Spotlight on the Houseplant

Bird of Paradise-IMG 2303Seventies trends are popping up all over this spring: bell-bottoms, fringe everywhere, platforms; but they aren’t just creeping up in retail stores.

 

{gallery}HousePlants{/gallery}

By Caitlin Brown

 

Seventies trends are popping up all over this spring: bell-bottoms, fringe everywhere, platforms; but they aren’t just creeping up in retail stores. One of the biggest comeback kids to re-visit from the era—and probably one more flattering than the bell-bottom — is the houseplant, a detail that defined a decade of home interior design. 

 

Houseplants aplenty were part of the homescape and they are <au courrant > again, but less humble. Gone are the days of the relaxed indoor garden and the hanging macramé planters. Houseplants are no longer just there, perched on a forgotten shelf, fading into a room’s design.

 

In home décor, the houseplant is enjoying the spotlight. It has shed its role as background player and grabbed the starring role, or at the very least, joined the ensemble cast of design elements: art, textiles, architectural elements, and furnishings. And the vessels they come in are part and parcel. Design-forward planters of all shapes, sizes, and colors are out there to heighten the drama and add pop to an interior scheme.

 

Indoor plants especially popular among designers are the Fiddlehead Fig, Yucca, Peace Lily, and even succulents encased in terrariums. One of the biggest trends among the design set, is the use of very large, uniquely shaped potted plants as sculptural elements and focal points. Adding one large, single plant or careful cluster in a room can provide instant drama and ground a space.

 

The hottest plants are the ones with structural elements, that possess the wow factor (in terms of size and shape), are easy to manage, and bring a sleek added edge to the home.

 

Bringing plants indoors requires diligence. They are, after all, meant to be outdoors, and many of the ones best suited for the indoors are native to subtropical climates where they are used to growing in low and dappled light conditions. When looking for plants to bring indoors it’s important to look for ones that can handle the transition. Be sure to look for plants that can handle the light conditions of your interior, as well as temperature changes, remembering you will have periods of artificial heating and cooling in your home, which can cause them to dry out.

 

The plants you find at a garden center have been grown in a temperature-controlled space with careful watering and fertilizing. There is no simple watering schedule for plants grown in a home; the amount depends on the environment.

 

Although many of the trendiest houseplants are low-maintenance, they still require regular watching. A general rule is to put your finger about an inch and a half to two into the soil. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water. When the indoor climate changes, so too do the water requirements, so pay attention to the leaves as they are the best indicators of the plant’s health.

 

The New “It” Plants

 

Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)

 

 Loved for their large, glossy, leathery leaves; they are the houseplant du jour among the design savvy. They are fantastic as large specimen plants — in a large container, they can grow six feet and upwards. They are great for adding a sculptural element to a room.

 

Light requirement: place fiddle leaf near a window that gets bright, filtered light. Keep away from harsh direct sunlight to prevent leaf burn.

 

Water requirement: Being from a tropical climate, this plant requires steady moisture and warmth. Do not let the plant sit in too much water as it can suffer from root rot.

 

Additional care: Be sure to wipe the leaves as dust settling on the leaves can bring disease. Wiping gently every now and then with a damp cloth, will keep the plant happy. Spray the leaves w water when needed.

 

Umbrella Plant (Schefflera actinophylla)

 

A hugely popular plant in the ’60s and ’70s is making a comeback. Loved for its pretty foliage, height and volume, this plant gives great impact to a room corner.

 

Light requirement: Indirect sunlight is ideal.

 

Water requirement: The plant is partial to humid environments and moist soil, so it must be watered weekly and sprayed (water) often.

 

Yucca

 

Recently touted on “The Today Show” as being the new “it” plant, it’s a favorite for its spikey structural fronds and size, not to mention its one of the easiest to maintain.

 

Light requirement: Does best in indirect light.

 

Water requirement: Water as needed.

 

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)

 

This plant is not the easiest houseplant for beginners, but it’s a beautiful accent to a traditional or retro room with its soft, delicate, bright green, textured foliage.

 

Light requirement: Needs a brightly lit spot that is draft-free.

 

Water requirement: Check the soil regularly to maintain moisture. If the top inch and a half of soil feels dry, water. Do not let the soil to dry out even for a day.

 

Additional care: Apply liquid fertilizer to soil regularly.

 

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

 

Named for it’s long and pointy, sharply shaped leaves, this plant is seeing a big resurgence; loved by designers for its architectural shape and stiff stance.

 

Light requirement: Can tolerate many conditions, but does best with bright light.

 

Water requirement: Only needs water once a month. This plant is very tough. The only way to kill it is by overwatering.

 

Dracaena

 

 The only tall plant that can tolerate low light. This plant is a favorite for its compact, structural shape and an added bonus is its minimal water requirements. This plant is a great accent to a modern or contemporary interior and comes in a variety of colors and hues. It’s known for its distinctly shaped leaves.

 

Light requirement: Does best by a bright spot; ideally by a window that gets light.

 

Water requirement: Water once a month. When the soil feels dry, give it a good soak until the water drips through the drainage holes.

 

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)

 

These tropical beauties are touted for their large, graceful foliage. They are larger plants and sure to make a statement.

 

Light Requirement: Required bright, indirect light.

 

Water requirement: Water as needed.

 

Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)

 

This easy-to-care-for plant is a knockout in any room with its glossy heart-shaped leaves that, as the plant matures, split from the edge to the center vein. Give it lots of space as it grows rapidly and its leaves can get up to 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. Note: these plants have poisonous leaves and should be kept away from children and pets.

 

Light requirement: Medium to bright light. Keep out of direct sun.

 

Water requirement: Water until the water drains out of the pots’ drip holes and then allow the top 25-30% of the soil to dry out before watering again.

 

Peace Lily (Spathyphyllum ‘Sensation’)

 

This architectural plant is loved for its dark green hues, glossy foliage, and white blossoms (plants bloom one month a year). It also happens to be one of the best air purifiers.

 

Light requirement: Low-light tolerant.

 

Water requirement: Water when top few inches of soil feel dry.

 

Additional care: Occasionally wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth. Turn plant every now and then to keep growth symmetrical.

 

Succulents/Terrariums

 

It’s also worth mentioning the return of succulents and the plethora of terrariums, which make caring for succulents a breeze. You can find them everywhere, from Whole Foods to any garden center. They make great centerpieces and provide the perfect point of interest in a design scheme.


Care: Leave the top open and aerate the terrarium every three months. Traditional enclosed terrariums should be kept out of direct sun. If creating an open terrarium using succulents (a very popular look), the terrarium should then be given six hours of direct sunlight.