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How to bring nature indoors with the right houseplants

Spending more time indoors accelerated a number of trends that existed before the pandemic, including frenzy of sorts. But here’s one that’s really good for you: bringing nature inside.

The appeal of interiors draped in greenery is no mystery: Houseplants are a natural balm for spaces filled with man-made materials and products, reminders of gardens and distant landscapes that can be difficult to visit from nowadays – and even replacements for the friends we used to have at home.

“You can actually be minimalist, but if you have plants all of a sudden the space is warm and inviting,” said Eliza Blank, founder and CEO of indoor plant retailer The Sill, who said his business’s sales have skyrocketed. last year.

Maximumists have found their way too, inspiring legions of Instagram followers with rooms that resemble private jungles. The National Gardening Association estimates that household spending on houseplants has increased by nearly 50% since 2016, with a year-over-year jump of more than 12% in 2020.

But adding plants to your home isn’t always as easy as it sounds. They can shrivel up and die. And even if they do live, they may not look as good in your home as they do on Instagram.

So what’s the secret to incorporating plants into your living space?

“When it comes to styling plants, it’s like any design project,” said Justina Blakeney, the Los Angeles-based founder of blog and lifestyle brand Jungalow, whose latest book, “Jungalow: Decorate Wild,” will be released next month. “You have to think about the general context and the general appearance you are looking for.”

She added: “Of course plants are living creatures, so you have to keep in mind what they want as well.”

Ms. Blakeney and other stylists and plant designers shared their strategies.

Many houseplants suffer simply because they are placed in environments that are not suitable for them. Just because a large fiddle-leaf fig tree looks impressive in a living room that you see in a refuge magazine doesn’t mean it will look great or flourish in your living room.

“My biggest tip is to assess the light in your home first, as light is the most important aspect of keeping plants happy,” said Danae Horst, founder of Folia Collective, a plant store in Los Angeles, and author of “Houseplants for All.” “It’s more important than watering; it’s more important than fertilization. Light is to plants what food is to humans.

Consider in which direction your windows are facing; look for obstructions from neighboring buildings or trees outside; and study the quality of light. South-facing windows generally get the most direct sunlight, Ms. Horst said, while east and west-facing windows get some light and north-facing windows are very few. , which makes them the most difficult.

Then, with the help of a nursery or plant guide, choose the types of plants best suited to the conditions in your home. Desert plants like cacti and other succulents thrive in rooms exposed to direct sunlight all day, Ms. Horst said. Tropical plants tend to do best in rooms that receive a lot of indirect, filtered, or speckled light, as they would under a canopy of trees. Snake plants and ZZ plants can tolerate darker conditions.

It’s also important to be realistic about your parenting skills: are you overzealous, or are you more of an uninvolved plant parent? Some people insist on watering daily and drown plants that would do better with watering once a week; others bring the plants home and forget to water them for months, or let the soil dry out when they travel.

Neither approach is necessarily a problem, as long as you choose the plants that suit your habits. “Understanding what will suit your lifestyle and your personality is helpful,” said Ms. Horst.

For instant gratification without racking up a large collection of plants, you can start with just one eye-catching plant, said Hilton Carter, a Baltimore-based plant and interior stylist whose latest book, “Wild Creations,” will be released on. next month.

“I make decisions based on what I call the reporting factory,” he said. “It’s the only plant that instantly grabs your attention and sets the tone.”

Mr. Carter’s house is teeming with greenery, but there’s no shortage of the statement plant in his living room: a towering fiddle-leaf fig tree.

Any plant with impressively sized leaves will do, he says: “A plant with larger foliage, or a taller plant, in most situations – it all depends on what you want the statement to be. . “

Mrs. Blakeney sometimes looks for a plant with a vivid pattern. “I’m a big fan of decorating with plants as one might traditionally decorate with textiles or color,” she said. “Some of my favorite plants are the ones that are polka dot or striped or bring different vibrant colors to the space.”

But be sure to choose varieties that won’t interfere with how you use the space.

The shape, or what Summer Rayne Oakes, entrepreneur, YouTube personality and author of How to Love a Plant, calls “structure” is important. A tall plant in a tall planter is nice in an empty corner of an attic, but may not be practical in a narrower traffic area.

Likewise, if you’re using a hanging planter, “you might want a plant that drapes itself,” she says, rather than a plant that reaches the ceiling. And in a functional space like a kitchen, a plant on a shelf should stand upright rather than sprawl out, because when you try to wash dishes at the sink, she said, “You can’t have something that shakes its leaves too. a lot.”

As you start to add more plants to your collection, build clusters of plants rather than spreading out individual pots.

“I always suggest people group plants for maximum impact,” Ms. Blank said. If you only have a few plants, she recommended creating a cluster with an odd number of pots – three or five, for example.

Plants do not need to match: generally, the larger the variety, the better the composition. “Take advantage of the natural texture and color and combine plants with different attributes,” Ms. Blank said. “You can be very structured and straight, like a snake plant. We could be more delicate and dragging, like a philodendron. And you could add a splash of color with an anthurium.

It doesn’t always require so much planning. Ms. Horst often advises people to simply identify the window in their house that receives the best light, “and then make it your crazy plant window.”

From a sunny window in her own kitchen, she hung various plants from a ceiling rod and added more to the floor, a stand and the tops of the cabinets. “A good window is enough to make a big factory statement,” she said.

Adding plants at different heights along a wall can give the impression of a leafy garden. “I like having factories at all levels,” Ms. Blakeney said. “I will often have plants on the ground. I will have plants on tables, consoles or cabinets at waist level. And then I love drawing attention with tall plants on the shelves and cascading plants cascading down. It creates a lot of movement and a very whimsical feeling.

Mr. Carter sometimes mounts plants directly to the wall. At home, he has a propagation area where wooden cradles attached to the wall hold test tubes filled with cuttings. He also installs air plants in wall hangers and sometimes mounts deer horn ferns directly to planks as wall plaques.

“You can mount a staghorn fern on any piece of salvaged wood,” he says, because it doesn’t need to be potted in the ground. “You can use this particular plant almost like a work of art. If you have a gallery wall, you can display your other artwork on it and also display a living artwork there. “

The plants are the stars of the show, but their containers have a crucial supporting role. If you are using a hodgepodge of flowerpots, it can look cluttered. This doesn’t mean that the containers have to match, but it helps to have a vision of what you want to achieve.

One option is to choose jars with similar colors. Ms. Horst loves vintage, handmade ceramic containers with a lot of texture, but she focuses on collecting terracotta and white colored pots because “they’re easy to mix,” she says. “And I never have to worry about plants next to each other if I want to make a difference.”

Another option is to choose a common material or construction technique. Ms. Blakeney, for example, has designed rooms where plants are placed in a variety of woven baskets.

But none of this means plants necessarily need to be repotted, noted Ms. Horst. She often leaves them in the nursery’s plastic pots – which have generous drainage holes and can be easily moved to the sink for watering – and places these pots in larger ceramic containers.

“Then when you need to repot, it’s a lot easier because the roots didn’t attach to the ceramic,” she said. And when you find decorative pots that don’t have drainage holes, you don’t need to drill a drill.

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