Designing With Houseplants

Want to breathe new life into your interiors? Follow these tips for bringing nature indoors.

Kokedama. Photo by Kara Schab of Right Foot Creative

Think outside the pot. Looking for a stunning and low-maintenance way to bring greenery into a room? Try mounting epiphytic plants (aka “air plants”) such as orchids and staghorn ferns on wooden frames. “These plants naturally grow in the understory of trees,” says Manon, “and their forms are graceful when arching off the wall and viewed from below.” Kokedama, a Japanese form of bonsai in which plants are taken out of their pots and wrapped in a moss ball, are also fun—“like little plant-pets that demand hands-on attention.” Not sure how to bring nature into low-light spaces or windowless rooms? Living plants won’t thrive in those settings, so consider using natural elements that no longer require light or water—such as preserved moss balls, dried seedpods or pinecones.

Photo by Kara Schab of Right Foot Creative

Elevate your greenery with sophisticated containers. Here’s where your design style comes in. Try a variety of modern, polished, textural and organic containers in a unifying color palette. Or add baskets to play up multiple colors and patterns. Whatever the aesthetic, just be sure to choose right-size containers that offer sufficient drainage. “Cachepots [ornamental flower pots] are lovely, but they tend to trap water,” Liu cautions. “It’s best not to pot your plant directly into them.” Instead, use an insert—a plastic grower’s container with drainage holes in the bottom, or a porous terra-cotta pot—that keeps roots from getting waterlogged.

Botanologica owners Holly Manon (left) and Julie Liu. Photo by Kara Schab of Right Foot Creative

Don’t rely on the calendar to tell you when to water. Instead, go by feel, or stick a wooden skewer an inch (or three, for larger pots) into the soil if you’re shy about getting your hands dirty, to test a plant’s moisture level. “Using rainwater is best,” Liu says, “but if you’re not lucky enough to have a rain barrel, you can use tap water left out in an open container overnight so that the chlorine and harmful chemicals evaporate.” Before watering, aerate your plants by poking a pencil into the soil in several places to help water get directly to the roots. You can also put them in the shower—“like a little spa for your plant-baby”—to help wash the dust off the leaves, which can impact a plant’s health.

Pets and Plants

Do your furry family members have a tendency to munch on leaves and petals? Botanologica recommends these houseplants as safe for cats and dogs:

  • Aeschynanthus (lipstick plant)
  • African violets
  • Calathea lancifolia (rattlesnake plant)
  • Christmas cactus
  • Cissus (grape ivy)
  • Echeveria
  • Flame violets
  • Haworthia
  • Maranta (prayer plant)
  • Norfolk pine
  • Peperomia
  • Ponytail palm
  • Selaginella (club moss)
  • Sempervivum

For a list of plants that are toxic to pets, visit

After years of failed relationships with tropical plants, Adrienne Wichard-Edds has finally settled down with a lovely Marble Queen pothos.

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Categories: Home & Design