee.

The view from skybury

The view from skybury

After breakfast we meandered over to Golden Drop Winery to pick up some tasty Mango wine and check out a local Mango Farm. They hedge the Mango trees so they’re easier to pick from, but this creates a stunning uniform landscape of lush balls of greenery. After a tasting we purchased the sweet white and the sparkling, both delicious choices, that didn't last long after we got home. 

Our plans to visit the wetland unfortunately didn't eventuate as the road there was flooded with water and we decided it was unsafe to drive through, so we set off next to Millaa Millaa. This part of the trip was the best decision I could have made. We drove toward Atherton, the namesake of the oldest rainforest in Australia. We took a wrong turn through a beautiful farm landscape of windy roads and rolling hills before  we arrived in Millaa Millaa. We found the main road and stopped in for late lunch at the local general store cafe, we were sure to check our supplies before our 7km drive to the Millaa Millaa River Song Retreat.

The gardens surrounding the deck at river song retreat

The gardens surrounding the deck at river song retreat

Greeted on arrival by two beautiful doggies and the owners Bob & Carina we were guided around our accommodation and Bob offered a guided bushwalk of the property.

Eager to unpack & explore, Scott and I unloaded the car & stocked the fridge. With hiking boots on, we headed out to the deck to meet our guide Bob. He proceeded to show us the properties expansive decked area, full of charm, tons of gorgeous plants, & a large BBQ area. The whole deck was surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, I loved all of it. Bob took us down a pathway to some man made steps that took us deep into the rainforest, down to the amazing river. 

We ventured down into the rainforest

We ventured down into the rainforest

climbing down man made steps

climbing down man made steps

This place was magical, nothing but pure nature. The sound of the river & the hum of birds, there is so much life and so much peace here. I was so grateful to Bob and Carina for sharing this with us. Later we would sit here enjoying a picnic of wine and cheese and sitting listening to the tranquil sounds of this beautiful natural wonder.

the river at river song retreat

the river at river song retreat

Bob took us on a bush walk through to an area he had cleared along the river bank. He provided visual markers and shared abundant knowledge of the forest before leading us to some gigantic boulders in the middle of the river. I think Bob could tell Scott and I were having a great time when we eagerly climbed out onto the boulders in the middle of the river. The water gushed past as we marvelled at the rainforest and watched its beginning stages of regeneration from the recent flood damage. 

Scotty puts it into scale

Scotty puts it into scale

huge boulders in the river

huge boulders in the river

We were fortunate to experience the rainforest as the locals do & I found my most happy place. Scott cooked up a delicious BBQ for dinner & Carina took care of all our washing up. What a treat this place was. With wine in hand we spent the rest of the evening sat out on our private deck enjoying Bob and Carinas lush tropical garden landscape and talking the night away. This place was by far a huge highlight of the trip and I can’t wait to revisit again one day. 

I loved all the gardens at the river song retreat

I loved all the gardens at the river song retreat

D A Y  E I G H T:  
I N G H A M 

After a peaceful nights rest we were treated to a scrumptious continental breakfast bar of fresh fruits, muesli & yoghurt from the local dairy. With some toast & coffee we feasted away, excited for our most energized day yet.

We couldn't say goodbye without one more walk around this amazing property & a visit to the river so after packing our bags, we made our way down the steps for a final bushwalk to the river. We watched the calm pool of water before the waterfall in the hope to spot a platypus, Bob & Carina told us we might be lucky to see a pair having a swim. Unfortunately it was not our lucky day. We climbed back to the walking track from the day before and wandered along the rambling riverside a final time to the rainforest retreat. It was a glorious way to start the day & we were ready to hit the road. 

The beautiful river of river song retreat

The beautiful river of river song retreat

Millaa Millaa is famous for several beautiful waterfalls, three of which are a stone's throw from one another on a single loop road. Millaa Millaa falls is one of the most stunning swimming holes, worthy of several instagram photos! It’s easy to access for a swim and offers a toilet block to change in.The falls are flanked by tall tree ferns, and surrounded by a lush tropical landscape of the Atherton tableland rainforest. We visited each of the waterfalls on the loop, with a short drive between each. The second stop was Zillie falls, the viewing platform is above the falls & allows you to look down on the cascading waters in the middle of the rainforest. We loved listening to the sounds of the rushing waters & local wildlife. Next up was Ellinjaa Falls, to get there we took a zig zag walking track into the cool rainforest surrounded by ferns, vines and huge trees. The falls are much smaller but still stunning & the walk down was one of my favourites. 

Millaa Millaa falls

Millaa Millaa falls

Zillie falls

Zillie falls

Ellinjaa Falls

Ellinjaa Falls

Back on the road we marvelled at the stunning landscapes and stopped multiple times for a photo. We paused for lunch at Mungalli creek dairy, for some gourmet dips at their Cheesery & Teahouse. Just down the road we found Mungalli falls, our fourth waterfall for the day!

This area of queensland is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It’s funny how much one’s appreciation for plants can evolve into a newfound appreciation for all things green. One of the lookouts showed us rolling hills between the mountains covered in tree’s. Small houses dotted amongst the green pastures & strips of road. The open countryside was lush & long, I was reminded how much driving this area allowed us to experience.

Mungalli Falls

Mungalli Falls

Our next stop was at the awesome Mamu tropical skywalk. This boardwalk is suspended 15 metres above the forest floor of the Wooroonoon National Park and features a cantilevered lookout and an observation deck. To reach the observation deck, we walked along pathways surrounded by a lush plants and impressive trees to the 15m high boardwalk that would take us through 350m of rainforest. Even after all the rainforest we had already experienced, this height offered yet another point of view.

If you’re game, climb the stairs, up to the 37m high observation deck. You’ll be in awe of the stunning view of the national park from high above the ground. Once at the top it was a quick visit for us as my husband had worn out his bravery for the day and wanted to be back on solid ground. 

Mamu tropical skywalk observation deck looking out onto Wooroonoon National Park

Mamu tropical skywalk observation deck looking out onto Wooroonoon National Park

On the road again, we headed south to Ingham where we checked into the Tropixx Motel for one night. We grabbed dinner at the local pub, which was hosting a Chicken Schnitzel special, our favourite! We dove into a Seafood & Schnitzel combination of chicken breast schnitzel covered in garlic prawns and a smothering of white sauce. Stuffed and sleepy we headed back to the motel for a good night's rest. 

D A Y  N I N E:
C A R D W E L L

Up early, we headed to town for supplies & breakfast before heading west through winding forest lined roads & up a steep mountain incline to Australia’s highest single drop waterfall Wallaman Falls. A 300m high drop from top to bottom.

Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls

On our way there we stopped to wander through a few bush tracks, a lookouts & enjoy the view of the coast from the mountainside. Once we arrived we marvelled at the waterfall from the lookout. Unsure about the available bush walk ahead, we wandered down the walking track towards the base of the falls, after reading a few warning signs we decided against the four hour return hike and enjoyed the view nearby instead.  

The view from the top of the walking track down to Wallaman falls

The view from the top of the walking track down to Wallaman falls

Time to head north again we made our way to our next destination, Cardwell. A beautiful beachfront town that looks out to one of the largest island national parks in the country, Hichinbrook Island. 

The road just south of Cardwell

The road just south of Cardwell

Sunset at Cardwell from the end of the jetty

Sunset at Cardwell from the end of the jetty

D A Y  T E N:
M I S S I O N  B E A C H

Cardwell Jetty at sunset with Hichinbrook Island in the background

Cardwell jetty at sunset with Hichinbrook Island in the background

The lovely motel staff shared a detailed map of the area and local sights to check out so our day was full of activities before our short drive to Mission Beach. With swimmers on we drove south a short way to five mile swimming hole, a large natural swimming hole 5 miles out of Cardwell. After a cold swim and a few pics, we jumped back in the car towards Cardwell again and turned left down a dirt road to see a few more sights. The Cardwell lookout gave us sweeping views over the small coastal town, we then stopped at a swimming hole, abundant with fish, trickling sounds and clear pools, suitable for all ages. 

The view of Hichinbrook Island from Cardwell Lookout

The view of Hichinbrook Island from Cardwell Lookout

Arriving in Mission beach we made our way directly to Castaways resort where we checked into our awesome accommodation and immediately found the pool & a cocktail. It was Scott’s birthday after all.  After a few drinks by the pool we wandered out to the beach to see what all the fuss is about, to be met with stunning views & soft yellow sand. People swam in the safety of a stinger net, so we didn’t hesitate to finally swim at the beach. The ocean was warm and the sun shone down, making the sea glitter & setting the mood. I’d arranged with the restaurant staff to have cake later in the evening for Scott as a surprise. 

Castaways resort Mission beach

Castaways resort Mission beach

We headed back to the room to freshen up for dinner & then headed into town. Walking along the beach for the beautiful scenery we passed a bonfire & couples walking at sunset. After checking out a few restaurants we found ourselves listening to a fabulous local band & ordering a spread of seafood dishes at Ocea restaurant. Stuffed to the brim & ready to party we wandered back towards the beach & into Theshrubco where we listened to a guitarist and made friends with a bunch of locals. After several drinks we almost forgot about the cake (which was no longer a surprise), so we scrambled back to Castaways to sing Scott “Happy Birthday”. The night wasn't over so we returned to our new local friends at the pub where we partied the night away until closing time. 

D A Y  E L E V E N : P A R O N E L L A  
P A R K 

So hungover from our celebratory evening I struggled hard to motivate myself to get up for the day. But knowing our plan was to visit Paronella Park I knew I needed to make it happen. Ever since I first saw a picture of Paronella Park I’ve been dying to go there. A long shower, a powerade, and a piece of toast got me into the car & on the road. Luckily Scott wasn’t quite in the pain I was so he took the wheel & we headed north to Paronella park. On the way we passed some beautiful green pastures with cows grazing and a few quaint little towns. 

On arrival at Paronella park, I knew we were in for a treat. This park came across my news feed a few years ago when I was searching for a wedding venue, after seeing a picture of the waterfall I googled Paronella Park and found this amazing place.

The Park was created back in the 1930’s by a young Jose Paronella, an immigrant from Spain who came to Australia for new opportunities and stayed for the love of tropical north queensland. His dream was to build a kingdom with castles and opulent grounds which he realised over years of construction and a few cyclones. Nowadays the castles are quite dilapidated as the materials used to build them were not the best to last through the decades. The grounds however are a natural wonder & you can see how well thought out each section is. From the avenue of kauri pines to the bamboo forest, rivers, streams and waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical gardens, dozens of turtles and even an eel, this place is a must see for all nature lovers. 

Paronella Park

Included in our ticket was a guided tour, a 45 minute tour through the gardens with commentary about the story of Jose Paronella and the history of the garden since his death. The amazing collection of plants and spanish inspired structures create a beautiful and tranquil space which looks so natural from its age. The story of Jose Paronella’s life is an emotional one & I found myself fighting back a few tears as the guide carried us away with his story while standing amongst the tallest trees on Kauri Avenue. We spent another hour wandering and exploring the stunning grounds and gardens, enjoying the alluring atmosphere of this magical place.

Kauri Avenue Paronella Park

Kauri Avenue Paronella Park

Exhausted and still recovering from our wild night we set off back to cairns for our final day in the tropics. 

D A Y  T W E L V E : C A I R N S  

Our last day in Queensland, we decided not to tackle too much sightseeing and spent the morning relaxing by the pool and reading a good book. We planned to fit in one last adventure before the end of our holiday, so that afternoon we made our way over to the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Scott and I wandered through some market stalls where we reached the entrance to some walking tracks. Thinking this must be the way to the gardens we wandered up some steps that brought us to map showing where the walking tracks went. We ended up climbing 100’s of steps to an awesome view of the airport and surrounding mountains, before walking back down 100 more steps through the tropical rainforest. We got some great exercise and then found the gardens, 250m in the other direction.

Finally finding the Cairns Botanic gardens and our friends, we strolled across a beautiful lawn to a winding pathway. These beautifully landscaped, tropical gardens feature a huge variety of plants & trees that thrive in Cairns hot & humid climate. Following more winding pathways we crossed a bridge & passed some huge palms. Around the corner was a giant domed greenhouse which was full of hanging ferns, orchids, pitcher plants & staghorns. I found another green sanctuary, one day I hope to have my own greenhouse & garden as lush and tropical as that space. 

Cairns botanic gardens

Cairns botanic gardens

For our final night we grabbed tickets to a comedy show at Cairns Dinner Theatre & grabbed a bite at one of the nearby bars “chicken and beer”  and yes we had chicken but I skipped the beer. Since mIssion beach I needed a break from the drinks!

Returning to the hotel we packed our bags ready for our morning flight back to Sydney. 

Cairns botanic gardens

Cairns botanic gardens

This road trip experience will be forever imprinted on my mind. Australia's landscape is so diverse and incredibly beautiful. I feel like I understand the true meaning of Great Southern Land. The open road took us from the city to the rainforest, past farms with cattle, mango plantations, to the desert & rocky mountains inland to Cooktown. We saw at least half a dozen different waterfalls, incredible views of green mountainsides & ravines to massive boulders & acres of tree’s as far as the eye could see. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore the rainforests of tropical north Queensland, from the Daintree all the way to the Atherton tablelands and beyond. We couldn't swim in most of the beaches but we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, found swimming holes & took a dip inside the net at mission beach . It rained occasionally but it helped us cool off form the heat. If I were to do this trip again I wouldn't do it any other way. Australia's tropical north is amazing & I hope everyone has the opportunity to see it one day.  

Beware of the crocodiles in North Queensland

Beware of the crocodiles in North Queensland

What is your favourite adventure destination?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

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Top 10 low light houseplants

Want to add houseplants to a space low on natural light? Natural light is essential for houseplants so beware of rooms without windows. Houseplants must have a light source to stay alive whether naturally bright, low light or artificial. Choosing the right houseplants to use in bright light and those darker corners is important for their survival, so read on to find out my top 10 low light houseplants. 

1. Cast iron plant - Aspidistra elatior 

Cast iron plant

With large dark green leaves this plant will survive the gloomiest of spaces. Traditionally surviving the most brutal of environments this houseplant handles it all, from fumes, draughts, smoke & low temperatures. Its glossy leaves shine in optimal conditions, including with low water. An excellent hallway or office plant, aspidistra can also been grown outside in shade.

2. Happy plant - Dracena fragrans massangeana

The Dracena might be slow growing, but it doesn’t require a ton of light to do so. Suitable for bright and low light rooms, this houseplant features stunning long green leaves with creamy yellow stripes down the centre. A floor plant when mature, the happy plant is sure to give anyone a smile as it's super low maintenance and very low water.

3. Devils Ivy - Epipremnum aureum

Devils Ivy

The golden pothos is very versatile, it can hang or climb in bright or low light positions. With large oval shaped leaves, pointing at the tip and a distinctive colour of yellow marbled with bright green. Epipremnum may also be sold as Scindapsus aureus and will climb up a moss covered pole or hang from a planter, but may latch onto nearby walls or objects. Devils ivy will tolerate neglect & low water & is perfect for almost every houseplant owner.  

4. Butterfly plant - Syngonium

Syngonium

A vigorous climber or hanging plant, Syngonium tolerates low light, bright light & shade outside. With beautiful & luscious amounts of arrow shaped leaves, cream veins and light green. The butterfly plant likes to climb a moss covered pole or can hang in a pot.

5. Snake plant -Sansevieria Trifasciata

Sansevieria

A very hardy succulent, Sansevieria species are great for the bedroom, living room and kitchen. With upright sword shaped leaves, mottled green with a yellow band on the outsides the Sansevieria species grows well in full sun and shade. Rated one of nasa’s top air purifying plants, the Sansevieria sucks up carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at night. This low water houseplant is great for beginners and those who travel. 

6. Lady palm - Rhapis excelsa

Lady Palm

A excellent statement plant for the dimly lit corner of your home, this palm will grow indoors and out, tolerating shade and a sun room. With clumping stems each with five to eight leaves spreading from the tops like a fan, this palm makes an excellent privacy screen or divider between rooms. A popular container plant the Rhapis excelsa needs regular water but allow to dry out between drinks.

7. Chinese evergreen - Aglaonema 

Aglaonema

The massive spear shaped leaves of the chinese evergreen create a spectacular display of green and cream splotches. The colours compliment other house plants foliage. The Aglaonema likes a regular drink but requires good drainage so don’t let this guy sit in water. Still easy to care for, if you forget about the chinese evergreen they will forgive you.

8. ZZ Plant - Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

ZZ plant

A plant you just can’t kill, the ZZ plant needs a drink once a month or two. The Zamioculcas Zamiifolia has thick succulent stems with rubbery dark green leaves. The ultimate of easy care houseplants the ZZ plant is perfect for those forgetful plant lovers. 

9. Fruit salad plant - Monstera Deliciosa 

Monstera Deliciosa

Young heart shaped leaves, splitting upon maturity give this plant a quirky personality. Traditionally a climber the Monstera creates a statement indoors and out in low light and shade positions. Another low water plant, Monstera is a perfect living room companion for the lazy or busy houseplant lover.

10. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea)

Parlor palm

A smaller variety of palm, the parlor palm is an excellent choice of houseplant for low light conditions. An easy care variety of palm, the parlor palm can handle lower temperatures & low humidity spots too. Chamaedorea doesn’t like to be over watered so let it dry out between drinks. 

What are your favourite low light houseplants?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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5 easy tips for Winter houseplant care

I tell you what, I'm definitely feeling the cold already and you know what that means? The plants are too! 

So today I want to share 5 easy tips for Winter houseplant care. These are simple things I'm doing to keep my plants happy over the colder months. 

5 easy tips for Winter houseplant care 

1. Dust the leaves and clean the windows 

With shorter days ahead, plants have less natural light to use for photosynthesis.

Keeping their foliage dust free and my windows nice and clean gives them the best opportunity to use the light available in Winter.

I also use this opportunity to do a preventative pest spray by wiping the leaves over with some Neem oil spray. The foliage is not only dust free, but pest free too! 

2. Rearrange plants if needed, according to the light available.

For the same reason, if any plants are in darker spots now the sun is lower in the sky. I move them closer to the window.

It's a good idea to monitor the change in light available to your houseplants in Winter, to ensure they are receiving what they need. 

3. Readjust my watering practices

With less light available my plants are using less water, so I'm careful to check whether my plants need water before giving it to them.

I'm still adding a few drops of fertiliser or soil conditioner to the water so the plants get the nutrients they need to grow.

If you need help determining when you should water your plants read this. 

4. Close the windows 

At my place, the temperature drops when the sun goes behind the trees in the afternoon.

As soon as I start feeling cold, I close the windows in the house.

Some plants handle changes in temperature better than others so to be safe, I try to keep the environment above 10 degrees celsius. 

5. Beware of the heater

Most houseplants are from tropical climates so don't mind a warm and toasty environment.

However, heating tends to create a drier atmosphere and the lack of humidity can cause plants to dry out quicker.

Fluctuations in temperature can have an impact on how you care for your plants so be sure to monitor your environment and adjust your plant care accordingly.

Did you find this helpful? 

What are your tips for houseplant care in Winter?

I love learning new tips to care for my houseplants. Check out this related article over on The Spruce. 

5 easy tips for winter houseplant care

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Top Houseplant Trends 2018

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which simply means, if you make a purchase through a link you have clicked on, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

P L A N T  S T Y L E | Top Houseplant Trends 2018

Ready to style your home with plants? The Top houseplant trends of 2018 is here! I’m calling it, on urban jungle plant style trends you’ll love. I know it’s been said green isn’t the colour of 2018, but green with plants is never going out of fashion. I’ll also share some of my top tips that you are sure to adore. 

Adding houseplants as part of your home decor is definitely a 2018 trend and it’s not going anywhere. Greenery as living home decor is a simple way to transform any space.

Green is in  

Green is in. In fact, the more the merrier when it comes to styling plants in your home. Think large plants in floor pots, plant shelves and plants in every room of the house. There are many beautiful ways to add plants to your home and the era of the urban jungle is here. You can fill your house with plants, regardless of your space. Not only will you benefit from cleaner air in your space, houseplants are proven to increase one's wellbeing too. Start with one plant if you’re not sure, or if you’ve never had a houseplant before & as your confidence grows, so will your indoor garden. 

Hanging Plants

Ideal for small spaces, or to keep plants away from small children and pets, hanging plants are a sure winner. Macrame plant hangers make it easy to add plants in any small pots to your home decor with a simple hook. Nursery’s and Garden Centres sell plants ready to hang in plastic pots, and there are many other varieties of hanging pots available.

Hang your plants from hooks opposite windows or to fill corners of rooms.

There are plenty of choices for hanging plants indoors, such as ferns, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), nodding violets (Streptocarpus rexii), Devil's ivy (Epipremnum aureum) and the Goldfish plant (Carassius auratus). 

Rachel’s Top Tip: Don’t forget to consider where you want to hang the plant when choosing what plant to hang. For example - Ferns love humidity, and indirect light. 

Mirrors 

Want to make it seem like you have more plants than you do? Amplify your space and plants with mirrors. Style over a dresser for multi purpose use or hang it on the wall behind a tall plant. Choose a unique shape such as a round or hexagonal mirror.Tall mirrors work well with a group of taller plants or by a plant shelf. The reflection will create space and the illusion of more plants! 

Baskets 

When styling plants in your home it can become expensive purchasing beautiful pots, another way to compliment your new plant is by placing it in a basket! We suggest using baskets made of natural fibres or in neutral tones. There are tons of options when it comes to baskets for your plants, including wicker, willow, seagrass and rope storage baskets.

Floor Plants 

Now you’ve got a great basket, let’s fill it with a floor plant! Last years trend was the fiddle leaf fig, a stunning large leafed plant with a long thin stem growing to heights up to 2m. This year it’s all about the happy plant (Dracena fragrans 'Massangeana'), it’s a low maintenance and easy care plant that survives in low to medium light conditions. My next choice would be my absolute favourite type of plant, a palm. Have you seen my earrings? I’m obsessed with palms for their stunning leaf structure that looks great in any home. So which palms should you choose? For indoor there are a few varieties that are perfect! For a smaller variety try the parlour palm, or for something with more impact go with a Kentia palm or Rhapis palm.  

Lady Palm

Terracotta Pots 

If you follow any plant account on instagram it’s obvious that plant parents everywhere love terracotta pots. And it’s not just for their style. Obviously they look perfect when lined up on a plant shelf filled with luscious plant babies. A colour that sings in unison with all plant foliage. But did you know that Terracotta pots are actually good for your plants? Terracotta helps plants dry out quicker, saving plants from root rot caused by overwatering. However, this means you need to monitor the water required for plants in terracotta pots due to their porous nature.  

Interesting & Variegated Foliage

It’s not just about straight green leaves for your indoor plants anymore. From variegated & marble, to splashes of ruby and gold, interesting & coloured foliage adorn many of my favourite houseplants. Variegated plants of the same species compliment their greener counterparts. Branch out into deeper colours with a Ficus elastica, or Golden Ivy. Challenge yourself to care for a stunning & stripy Calathea. Simplify your style with a few varieties of Sansevieria.

Classic White Pots & Planters 

Can a trend be a classic? Who cares! Classic white planters & pots are where it’s at. Grouped together, they create a stunning display, emphasizing the green foliage in your plant collection.  White pots with varied textures, structures & sizes will create a harmonious look in any home. White planters are timeless & on trend while effortlessly matching furniture & your homes decor.

Jarariums 

You’ve heard of Terrariums, so have you heard of Jarariums? A fun project to decorate your space with awesome aquatic art. Source yourself a large sized jar with a lid, the cheapest Potting mix with no fertilisers, aquarium gravel, & aquatic plants.  Grab a few tools, some long tweezers or mini tongs and a funnel to add the gravel and water. Start by adding a layer of soil, just a small amount, about 2cm thick is sufficient. Remove each aquatic plant from its pot and remove most of the soil, you may want to trim the roots if they appear to large for your chosen vessel. Use tongs to arrange your plants in the Jar and cover the roots with a small amount of soil. Use the funnel to distribute the gravel in a perfect layer covering the soil completely. Gently fill the jar with water through the funnel so as to limit the gravel being disturbed. Add the lid and place your Jararium creation in its new home!

Upcycled Containers 

Being green goes with loving green and upcycling is a step in the right direction, use old watering cans to plant up garden goodies like this trailing succulent ‘mezoo’. From old laundry tubs to kitchen chairs, there is no limit to the whimsy you can add to your garden with an upcycled planter.

What are your predictions for the Top Houseplant trends for 2018?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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Suzy’s Sanctuary

Suzy's Sanctuary | Interview with a Houseplant Enthusiast | February 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog |

I met Suzy through a Facebook group called Houseplant Addicts. An amazing and helpful group of houseplant enthusiasts who share pictures, advice & their love for plants. Suzy shared a photo of her amazing indoor garden atrium and I was hooked. I'm a huge fan of indoor plants with almost 50 of my own so I had to know how Suzy had created her indoor oasis. Lucky for me, I got to chat with Suzy about her love for houseplants and the inspiration behind this beautiful sanctuary garden.

This is Suzy’s Sanctuary:  

This photo is dated October 2017. 

I’m sure you would agree, this indoor jungle is a sanctuary we could all enjoy!

Suzy’s Sanctuary started back in 2014 when she purchased this property in Victoria. The atrium already existed, with a few tree ferns, plenty of rocks and the pond. For Suzy, this space was a beautiful blank canvas that she envisaged creating something awesome with.

Your garden looks like such a joy to spend time in, what got you into plants? 

I always liked gardening, learning different plant species and watching them change shape. I have been a collector of plants since I was 6 years old. I like to be creative, and plants were the easiest things to get into.  

I admire nature rather than people. People don’t excite me the way plants do. They are colourful, different, some are edible and some are not.  The good thing about plants is they don’t back chat!! All my plants are my babies (as I call them).  I talk to them and it’s like they seem to smile at me when I see them, they show me they are happy and healthy.

You’ve built a tropical oasis inside your home, what inspired you to create this garden? 

I had this huge space but it was boring to watch and look at, it lacked interest.  The entire space had about 5 ferns and just a lot of stones.  The best part was, the structure was all there with the ponds and walkways.  I bought the house in April 2014 and since I moved in, I  have built this area into what you see today. I have added heaps of ferns and plants that like bright natural light and can withstand colder days as well. I mainly have shade loving plants likes of Dicksonia Antartica which is quite huge now, few different varieties of palms, spider plants around the ponds, lots of different types of ferns, bromeliads, calatheas, stromantheas, aspidistra, peace lily and anthuriums. I love plants with character, I have recently added 15 rhipsalis to my collection.  I got into planting to create a peaceful place to relax and wind down after being away for work.  I really look forward to coming home to my paradise.

How long has it taken to create this amazing space?

It has taken me 3 years (2014 - 2016) to establish all the ground plants, then I added the hanging plants in 2017.  I continue adding bits and pieces all the time depending on what I see and like. As plants overgrow I cut them back, transplant and start it all over again from babies so I can watch them grow again.

It’s a sizeable garden, not to mention indoors and has a large water feature. How long do you spend maintaining it?

This is just one part of my garden! Overall, I have 2 acres, inside and outside, plus a vege garden. This space is at the back of the house - facing south, so no direct sunlight comes through the windows. The entire inner area is 25.7m L x 6.2m wide,  the structured garden area is 13 m (L) x 6.2 m (W).  Then I have pot plants in my entertaining area. Majority of the time is spent watering the plants. Since it’s been finished, apart from watering, not much needs to be done. Weed carpet stops weeds coming through and the ponds do not require that much maintenance, it has a good pump system and keeps itself clean. We spend about an hour a day watering and maintaining the gardens during summer, but in winter it’s less; about half an hour watering them all. 

With so much to absorb and enjoy, where do you find yourself spending the most time?

Around the fish pond listening to the waterfalls.  I also have a chair in the dining room that I look out on the plants and admire their beauty. This space is my meditation space; where I can relax with a glass of wine, some cheese and my plants. 

Finally, what would you say to anyone who wants to get into gardening or house plants?

Firstly, start with one. Try choosing something that you think can look after - what's the easiest plant you know how to grow? I would choose Aspidistra - Cast Iron plant. In my experience this one is super easy to look after. 

I suggest to choose a hardy plant to start with. The Peace Lily is another one - you can't kill this! Starting this way will give you confidence and then you can build up your collection with something else.

Calathea Zebrina

Cast Iron Plant - Aspidistra elatior

Rubber Plant - Ficus elastica variegated

You need to ask a few questions when you start adding plants to your home: 

Where are you going to put this plant? 

Would it survive there? 

Study the plant first where it lives its natural habitat and what’s the habitat like at your house?
Take into account temperature, this is especially important for growing tropical plants out of tropical locations. Indoor plant groups - such as fiddle leaf fig, maidenhair ferns, and calatheas - 15 degrees is the minimum for most of these plant types. Lighting is so important, no direct sunlight is perfect for Maidenhair ferns. 

You need to get the plant rooting where you plant it, for this you need good soil. 

Once established you need to feed the plants food, mulch & compost helps improve soil so that things grow well. 

What pot are you using for pot plants? For Terracotta pots - you need a specialised soil mix called terracotta and tub mix. I use this because it has the elements and ingredients to support growing plants in terracotta pots. 

Thanks so much for your awesome tip's and for sharing how you created your awesome sanctuary garden Suzy! 

I had an absolute pleasure chatting with Suzy, sharing her love for plants and hearing fantastic gardening tips. 

If you’ve created a sanctuary like Suzy’s, share it in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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Why can’t I keep my plants alive?

Plant Care 101 | How to keep Houseplants happy! | March 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog | 

I love being a plant parent. But I’ve had my fair share of misery when despite my best efforts one of my houseplants hasn’t survived. I really do care for my plants.

So why can't I keep my plants alive?

Over time I’ve learnt from some mistakes, but in the beginning, I rarely knew what had gone wrong. It’s not until I started reading the plant tags and doing some research that I discovered how important it is to get a few basics right. So I’m going to run through them below.

Choose plants for your space! 

This may sound simple but actually, most people do the exact opposite and choose plants that are attractive to them and worry about where they will put them later. Choosing plants that are suitable for the space you want to keep them in is very important to ensure their survival.

So what do I mean by choose plants for your space? Ask yourself these questions and your answers will lead you to the right plants for the conditions in your space. 

What kind of light or sun does the space get?

Indirect but bright light, full shade, part shade, full sun, afternoon sun? 

How big is the space? Do you want a small plant? (remember plants grow too!). A big plant in a large pot on the floor? Hanging baskets or plant hangers?

How often are you in the space/ will you notice it? Will you remember to water this plant? Is it easy to access so you can water it, check for bugs?

What’s the air flow like? Air conditioning blowing on the space, heating, humidity?

Plants will adapt to their environment but you can assist this process if you choose a plant that’s suitable for your space, you are making sure you have the right light, airflow, enough room and you can access it to water it. Most plants don't enjoy draughts or air conditioning directly blowing on them. Heating can also dry out the soil quicker. Consider where you want to put a plant before choosing a plant and you're halfway to happier plants.

Figure out how often you need to water your plant.

Figure out? Rachel, why can’t you just tell me! Sorry guys, it's because, it all depends on the plant type, the conditions you keep your plant in, the pot size and the soil. Here are a few quick tips.

What kind of plant did you choose? Tropical plants - or plants with leafy foliage; usually like to let the top soil dry out between watering except for some ferns which prefer to stay moist. Succulent or Cacti; most don’t require huge amounts of water, let the soil completely dry between drinks. 

Our tip: ask the nursery person when you buy or check out our Plant Profile's to see if your plant is listed. 

Where is the plant kept? The amount of light a plant receives will determine how much water it uses. Full sun plants need a daily drink in summer, except some established dry tolerant garden plants. Shade plants in dry shade or humid shade. Dry shade plants will need more water. In winter many houseplants will go into dormancy and won't require regular watering over this period. 

Indoor plants in bright indirect light; check the top soil is dry first and then water as required, don’t allow plants to sit in saucers of water for long, unless treating a dehydrated plant.

How big is the pot in comparison to the plant? A big plant in a small pot can have lots of roots, which means there is less soil and less chance of holding water. A small plant or recently potted plant in a bigger pot usually means there is lots of soil, and less roots. Therefore less water soaked up by the roots, and is held in the soil. 

What kind of soil did you use? Specialised planting mix for the species of plant is the best option for water holding capacity. Premium all purpose potting mix is a great all round option, you may you find you need to water different plants at different rates. Generally speaking the cheapest potting mix you can find will work for some hardy plants and even succulents as it often contains more bark chips, however it lacks the added fertilisers and trace elements plant need when they are being repotted

One of the quickest ways to make a plant unhappy is to over or under water them. In my experience you can bring a plant back from under watering if caught early. Overwatering a plant unfortunately will send it to plant heaven.

Maintain your plants!  

Plants are like babies, OK not really that much alike but you can't just forget about them and hope they stay alive! They need food, water, cleaning and even changing on occasion.

Food - plants need fertiliser, in actual fact it's not really food for plants but nutrients they use to grow strong. So if you want the best out of your plants fertilise them! Use a liquid or slow release fertiliser composed of granules.

Water - see above

Cleaning - old yellowing leaves on your plant might fall off but you can remove them. If the leaves aren’t old but are turning yellow this could mean there is a problem. Some plants require pruning, others might get bugs. Keep an eye on your plants and clean their leaves at least monthly

Changing - As plants grow they will need a new pot! It’s important to change your plants pot before it becomes too pot bound (when the roots run out if room). Some plants can survive being pot bound but others will not, if you can see roots at the top of the pot this can indicate its ready for a new pot. It all depends on the plant as to how often a pot change is required, we suggest every 12-18 months

The best advice we can give is to learn as much as you can about your plant so you can care for it properly. The advice above is very general and that’s why you will need to answer the questions mentioned for your plant to achieve the best outcome.

I hope this helps! 

Tell us in the comments below, your best tips for plant care.

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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How often should I water my indoor plants?

THE FINGER TEST | How often should I water my indoor plants?
April 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog

Almost every day I get asked the same question "How often should I water this plant?" and because one of the worst things you can do to your plants, is over water them. I've put together this post to help you understand how often you should water your indoor plants.

If you're not sure how often you should be watering your indoor plants, read on. I'll share with you the two main ways we can tell a plant need's water, and which way I recommend for checking your houseplants water requirements. 

2 ways to tell if a plant needs water

There are two main ways we can tell a plant needs water.

1. Looking 

2. Lifting

Look at the plant. 

Are the leaves looking less shiny? Are there yellow leaves that have appeared? I have a Peace Lily Spathiphyllum, that's leaves will become very droopy and flat if I neglect to give it the water it needs. 

Next is lifting. 

Try picking up the plant and checking the weight. You'll first need to know how light the plant can weigh when it's dry and how heavy it is when it's wet. Then, when you are checking, the heavier the plant is, the less likely it needs a drink. This is easiest if you have plastic pots. 

Try picking up your plants to see if they need water

Unfortunately for me, many the pots we use at home are heavy glazed clay pots so this strategy isn’t always suitable. If you keep your plants in lightweight plastic pots then you can give this one a try.  

The way I recommend you check if your plants need watering is:

The Finger Test.

Simply stick your finger into the dirt as far down as you can and see if the soil is dry.

Check to see if your plants need water
Stick your finger into the soil

When you remove your finger, any soil sticking to it indicates moisture. When your finger comes out relatively clean, it’s time to water. Feel the soil by rubbing your fingers together. Dark & sticky soil is a sign of moisture.

Stick your finger as far down into the soil as you can
Any soil left on your finger indicates moisture

When you find the soil is still moist, don't water yet. Check back again in a day or two. Depending on how many plants you have this task might seem tedious at first. To keep your plants happy it's well worth the effort. Eventually you will get to know the watering requirements of each of your plants.

Rachel's Top Tip:

Group plants with similar water requirements together

There are a few other signs to look for if you think it's time to water your plants.

Leaves shriveling up, browning  or becoming crusty;  indicates the plant has dried out.

A plant dropping leaves, can be a sign of both under and overwatering. The finger test should help you determine which. 

Not all your plants will need water at the same rate. This will all depend on the type of plant; cacti and succulents need less water than a tropical plant.

If you want to water your plants at the same rate you will need to ensure the correct potting mixture for each plant type to ensure correct and efficient drainage. Find out which potting mix you need.

The size and type of pot can also influence how much water a plant needs. Clay pots absorb moisture and help plants dry out quicker.

Larger plants in small pots, doesn't leave much room for their roots and so there is less soil which means it can’t hold as much water. In this case you might find it easier if you repot your plant. I've written a separate post about that here.

What are your tips for watering indoor plants? 

Tell us in the comments below. 

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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How to add Houseplants to your home & office. 

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