House plant care for real people…
You drool over jungalow interior style Instagram posts and articles. You rush out and buy a tonne of lush house plants, only to watch them slowly die, one by one. Sound familiar? Well, here are some sensible house plant care and styling tips that will see that green foliage feel loved and your natural home interior flourish!
As you probably know, the list of benefits of house plants is long (you may remember it from here). To briefly recap, this is the magic that happens with house plants:
- purifies the air, by removing pollutants and releasing oxygen
- releases phytochemicals, which limit mold spores and bacteria in the air
- adds humidity, counteracting the dry air from our central heating
- improves concentration and productivity by 15%
- seeing flowers immediately makes you happier
- reduces stress, lowers heart rate and blood pressure
- improves relationships (you can find out about that here)
Forgetting about science for a minute. For me, plants simply make me happy. Walking into a space with thriving plants immediately gives me the sense of life, and that someone who lives there cares. I treat my plants like part of the family and enjoy my routine of watering them.
So plants aren’t just a pretty face. But I’m probably preaching to the converted here on that particular topic! On to the topic at hand, how do you keep them alive?
House plant care and styling:
Where to place your plants to keep them happy
Don’t just dump your plants where ever there’s space, or where they’ll look good on Instagram. Think about what kind of plant it is, how much light the room gets, at what time of day, which direction does it face, how warm does it get, and where are the heaters.
Plants don’t all thrive with the same conditions, but with many plants you can find a happy medium. And fortunately, because they like different conditions, you can place them in different parts of the house for a natural vibe all over. And they can handle too much or too little light and water, but only for a short time. Think about it, many of the most beautiful house plants are tropical, so we need to try to recreate those conditions (if only, I hear myself say…).
Most plants will enjoy being in a South, West of East facing room. North facing rooms are trickier, so there you may have to go easy on your jungalow style. Having said that, flowering and foliage plants like some ferns and the lily can handle minimal direct light and even artificial light. A safe bet is placing foliage plants a few feet away from direct sunlight and checking that they won’t be struck by the midday sun.
Plants with thick, fleshy leaves do better mostly kept in the shade.
As plants have different needs, do check the label. And it is worth doing a bit of research.
Ambient moisture is key
Generally, indoor plants like temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius (70F). Watch out in the winter when we crank up the heating, as this sucks moisture out of the air and leaves a humidity equal to a Desert. Now remember what I said about many plants being tropical. You can use a water spray mister to keep humidity up, place some moss between the inner plant pot and it’s container or create a luxurious steam bath using pebbles with water in a bowl under the plant. Or create a micro-climate by grouping plants together to create a moisture trap. Plants don’t generally need their roots wet, but they want humidity around them (orchids want 50% humidity). You can tell a plant is suffering if its leaves start to discolour or if it feels bone dry.
The million dollar question: How much water?
Push your finger to one knuckle depth below the soil surface and pull out some soil. If you can roll it into a ball, then you’re good. If you can squeeze water out of it, then it’s too wet. Pick the plant pot up – wet soil is heavy and dry is light.
Still about to give up? Then go with low maintenance plants
Should this all feel a bit much, then fear not. If you have a sunny room and want a plant you can just leave to do its thing, go with succulents. They can be watered when you remember during spring and summer, and can live with only one watering in the winter. The snake plant also loves neglect!
One plant that I’ve just discovered as particularly hardy is the beautiful Transcantia Pallida. Ours was neglected in the kids’ bathroom, literally bursting out of its small pot and rarely watered. It didn’t grow, but it survived for years like that! Two weeks ago I repotted it, and it’s already doubled in size (see image below).
Styling with house plants
Now that you know more about house plant care, place plants in suitable positions at varying levels around the house, to create height and interest. John Eadon, for instance, sources wood from his farm to make a tall and short plant stand, where the tall stand has two shelves for double layer plants. Or you could go for his wooden shelving components, where you can fully customise the look. Hanging plants in macrame hangers or on interesting hooks also makes for a lovely display.
Visually, when displaying plants, it’s a good idea to go for odd numbers, grouping them in 3s or 5s. And having a mass of plants together creates a beautiful boho vibe. Group them by complimentary colour, form, texture and material (or mix and match for a contemporary look!). Think too about colour matching, both among the plants but also matching to decorative items in your room, such as a vase or throw. You can find some lovely soft furnishings and homewares in natural materials and colours in the Chalk & Moss shop.
Terrariums are a fun way to display plants. Try making your own! You can find instructions here.
You can also make your own kokedama ball, as shown below (a.k.a. Japanese moss ball or string garden). Find out how in this blog post.
For those North facing rooms, you could add some botanical prints to brighten an otherwise dark room. One of my favourites is Dollybird Arts’ print of the mighty Monstera Deliciosa, commonly knows as the Swiss Cheese plant. You can snap this up from the Chalk & Moss shop here.
So there you have it. Jungalow styling isn’t too hard to achieve with just a little bit of thought into house plant care. If you’d like to find out more about biophilic design, that is, nature connected design, you can see how I applied these principles in renovating our home here.
If you know someone else who might appreciate these house plant care tips, please share the love. For future updates and offers from Chalk & Moss, do sign up to the newsletter!