Decorating with plants – what to choose and how to make them look great

Plants not only add energy and style to our homes but also bring nature indoors, enriching our lives with their calming, soulful presence. Learn to us plants to define a space, clean the air and even add a living fragrance

Turn your hall into a vertical garden

If your hall is a true pass-through, hang a living wall to keep plants in sight but out of the way and save all surface areas – including the floor – for other uses. Re-create the design pictured using shelving brackets and long metal planters with these seven steps.

1. Choose the vessels. These low, long metal troughs can be found at flower shops or home-goods stores, but any lightweight vessels with flat backs will do. These were already lined with plastic, but if yours aren’t, waterproof them by lining them with cellophane or individual plastic liners.

2. Select the plants. Mix textures, add pops of bright, complimentary colours, and include a welcoming burst of fragrance. Avoid plants with suckers, such as creeping ficus, ivy, philodendrons, and similar plants if you don’t want them climbing up the wall and potentially causing the paint to chip. Here “Sharry Baby” oncidium orchids, guzmania bromeliads, and jasmine grab the attention, with a combination of fine- and wide-leaved ferns as the backdrop.

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3. Design the plantings. Keep the majority of the plants the same from container to container for visual continuity. Let a couple of the containers act as supporting players and keep them simple so that the others can shine for a more compelling design. Make sure the plants’ pots aren’t taller or wider than the vessel (cut off any offending plastic).

Plenty of plants – plus an optional pet

4. To visualize where the planters will hang, measure each planter and create actual-size cutouts with scrap paper. Attach the cutouts to the wall with painter’s tape, then use the tape to vertically “draw” in a few plants’ heights. Step back and take a look.

Stand at the front door and take another look. Move the cutouts around until your design is pleasing. For a lush look, hang the vases close to one another and fill the wall with green. Or go for a sparer design with just one or two vessels.

5. Hang each vase with a bracket (ideally, French cleat and a bottom spacer that allows for a plumb hang and ample air flow between the wall and the planter, preventing dampness and mold). It’s best if your living wall is easily detachable so you can clean away dust and insects that linger and hide behind the installation.

6. Set each plant inside the vessel in its original plastic grow pot. If the grow pot is too short, prop it up with something waterproof like bubble wrap or an upside-down plastic cup.

7. If ease of care is important to you, be sure to choose plants with similar water and light requirements.

Make your child’s bedroom wild

Go wild by adding plants to your child’s room

1. When choosing plants for a child’s room, add a few fun elements to make a kid feel, well, like a kid. If she likes trucks, bring ’em in and fill ’em up with rough-and-tumble plants like this dracaena (side table, bottom shelf). Playful objects like the open-mouthed figure on top of the side table can also be adorned – here it is spilling out baby burro’s tail sedum like a four-pronged tongue. A “Ruby Red” rubber plant set on the floor adds a pretty pop of pink without being too flashy. (Coil a big fat rope and stick it under a floor plant to protect the floor from water damage.)

2. Let a small triangle ficus (in the back corner) grow along with your child – it will take time, but this spindly specimen will eventually become bushy and tall and will outgrow its “booster seat” (aka plant stand).

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3. The two pieces of plant art on the wall above the bed are as simple as can be to create. For the mounted air plant (top), first choose your waterproof backing (and add a wall hook if needed). Add a drop of hot glue to the center of the backing, let it cool for a moment, then gently push the base of the air plant on to it. Hold for a few seconds to make sure the plant is secured; leave overnight to completely dry before hanging.

Mist the air plant every few days. The moss frame (below) is created in a similar fashion – remove the glass from a picture frame, then glue dyed reindeer moss (or other dried natural elements you wish to display) to the back of the frame. Allow to dry overnight before hanging. The moss used here is dried, so the only “plant care” required is to dust the display occasionally.

Heal thyself with a green apothecary

There’s something particularly rewarding about growing plants with a practical use, especially when they provide you with not only a stylish medicine cabinet but also the comfort of knowing a homegrown first-aid kit is always on hand. Whether you’re going to use the scent to relax or the gel to soothe, all of these plants are helpful additions to a sunny bathroom.

Create a green apothecary
with healing plants

1. Aloe: This succulent (Aloe vera) is durable, easy to grow, and quick to multiply. When the leaves are cut, they release a gel that soothes burns and promotes healing – and can be added to home-made beauty products like face washes and hydrating masks.

2. Rosemary: This herb has uses that extend far beyond culinary creations. Cut off a piece or two, put in hot water, and breathe in the scent for a quick pick-me-up and to help open up a blocked nose during allergy or cold season. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) comes in both upright and draping varieties. To re-create this bonsai-style form, pick out a draping variety in a 4-inch (10cm) grow pot and prune to shape.

3. Coconut Palm: If planted in the ground outside in a warm climate, this palm (Cocos nucifera) will grant you coconuts in about five years (it will also grow up to 50ft tall). You can bring it indoors and plant it in a small pot to keep it small, but then you’re not likely to see fruit.

4. Lavender: This workhorse (Lavandula spp) acts as an air purifier, and its aroma reduces anxiety. Release its fragrance by simply rubbing the flowers or leaves. It dries extremely well, too – collect the petals into a small sachet to tuck under your pillow or place in your drawers to subtly scent clothes or sheets.

Excerpted from ‘Decorating with Plants’ by Baylor Chapman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019

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