Decorating With House Plants

Dress Up Supermarket Flowers

Combine three shades of African violets in a curvy urn. Cover with sheet moss (sold at most nurseries) to add a cozy feel and to help hold in moisture.

Care: Direct morning light. Protect from bright afternoon sun. To water, lift the moss so you can soak the soil. Keep the soil moist all the time; try not to get the leaves wet.

African violets

Stage a Still Life With Succulents

Like intricate little sculptures, mini cacti and succulents make an intriguing assemblage. Mix round, pointy, shiny, and matte plants, unifying them with just two types of neutral pots. Extra credit for a backdrop that picks up on the purples and greens of the leaves. From left: Mistletoe cactus, jade, aloe, two echeveria varieties, and rattail cactus.

Mini cacti and succulents on a table

 

Put a Towering Tree on Wheels

The large, leathery leaves of a tall fiddle-leaf fig can fill (and transform) an empty corner. Make an oversize plant mobile so you can easily roll it out of the way for vacuuming or to protect it from too much sun. All you need is a piece of precut bluestone from a landscaping center set on a wheeled caddie. This dark, cylindrical pot creates a modern profile and keeps the focus on the fig tree; its relief work echoes the “carved” leaves and adds one more luscious texture.

Care: Moderate light. Keep away from bright afternoon sun. Let the top inch of soil dry out, then water thoroughly.

Fig tree on wheels

Take Advantage of a Steamy Spot With a Humidity-Hungry Orchid

Think of a phalaenopsis orchid as a long-lasting bouquet: It’s magnificent for a month or so, and then the blooms are gone. Phalaenopsis are fans of light and humidity, so they do well in a sunny bathroom. Because they come potted in a fast-draining medium (a mix of peat, charcoal, and bark), they can be a challenge to keep hydrated—water seeps out the bottom quickly. To trap moisture, set the pot on gravel in a low glass cylinder; as water evaporates, it will be caught by the glass and reabsorbed by the orchid. Choose a plant with bright, shiny, firm (not droopy) foliage and only a few of the lowest flowers open.

Care: Direct morning light. Protect from bright afternoon sun. Allow the top half-inch of medium to dry out before watering again.

Phalaenopsis orchid

 

Enjoy the Grandeur of Topiaries Without the Formality

Lollipop-shaped Muehlenbeckia have a sort of conservatory-gone-wild charm. In an unfussy row, they feel classical but still relaxed. Since these topiaries don’t need direct sunlight, they can live in the middle of a room, away from windows. Set them on a narrow table or console behind a sofa as an organic room divider. A galvanized tray is perfect for catching water, protecting your furniture, and bringing polish to the grouping. You can find nine-inch topiaries like these at upscale nurseries, starting at about $35 each; ivy and myrtle also work well.

Care: Indirect light. Water whenever the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.

Group of muehlenbeckia

Green the Bedroom With Ferns

Trading a bedside lamp for a rich, leafy fern offers a surprise hit of nature that’s especially striking in a neutral space—it can turn an understated room into a minimalist enchanted forest. Ordinary ferns look regal when tucked in pretty matte pots and groomed a bit; just trim stray fronds and remove anything brown. Similar but different, these varieties (left, a Green Fantasy fern; right, a button fern) relate artfully from their perches. When shopping for ferns, look up. Anything in a hanging pot can be relocated to a standing pot, and often the lushest specimens are above you.

Care: Indirect light. Water whenever the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.

Ferns in a bedroom

Stuff Multiple Plants Into One Container for Instant Lushness

What keeps a low display from looking like something in a dentist’s office? Volume and a sleek pot. There are five dracaena (from the supermarket) repotted into this cone-shaped planter, creating an abundant, exotic feel. Against matte black, the striped leaves look dramatic and exciting. Arcing over, they “break” the edges of the mod container, so the effect is clean but not rigid. When shopping, pick dense plants with glossy foliage. A modern saucer, plus a slab of marble (check stone centers), adds panache.

Care: Indirect light. Let the top inch of soil dry out, then water thoroughly.

Five dracaena in one planter

 

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