Growing tired of a lifeless interior? Or maybe your room’s a blank canvas ready for its first dash of color. The best indoor plants can add just the right amount of intrigue—they’re free-form and organic yet clean and sculptural; they delight with their unpredictability yet reassure with their steady presence. And their life span, thankfully, is much longer than that of cut flowers. But when considering plants in a room’s design, there are a few things to take into account. Architectural Digest caught up with horticulturist Dennis Schrader from Landcraft Environments in Mattituck, New York, to get the dirt.
“You have to think of the container it’s going in like a piece of furniture,” Schrader says. “It should match the interior.” As for the plant, you’ll want to coordinate that as well. Below is a guide to appealing options and their respective requirements, but first, what if you choose to incorporate more than one plant into your design scheme? Schrader advises grouping plants the way they naturally grow. “You don’t want to put a fern next to a cactus,” he says. And what’s more, plants that grow together will have similar needs, making it easier on the caretaker. As for how many to include, he says, “That all depends on how many you want to take care of.”
Finally, location should be dictated primarily by the plant’s light requirements and then by the owner’s taste. Try a plant here or there and see what looks good to you, and don’t be afraid to move it around over time. For smaller plants, Schrader says, “you can use them as a table setting, then move them to a window sill later on.”
Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree (Ficus lyrata)
This shrub boasts a long, elegant stem and branches with broad, leathery leaves. For placement, Schrader suggests “under a skylight or next to a window.” In other words, it needs as much sun as possible. Schrader suggests pruning the top branches when it grows above the window frame.
Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree Care
Water once a week, or more if it’s winter and the air in your home is dry. Alamy Stock Photo
Split-Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)
Favored by Henri Matisse, this plant has a distinctive leaf that looks as though it’s been gently cut into by a careful hand. Schrader says you can cut off the top—as long as it has air roots attached—and replant it, meaning if you buy one of these, you could easily have more, if you’d like.
Split-Leaf Philodendron Care
Water once a week. Alamy Stock Photo
Meyer Lemon Tree (Citrus x meyeri)
This tree bears its namesake Meyer lemons, believed to be a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges with a subtler, sweeter flavor than lemons. But these trees don’t stop at fruits: “When they bloom you have this beautiful fragrance of citrus flowers,” says Schrader. Meyer lemon trees do well indoors as long as they have lots of sun.
Meyer Lemon Tree Care
Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
The fronds of this plant spring to great heights from the soil, then lean forward, quietly shading the ground beneath. “It looks great in a big urn,” says Schrader, noting that it should be given lots of space, as it can grow up to 10 feet with a broad reach.
Kentia Palm Care
Requires medium to bright light; water weekly. Alamy Stock Photo
Castiron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Schrader says this plant is “mostly for foliage,” meaning if you’re looking to add a lush, dark green plant to your space, this one is for you. It does well in medium to low light and is tolerant of neglect, so it’s fine if you forget to water it once in a while.
Castiron Plant Care
Water once a week or every ten days. ADVERTISEMENT De Agostini/Getty Images
Eucharist Lily (Eucharis amazonica)
Another dark green plant, but this one features large, white flowers that bloom throughout winter and early spring. “Even when it’s not blooming, it’s nice to look at,” Schrader says. It thrives in medium light; allow soil to dry between watering.
Eucharist Lily Care
The leaves will wilt when it needs water, but once a week should suffice. Alamy Stock Photo
Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
“I think they’re having a resurgence, especially for contemporary interiors,” says Schrader. With sword-shaped leaves winding gently from the soil like charmed snakes from a basket, this plant strikes a lovely balance between order and chaos.
Snake Plant Care
Care is minimal—place anywhere you’d like and let soil dry completely between watering. Check the soil every week, but it’s fine to skip a few. De Agostini/Getty Images
African Spear Plant (Sansevieria cylindrica)
“Very architectural, very sculptural,” says Schrader. Indeed, this plant’s conical leaves conjure images of spires, obelisks, and skyscrapers.