In Living With Plants (Hardie Grant Books, 2017), botanical-stylist and plant expert Sophie Lee shows you simple but inspired ways to green-up your home or work-space. Starting with the basics, learn how to pick the right plant for you and your home (and specifically what room), what levels of sunlight your plant needs and the best space for your plants to thrive.
So you have decided to make the commitment to embark on the indoor plant wagon. First of all, stand back and look at each of your rooms. Then answer the following questions: How much space do you have? Do you want to go for a jungle style or something more minimal? What are the light levels like? Do you have hanging space, room on a cabinet for a few pots, or a whole bookcase that needs jazzing up with plants?
It is important to think about what size plants will best suit your space – will several small potted plants fit better or just one large statement plant?
Big plants need enough room to encourage their sculptural quality and architectural form, so there is no point dwarfing them in a small space.
Large plants look great in contemporary, open-plan areas with clean lines and minimalist décor. However, if your home is more crowded and bursting with personality I would recommend investing in some smaller plants to add character.
If you are totally new to keeping plants, it is a good idea to start with a few small and medium-sized pots containing hardy, low-maintenance plants. You will soon experience that joyous moment when a new leaf comes through on your plant.
I will guide you on which types of plant look great in which containers, as well as combinations you should avoid. As a rough guide, a two-thirds to one-third proportion works well. With a large pot, two-thirds should be plant and one-third container. But you do not have to stick to this rule and with practice you can manipulate scale and
proportion to great effect. Large containers can look striking when filled with low-growing textural plants, such as Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant), making a feature of the pot. However, if you go for smaller plants that spill over the edges of the container, interest is focused on the plants.
Along with using pots, I will show you some different ways to style your home with plants, such as creating a terrarium (pages 116–119 and 134–137), hanging kokedama moss balls (pages 78–81), or making a macramé plant hanger to suspend your trailing plants from the ceiling (pages 34–39). You need to be careful that the plant and container are in keeping with the style of each room, so that your indoor garden enhances your interior.
Bookcases and shelves are a great place to add some greenery. Place a few trailing plants among your favourite books, such as a Ceropegia woodii (string of hearts) or a Philodendron scandens (heartleaf philodendron). A coffee table or low-level shelving unit can become the centre of attention with a striking plant or a collection of different succulents placed on top. I believe that plants look best grouped together in odd numbers, but if you are into minimalism, an even number of plants arranged in a grid or geometric shape works brilliantly to create a very structured, organised effect. The choice is yours!
The celebrated German architect Mies van der Rohe famously declared that less is more; this does not apply with plants. More is more, and you will soon become addicted to caring for your plant collection. A key way to pick out different plants that look good together is to find different shapes and textures that complement each other. If you are finishing an interior, the plants you choose should be compatible with the space you are putting them into. There is no point placing a huge Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) in a tiny bathroom: it just won’t look right! It should be given enough space to showcase its dramatic sculptural appearance. Don’t be afraid to try out placing your plants in a few different locations around the house to see where they look best.
Many common house plants are prized for their wonderful leaves, which almost look as if they are made of painted silk. This is what makes the magical world of plants so interesting: their different shapes, their spots, pleats, hairs, spikes and grooves. As well as considering the space you want to put your plants in, think about whether you want colourful leaves, such as a Calathea roseopicta (rose-painted calathea), or something simple and striking like a Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant).
Some plants need more care than others, so once you have established whether you are going for sculptural large plants or miniature pots of cacti, you need to determine the level of maintenance you will be able to commit to. As well as the aesthetics of the room you want to keep plants in, you also need to consider the environmental conditions. Some plants need lots of light (see page 47 for more information on light levels), others more humidity. Your goal is to simulate a plant’s native environment in order for it to flourish.
Plants need six key nutrients to survive: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (which they get from water and air) and nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, which come from their growing medium and so you will need to provide. When grown in the ground, these last three elements are naturally replenished, but because our plants will live in pots we need to manually top them up with fertilizer as the plant uses up the nutrients. I recommend using an organic fertiliser, which will not only feed the plant but also the soil.
For more from Living with Plants visit: DIY Marbled Plant Pot
Excerpted with permission from Living With Plants by Sophie Lee, published by Hardie Grant Books June 2017, RRP $29.99 hardcover.