Houseplants are the hot decor trend: Here’s how to do it right | Food + Living
October 2, 2020
Furnishing with flora is having a moment.
“Like everybody, I’m loving adding plants to a space,” says Doreen Cagno of Lititz. “They give it that visual interest and texture that you just can’t match with other accessories. And they are accessories — living accessories.”
Cagno produces a home decor blog called Hymns and Verses, which lets followers peek inside her empty-nester home. There, botanical prints inspired a living room refresh, featuring plants like a Kimberly Queen fern that Cagno picked up at Wegman’s for $12.99 and displayed atop a vintage plant stand found on Facebook Marketplace for $5.
“Ferns come in such a variety of textures,” Cagno says. “They’re all very interesting, and that one in particular has a lot of texture. I love it.”
Houseplants are declaring their current “it” status in key decor publications like Architectural Digest.
July’s edition explored the Los Angeles digs of Kardashian-adjacent model Kendall Jenner, who takes up less space in one photo than does the giant palm leaning over her bedroom suite couch. In August’s issue, fashion designer Christian Siriano is dwarfed by a towering tree living on the marbled kitchen island of his Connecticut getaway home.
Live statement pieces can be risky, though. Few things can ruin a room’s aesthetic quicker than something massive and dead. Consider the fiddle-leaf fig with its leathery, violin-shaped leaves and super-size potential.
“That’s a very trendy plant. People see them on Instagram and they want them in their homes,” Cagno says. “But they need a certain kind of light and not everybody can have them.”
She admits she’s been through maybe five or six fiddle-leaf figs over the years but has yet to give up.
“I have one right now that is growing gangbusters. But it’s on my screened porch and is loving that tropical environment,” she says. (That was before local nights got quite chilly.) “I don’t know how it’s going to do when I bring it in.”
Cagno had an artificial fig but sold it a while back.
“I’ve come to realize that about myself. I just don’t love the faux,” she says. “I want the real deal.”
Easier choices might better suit beginners, she says.
“A rubber plant or a fern or a palm,” she says. “These are all plants that will fill up a space without needing that same light. But every plant needs light. There’s not one plant that doesn’t.”
Lighting is important
Lighting is key, says Chris Abel, owner of Custom Container Gardening in Colerain Township.
Research which plants will work with the specific light in a given room with a mind for where in the room the plant is to be, she suggests.
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“Think about whether you’re the kind of person who keeps the blinds open all the time or do you keep them closed,” she says. “You ask people, ‘When does the sun hit?’ and they don’t know. They need to pay attention to that.”
Don’t forget to rotate any plants placed on shelves or they’ll grow unevenly, she says. And never overlook the plants’ needs for the sake of aesthetics.
“One of my main pet peeves are all these gorgeous containers that don’t have any drainage,” Abel says. “Drainage is really important. Otherwise it’s just going to sit in a puddle of water and rot to death.”
Try unconventional containers like simple wooden boxes with plants inside pots — with good drainage — set inside those, she says.
“Some people put flowers on their table or a bowl of fruit,” Abel says. “I tend to put my houseplants there on a pretty tray and make little vignettes.”
A silver tray might, for example, call for some silver birds. Abel typically prefers grouping her plants to scattering them solo. She also likes to cover planting material with pebbles or the like. No need to look at the dirt, she says. And remember a plant will only flower for a short time.
“So you really want to try and pick something that has interesting foliage to give you some texture, different shades,” Abel says. “Green, greenish grey, greenish blue. The color palette is limitless.”
Look for hues
Of course, plants can clash, Cagno says.
“When I walk through a greenhouse I do look at color,” she says. “I wouldn’t bring in a plant that has yellow tones or yellowy leaves because I have a lot of cool tones in my home.”
So that pretty much rules out pothos plants, which often have yellow striations, she says.
“Those were very popular in the ’70s,” she says. But the easy-to-grow trailing vine with heart-shaped leaves is definitely back in vogue and all over Instagram. So is macrame.
Anthropologie sells a macrame wall plant holder for $58. Joss & Main has one that hangs for $43.99. Urban Outfitters offers a set of five hanging macrame terrariums for $249. Ikea calls its macrame hanger the Anvandbar and sells it for $14.99.
Some who lived through the macrame explosion that was the ’70s may be having an unpleasant visceral reaction right now. Take a deep breath.
“Remember, in the ’70s they didn’t use natural materials,” Cagno says. “They were probably using polyester rope. It’s just a totally different aesthetic when you’re using a natural material like cotton or even jute.”
So it’s perfectly permissible to try a macrame plant hanger and plop in a pothos if you’re feeling that boho vibe, she says.
But you don’t have to.
“They are very popular right now,” Cagno says. “They just aren’t for me.”