If you’ve ever looked around at your plant-free home with a sigh for what could have been, well there’s no need to throw in the towel just yet. Those photogenic spaces you see while scrolling social media — the ones where pothoses in their hanging baskets cascade over counters or monstrous monsteras transform living rooms into lush paradises — can feel out of reach for a few reasons, from your lack of green thumb to your existing decor to your square footage and beyond. It may be true that some of the plant-filled images you’ve pinned may not be possible in your own home, your own version awaits. With a little expert intel about how to use plants as decor, anyone can beautify their space in a way that’s sustainable for their lifestyle.
It should also be noted that plants serve a few important functions in the home. According to a 2015 study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, having and maintaining indoor plants can help reduce psychological and physiological stress. Other studies, including one by the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2014, show some evidence of plants encouraging more focus and a more productive work atmosphere. Improving your wellbeing while improving your home’s overall aesthetic — what’s not to love? As Michael O’Brien, owner of LA-based landscape design firm and estudio Hommes + Gardens says, “Greening your space is a creative endeavor that allows you to ‘leaf’ your mark with beauty, functionality, and a touch of nature into your life.”
Still it can be intimidating to get started. Maybe you already have a few plants here and there that aren’t thriving the way you’d thought or getting the spotlight they deserve. Or maybe you haven’t even gotten past the shopping step. Fear not, help is on the horizon. Ahead, find decor tips from O’Brien as well as interior stylist and TV presenter Maxine Brady, to help you create the flora-filled haven makes sense for your space, your style, your skillset.
Embrace Your Commitment Level
First things first. It’s time to get real about how much TLC you can give your plant babies. “When embarking on your journey to incorporate greenery into your space, it's important to embrace your level of commitment,” O’Brien shares. This may not mean getting that fiddle leaf fig you’ve seen in every celebrity home tour. And that’s OK. If your commitment level is low, look into plants that don’t require as much attention. For example, snake plants, spider plants, and philodendron can thrive without a ton of direct light or water. If your place has a ton of natural light, take advantage by including plants like cacti, ponytail palm, or yucca plants that love to soak up the sun.
But if you’re still concerned about keeping plants alive, O’Brien suggests exploring the world of self-watering planters. “They offer creative solutions that can be retrofitted to your existing pots,” he says. “By educating yourself about these innovative products, you can effortlessly provide consistent water to your plants, making plant care a breeze.” And of course if all of that still feels like too much work, you can always go faux or stick to dried flowers and branches instead.
Consult The Experts For Long-Term Health
It may benefit you to take your research one step past Google and consult the experts at your local nursery, who can help you find your perfect plant pairing. “Not all plants are grown the same, Brady tells us. “Plants grown by specialists who know exactly how to breed the strongest varieties of each plant is a better investment of your money. Garden centers [...] will have a wealth of knowledge for new houseplant lovers. They'll give tips on watering, sunlight, repotting, pest prevention, and more to help your plants thrive. They can even provide recommendations for plants based on the amount of light and humidity in your home.”
Design With Your Environment In Mind
Another reason it’s not always a great idea to just copy and paste the plants you see in other peoples’ homes? Your space is totally unique — from its size to its architectural elements to its existing furniture. “To ensure the thriving growth of your green companions, it's essential to design your space around their ideal environment,” O’Brien explains. “Consider factors like light availability and temperature to create the perfect conditions for each plant. Regardless of whether your decor style leans towards traditional, minimalist, or maximalist, choosing plants that flourish in their surroundings will elevate both the aesthetic and their overall well-being.”
For example, got a preference for Mid-Century Modern? Brady says a fiddle leaf fig, monstera, or rubber tree — all of which were popular in the 1950s — would be a great fit. Or if Cottagecore is your preferred aesthetic, she suggests more delicate plants, like ferns and arrowhead vines. Eclectic homes can pull off plants with interesting textures or shapes, like string of pearls or anthuriums.
Accessorize & Edit Thoughtfully
You want your plants to have their moment, but you also want them to feel harmonious in your home. As Brady explains, that means carefully considering the other objects that surround them. If your plant is sitting on a shelf or coffee table, the stylist suggests layering in ornaments, books, or artwork that plays well with the plant’s size. “I like to place smaller plants on top of a stack of books — or in my fireplace with my disco balls,” she says. On the other hand, some larger free standing plants might benefit from scaling back on your accessories to ensure it has some room to breathe and create a more dramatic statement in the room.
Utilize Your Ceiling
Love the layered plant look? Don’t overlook the ceiling as a place to add a little greenery. “Hanging trailing plants will give your space an indoor jungle look we all love so much,” Brady says. An added bonus: It saves space, so it’s a great option for those with minimal square footage. Wall mounted vessels and/or vertical planters also offer a similar benefit while allowing you to make a unique design statement.
Be Picky About Your Planters
With so much thought given to the plant you put in your space, don’t skimp on the planter. “Once you’ve picked out some new houseplants for your space, turn your attention to pots and plants you house them in,” Brady recommends. “While terracotta offers the best drainage, it doesn’t fit everyone’s taste. Instead, leave your plants inside their nursery pots and simply drop them into larger decorative planters. Look for ones with interesting details like legs, colored pots, or concrete ones. Mix and match the style of your plant pots for a cohesive look.”