Creating Stellar Houseplant Arrangements

When it comes to selecting and arranging houseplants for rooms indoors, I use many of the same guidelines that I follow when I design flower borders and container gardens for outdoors.

Consider the Growing Requirements

In general, most houseplants do well in bright, indirect light, so be aware of the room's light conditions when selecting where to display your plants. If the room is dimly lit, such as a bathroom or an area with north-facing windows, choose plants that do well in low light, such as a fern, dracaena, ivy or peace lily. Check the plant tag when purchasing your houseplants so you'll know what light conditions are best for each plant.

Using Houseplants Together

If you are grouping several houseplants together, select those with contrasting foliage and textures, such as broad and waxy leaves next to fine and feathery foliage to create more interesting compositions. Place larger plants in the background of smaller plant groupings. When combining several plants in a container or basket, use a trailing houseplant, such as ivy (Hedera helix), to conceal the line of the container and give the arrangement a more finished look.

Choose Houseplants that Complement Your Home

Look for plants with leaves and flowers that complement the colors in your home. Another consideration is coordinating the type of plant with the style of your home. Ferns and fan palms are beautiful with Victorian-style décor, whereas houseplants with striking foliage such as a snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), croton and ti plant are great accents with contemporary furnishings. Plants with simple, gently curving lines work in art nouveau settings. The flamingo flower (Anthurium) and peace lily (Spathphyllum) are good examples. Furniture made of bamboo and rattan and Oriental-style shapes work well with exotic hanging plants such as string of pearls (Senecio royleyanus) or wax plant (Hoya). Traditional English or French styles seem to go with bushy, vigorously flowering plants like the cyclamen, gloxinias and begonias. Some plants, such as orchids, work well with any décor. Once considered exotic and hard to grow, varieties such as Just Add Ice moth orchids take the guesswork out of caring for these beautiful plants.

Choose Plants that Match the Scale of the Room

When I am working with a large garden area, I use several tall plants as anchors and then fill in with smaller groupings. The same idea is true indoors—the larger the room, the bigger and more numerous the plants. A small, single plant on a side table tends to be overlooked in a large space. Consider using treelike plants and those with large leaves, such as dracaena, philodendron or a rubber tree—they can quickly fill a room or entrance hall—then add other plants, either grouped in containers or arranged together on a table. In a smaller room, such as a bathroom, bedroom or home office, large plants can be out of scale and take up too much space. To get the best effect in those areas, choose mid-size plants with finer foliage or flowering plants to brighten up an area.

As in the garden, there is really no hard and fast rule as to which plants to use. The best thing to do is choose the plants that appeal to you and see which ones enhance your style. The greenery and flowers will give your room a lift and help bridge the gap until spring returns.

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