I grew up in a home where my parents enhanced our interior living spaces by bringing in the vibrancy of our outdoor gardens. My father had built a rock bed in our family room to have the cluster of potted plants sit in (although I think it was also meant for catching the bird droppings from our caged finches). I wish I had an image to share, I don’t recall the names of the plants, I just remember tree-like plants, cacti, and seasonal flowering plants and perhaps a fern or two or maybe it was a spider plant that made me feel – even in the dead of a Rochester, NY winter – the life, color and warmth that these plants provided.
When I moved to my first apartment with my husband, we incorporated all of his plants that he had collected from his places of residence, including some from his parents home. I do remember that we had many spider plants, they were indestructible! Once we acquired our first cat that decided the dirt in the base of the planters would make a perfect liter box, we removed live plants from our living environments. We didn’t have plants until we owned a home – and those were outside in the gardens! (We still do not have any interior plants, only the occasional vase of flowers on the table) Currently, between the design of our home and the lack of direct sunshine on the first floor and the additional two cats and dog – we maintain exterior garden beds for our flowering plants, shrubs and enjoy the sugar maple trees that line our property.
I got a call from a client the other day asking me if I had any advice about bringing in the plants they had maintained throughout the summer on their back deck and front porch and creating a space for them inside of their home. It got me to thinking… I can name only two clients in the past ten years that have plants in their homes! Again, an occasional vase of flowers or a small counter top plant may have been spotted, but nothing like the “jungle” that I was familiar with in my childhood home. I had never been asked to design for or with interior plants. I wasn’t quite sure how to guide them. Here are some of my thoughts that I shared with them.
I first gave them the name of an old acquaintance to contact: Susan Harvey of Susan’s Interior Plantscaping, Inc.. I had met Susan about 9 years ago at a networking meeting. She has a great business and I mostly thought of her as a resource for commercial clients. Corporate office, lobbies, restaurants, hotels and such. I had been in touch with her several years ago when I was contacted for services of redesigning a large corporate lobby. But now, I thought she also might be able to provide some guidance for this client. She could be consulted to assist my client with the variety of their existing plants and the needs of each plant in an interior setting. To be honest, my main thought was that the plants might need to be repotted into coordinating planters to match the interiors I had designed for them.
I now am planning to share with my client the article I came across this past week while reading my Natural Home & Garden magazine: Living Design: How to Decorate with Plants. (click on the title of the article and it will bring you to the article on-line) My take away from the article was:
- “Consider using houseplants to accentuate areas of architectural interest in your home”
- Plants help purify indoor air. Ask local garden center if they spray their plants with pesticides; if possible choose a grower that does not. It turns out that the pesticides are what emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Not helping your interior air quality at all!
- Purchase planters made of natural materials such as clay and ceramic and not plastic.
- Don’t think of plants as an afterthought – they can be an integral part of the design.
- Repeat colors or forms from your exterior plants in your interior plantings to connect both of your environments.
- Know how to best care for your plants to make them flourish and last for many years.
I also consulted a book I had purchased a few years ago entitled: Homes That Heal and those that don’t by Athena Thompson. She speaks about research that NASA had conducted in the early 1980’s about indoor air quality and how plants can affect this. There are several plants that can be used in our environments that can clean the air in a sealed space containing pollutants of ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene. These are products that are often found in our cabinetry, carpeting, flooring and wall coverings. Below is a list of the top fifteen houseplants recommended by NASA:
1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’, heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’, cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’, Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’, Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’, peace lily
11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena
Here is Athena’s top ten houseplant recommendation:
- Bamboo palm (Chamaedores seifrizii)
- Rubber plant (Ficus Robusta)
- English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
- Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix Roebelenii)
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
- Peace Lily (Spathi Hyllum)
- Corn Plant (Dracaena Fragrans)
- Kimberly Queen (Nephrolepis Obliterata)
- Florist’s Mum (Chruanthemum Morifolium)
- Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii)
I also realized that I have seen many interior photographs of kitchens with potted herbs growing on the window sills. Were those plants placed in that location just for the photo or can one really grow herbs on a window sill? Again, I turned to my Natural Home & Garden magazine and there was an on-line article regarding herbs. Four Easy herbs To Grow for an Indoor Garden. Not all herbs can survive let alone grow next to the chill of a pane of glass. This article shares which are the hardiest as well as some recipes.
I am not an expert on interior plants, but I do know that plants can greatly improve our indoor air quality as well as add significant texture, color and visual stimuli to our interiors. If this blog encourages you to purchase some interior plants, please choose organic and locally cultivated varieties. As always, if you have any thoughts or questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.