Spending more time indoors has accelerated a number of trends that existed before the pandemic, including bingeing of all kinds. But here’s one that’s actually good for you: Bring the outdoors inside.
The appeal of indoor spaces wrapped in green is no mystery: houseplants are a natural ointment for spaces filled with man-made materials and products, memories of the distant gardens and landscapes that may be difficult to visit these days – and even proxy for those Friends we entertained in our homes.
“You can actually be a minimalist, but when you have plants the space suddenly feels warm and inviting,” said Eliza Blank, founder and general manager of houseplant retailer The Sill, who said her company’s sales have skyrocketed last year.
Maximalists have also found their step, inspiring legions of followers on Instagram with spaces that resemble private jungles. The National Gardening Association estimates that household spending on houseplants has increased nearly 50 percent since 2016, with a year-over-year increase of more than 12 percent in 2020.
However, adding plants to your home isn’t always as easy as it looks. They can shrink and die. And even if they’re alive, they may not look as good in your home as they do on Instagram.
What is the secret to integrating plants into your habitat?
“When it comes to plant styling, it’s like any design project,” said Justina Blakeney, the Los Angeles-based founder of blog-cum-lifestyle brand Jungalow, whose latest book, Jungalow: Decorate Wild, is due out next month. “You have to think about the larger context and overall look that you are going for.”
She added, “Of course plants are living things, so you have to consider what they want too.”
Ms. Blakeney and other plant stylists and designers shared their strategies.
Understand your surroundings (and yourself)
Many houseplants suffer simply because they are placed in environments that do not suit them. Just because a large violin-leafed fig tree looks impressive in a living room that you see in Shelter magazine doesn’t mean it will look good or thrive in your living room.
“My biggest tip is to evaluate the light in your home first, because light is the most important aspect of keeping plants happy,” said Danae Horst, founder of Folia Collective, a plant shop in Los Angeles, and author of Houseplants for everyone. “” It is more important than watering. It is more important than fertilization. Light is for plants as food is for people. “
Think about the direction your windows are facing. Look for obstructions from neighboring buildings or trees in the open air. and study the quality of light. South-facing windows usually get the most direct sunlight, Ms. Horst said, while east and west-facing windows get some light and north-facing windows get very little, which makes them the most challenging.
Then, with the help of a kindergarten or plant guide, choose the types of plants that are best for the conditions of your home. Desert plants like cacti and other succulents thrive in rooms that are exposed to direct sunlight all day, said Ms. Horst. Tropical plants do better in rooms with plenty of indirect, filtered, or speckled light than under a canopy. Snake plants and ZZ plants tolerate darker conditions.
It’s also important to be realistic about your plant parenting skills: are you overzealous or more of a straightforward plant parent? Some people insist on watering every day and drowning plants that would do better with weekly watering. others bring plants home and forget to water them for months or let the soil dry out while traveling.
Neither approach is necessarily a problem as long as you choose the plants that suit your habits. “It is helpful to understand what fits your lifestyle and your personality,” said Ms. Horst.
Start with an explanation
For instant gratification without accumulating a large collection of plants, you could start with a single, eye-catching plant, said Hilton Carter, a Baltimore-based plant and interior designer whose latest book, Wild Creations, is due out next month.
“I make decisions based on what I call statement investment,” he said. “It’s the only plant that immediately catches your attention and sets the tone.”
Mr. Carter’s house is full of green, but the statement plant in his living room cannot be missed: a towering fig tree with violin leaves.
Any plant with impressively large leaves will do the trick, he said: “A taller deciduous plant or a taller plant in most situations – it’s all about what you want the statement to do.”
Ms. Blakeney sometimes looks for a plant with a vivid pattern. “I’m a big fan of decorating with plants the way you could traditionally decorate with textiles or paint,” she said. “Some of my favorite plants are spotted or have stripes or bring different bright colors to the room.”
However, be sure to choose varieties that do not interfere with the way you use the space.
Shape, or what Summer Rayne Oakes, entrepreneur, YouTube personality, and author of How to Make a Plant Love You, calls “structure” is important. A tall plant in a large planter is nice in an empty corner of a loft, but can be impractical in a tighter wrap around area.
If you use a hanging planter, “you might want a plant that falls,” she said, rather than one that reaches the ceiling. And in a functional space like a kitchen, a plant should stand on a shelf rather than spread out because when you’re trying to wash dishes at the sink it would say, “You can’t have something that beats the leaves a lot too.”
Create a cluster
As you add more plants to your collection, build clusters of plants instead of spreading out the individual pots.
“I always suggest that people group plants together for maximum effect,” said Ms. Blank. If you only have a few plants, she recommended creating a cluster with an odd number of pots – three or five, for example.
The plants don’t have to match: the larger the variety, the better the composition looks. “Use the natural texture and color and combine plants with different attributes,” said Ms. Blank. “You could be very structured and upright, like a snake plant. You could be more sensitive and trailing than a philodendron. And you could add a pop of color with an anthurium. “
It doesn’t always take that much planning. Ms. Horst often advises people to simply identify the window in their house that receives the best light “and then turn that into your crazy plant window”.
In a sunny window in her own kitchen, she hung various plants from a ceiling rod and added others to the floor, a stand, and the tops of the cabinets. “A good window is enough to make a big statement about plants,” she said.
Adding plants at different heights along a wall can create the appearance of a green garden. “I like plants on all levels,” said Ms. Blakeney. “I will often have plants on the ground. I will have plants on tables, consoles or cabinets at waist height. And then I love to pull the eye up with plants high on shelves and spilled plants. It creates a lot of movement and a very bizarre feeling. “
Mr. Carter sometimes mounts plants directly on the wall. At home he has a propagation area where wall-mounted wooden cradles hold test tubes filled with cuttings. He also installs air plants in wall hangers and sometimes mounts staghorn ferns directly on boards as blackboards.
“You can mount a staghorn fern on any reclaimed piece of wood,” he said, because it doesn’t need to be potted in soil. “You can almost use this particular plant as a work of art. If you have a gallery wall, you can put your other art up there and have a living piece of art there too. “
Curate the containers
Plants are the stars of the show, but their containers play a vital supporting role. Using a mess of flower pots might make it look cluttered. That doesn’t mean the containers have to match, but it helps to have a vision of what you want to achieve.
One option is to choose pots with similar colors. Ms. Horst likes vintage and handcrafted ceramic containers with a lot of texture, but she focuses on collecting terracotta and white pots because “they’re easy to mix together,” she said. “And I never have to worry about which plants are next to each other when I want to change something.”
Another option is to choose a common material or construction technique. Ms. Blakeney, for example, has designed rooms in which plants sit in various woven baskets.
But none of this means that plants have to be repotted, noted Ms. Horst. She often leaves them in the kindergarten’s plastic pots – which have generous drainage holes and can be easily taken to the sink for watering – and places those pots in larger ceramic containers.
“Then when you need to repot it’s a lot easier because the roots haven’t attached to the ceramic,” she said. And if you can find decorative pots that don’t have drainage holes, there’s no need to break out a drill.
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