Green style: What to look for when buying indoor plants

Botanical emporium Ivy Muse has put the posh back into pot plants. Founders Alana Langan and Jacqui Vidal have been influential in the resurgance of Instagram-worthy greenery in the home.
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Their new book Plant Style: How to greenify your space (Thames & Hudson) explains how to design and nurture an at-home oasis – and it looks lovely on a coffee table, too. Choosing your plant gang

There is a huge range of commercially grown plants available nowadays. We are literally spoilt for choice, and new varieties are coming on to the market more regularly than ever before.

It can be overwhelming, but a few basic guidelines make the process of choosing your plant gang a whole lot easier. What to look for: Growth patterns

Before committing to a plant, think about its size and how it will grow. Some indoor plants do most of their growing before they are made available to buy. For example, a kentia palm can take up to six years to reach a height of two metres.

If you’re in the market for a large plant, it makes sense to buy a well- established one from a nursery rather than trying to grow it at home. It also allows you to choose the height you want: nurseries often have an assortment of specimens for people who prefer small or medium-sized plants. Related: Indoor plants black thumbs can keep aliveRelated: The best plants to boost your healthRelated: How to decorate with indoor plants

Small, sparse, one-stemmed plants will not grow into large multiple-stemmed specimens without the help of repotting and propagation. Buy the bushiest, fullest specimen you can.

Many indoor plants, like heartleaf philodendrons, umbrella plants and fiddle leaf figs, will keep growing steadily after you take them home. Every plant is different, so it pays to do a little research before making a purchase. You can encourage growth by repotting in spring when the plant is ready. Signs that a plant needs to be repotted include roots appearing through drainage holes or a network of fine roots visible on the surface.

Only ever go up one pot size at a time. If your plant is particularly fragile, old or isn’t showing clear signs of needing repotting but the soil looks cracked, tired and lacklustre, you can top-dress with potting mix. Gently scrape away the top few centimetres of soil – making sure you don’t damage the root ball – then replace it with fresh potting mix. Healthy plants

Plants are highly resilient but don’t purchase plants that show signs of distress, as this often means they’ve experienced less than ideal conditions. To ensure your plant has the best start in life, choose healthy, thriving specimens so your investment in them is well spent.

Choose plants that have lots of new buds, moist soil and perky leaves. Signs of new growth are always good. Avoid plants with yellowing or dead leaves or bare and tired looking stems. It often pays to carefully compare the choices on offer. Choose a plant with as many stems as possible for your budget. Sometimes the same plant can be sold with one stem or three – you’re simply getting more for your money. Plant size

Scale and proportion – two basic principles of interior design – should always be considered when working with plants. As a general guide, the more room you have the larger you can go with your plant choices, but it really comes down to the overall look and how the plants relate to the other items in your home.

Small plants are those in pots that are five-13 centimetres in diameter. Examples are radiator plant, hoya, mistletoe cacti and air plants. These plants are the ideal size to sit on shelves, tables and windowsills. Petite plants like chain of hearts can have delicate, pretty leaves, but there are also larger, more sculptural types that are still considered a “small plant”.

Devil’s ivy has much bigger leaves but it can be potted in a small pot. A single plant variety can also be found in a range of different pot sizes. Peacock plants are often used in terrariums when they are young, but they are also a popular medium-sized pot plant when they are more established.

Small plants are best used where they can be seen. It’s no good putting a tiny air plant on a busy wall unit that is awash with books and decor items – the effect will be lost. Choose a location where the plant can be the main focus. A bedside, desktop or bathroom counter is ideal. Get creative with your positioning too. Even one strategically placed plant can have a big effect. Small plants with long tendrils, like chain of hearts, can also have an overall visual effect that is equal to a much larger plant.

Medium-sized plants are generally 15-30 centimetres in potted diameter. They’re ideal for placing on the floor, in plant stands or on top of suitably large furniture like TV cabinets, tables or dressers. Almost every room has a spot that is too small for furniture but too large to leave bare – this is exactly where a medium-sized plant comes into its own. They can brighten a dull corner, fill an empty set of shelves or create a beautiful eye-level scene that captures your attention. Umbrella plant, fruit salad plant and rubber plant are popular choices.

If you have the space, large potted plants (more than 30 centimetres in diameter) are a great asset to any interior. They help make the most of space, create a visual journey for the eye to linger on, and can soften stark designs in a home. Wide-reaching varieties can also be used to create interesting focal points and dramatic scenes.

Umbrella plant, cacti, kentia palm and fiddle leaf fig are good examples. Don’t forget that larger-leafed plants catch a lot of dust. This can reduce their ability to absorb light and grow. Wipe them regularly with a soft, damp cloth, being careful not to damage the leaves.


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