When it comes to houseplant decor, it’s time to say goodbye to the trendiest look.

Pistils nursery
Jesse Waldman for Pistils Nursery

So, you love houseplants. I totally get it—I do, too. But let’s be honest for a moment: The prevailing look on Instagram and TikTok would have you believe that the ne plus ultra of houseplant decor is having a wall, a corner, or an entire room that’s simply covered, dripping, and exploding with houseplants.  

The truth is that decorating with houseplants is not necessarily a matter of buying every plant you see. Think of it like dating. Yes, you could go out with every individual on your app feed, but it’s not necessarily a good look. Instead, consider that, these days, self-moderation matters. “There are a lot of fads in the plant world that are fueled by social media,” says Robert Moffitt, who styles plants for clients in Los Angeles via his company, The Haus Plant. “Some people have such a huge collection of plants it just starts to look like a messy jungle.”    

Melissa Lowrie, the author of Terrain: The Houseplant Book, An Insider’s Guide to Cultivating and Collecting the Most Sought-After Specimens, agrees. “The home jungle look, to me, is the direct result of the height of the indoor plant trend—the idea that new houseplant fans can’t get enough and end up with a critical mass of plants in a small space,” she says.  

Decorating with Houseplants: Jungle Look

Excerpted from Terrain: The Houseplant Book by Melissa Lowrie and the plant team at Terrain (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photographs by Kate Jordan.

If you prefer that Jurassic Park look, I say run with it like you’re in a Jeep being chased by a T-Rex. After all, some plant collectors love the look (and simply run out of space), while others consider a heavily greened home an aspect of anxiety-reducing self-care. But if you’re interested in something more of-the-moment and refined, step this way—you’ll save money, use fewer plants to create more of a visual impact, and reside in a well-planted, but stylish home, not a rainforest.

Tips for Decorating With Plants

1. Consider Plant Care

To get a more curated look, the first step is always to consider what a plant’s light and care needs are. Ferns, for example, are great in a bathroom that gets a lot of sun, Lowrie says. Meanwhile, succulents can thrive in the hottest room in your home.  

Tall Indoor Plant

Ryan Garvin for Molly Wood Garden Design

2. Consider the Plant’s Size

Next, if you want to create drama in a dining or living room, consider ceiling height. “If you have 11-foot ceilings, you should try to get a plant that is 8 to 9 feet tall,” says Lowrie. “I love a big piece—a tropical tree or oversized palm—as an anchor in a bright room.” However, if you don’t want to spend too much on a specimen, Molly Wood of Molly Wood Garden Design in Costa Mesa, California, suggests pairing a tall vessel with a shorter plant, or using a plant stand for height. “That adds importance to the plant and its container,” she says.

Of course, one doesn’t always need to decorate with a giant parlor palm, Australian bottle tree, or weeping fig. Lowrie’s focus in recent years has been on more “pint size, collectible ‘pet plants'”.

Go Small

Ryan Garvin for Molly Wood Garden Design

“These smaller curiosities are great for adding texture to a bookshelf, decorating a home office, or stuffing a windowsill—each one is incredibly special and unique,” she says, pointing to the climbing rock plant as a good example. “Their more manageable size allows for collecting in a way that doesn’t overtake and has kind of a jewel box effect when curated together intentionally,” she adds.

3. Choose the Right Vessel

Using the right container can also be a good way to add style to a room. Lowrie pairs short, cascading plants with a “more squat vessel.” The opposite is true for taller or broader plants. “Those can handle a more exaggerated vessel silhouette.”   

Dramatic Container

Lindsey Green for Molly Wood Garden Design

Another trending look is the use of natural materials. “I love working with stone mortars, limestone planters, and different antique pottery from around the world,” says Moffitt, pointing to vintage mid-century designer Willy Guhl as a personal favorite. (These can cost thousands, but a similar style can be found here.) 

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Terracotta is also a classic—and now comes in colors like this one. Clay allows for evaporation, too, which helps keep a plant from getting overwatered. Wicker is also in style. I love this urn shape and this woven plant basket.   

Another pro tip? Use vessels that are single color and/or have a muted texture for plants that have a lot of pattern, like prayer plants and alocasias. The reverse is also true: A more ornate pot works with a plant that’s more muted in tone.

4. Use Plants Wisely

The point, ultimately, is to use plants as the exclamation point of a room, to call attention to a special architectural feature or window, and to please the eye. You may find that, if you give yourself over to fewer plants, your love for them—and your space—will grow rather than diminish.  

Get the Book

Cover of Terrain the Houseplant Book

Excerpted from Terrain: The Houseplant Book by Melissa Lowrie and the plant team at Terrain (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photographs by Kate Jordan.

Terrain: The Houseplant Book, An Insider’s Guide to Cultivating and Collecting the Most Sought-After Specimens, by Melissa Lowrie.

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