Deb Babcock: Interior decorating with houseplants

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

— Homeowners often use furniture, artwork, wall treatments, rugs and more to create areas of interest, focal points and screens in rooms. Houseplants are another interior decorating tool that serves the same functions while also adding color, aroma and freshness.

By using the plant sizes, colors, foliage shapes, growth patterns and flowering habits, we can create areas of interest every bit as striking as an original work of art by Rod Hanna or Lance Whitner. (Or we can use fresh plants to complement one of their amazing works.)

Plant groupings should match the scale of your room. A single cyclamen plant in a huge family room would be overwhelmed, and a tall fiddle-leaf fig would make a small room claustrophobic. Your best bet in a large room is to use a variety of large and medium plants in a grouping that takes advantage of their height and width but leaves enough room between the plants to allow for air flow and avoid making the area look too crowded. Consider some of the tree-like plants as well as those with big leaves: rubber plant (Ficus elastic) or Swiss-cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa).

In a smaller room, consider medium-sized and smaller plants such as African violet, bonsai, bottle gardens/terrariums, cacti and some of the small-leaved plants like mosaic plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii argyroneura) or bead plant (Nertera granadensis/depressa). Place them on pedestals at varying heights to add interest and dimension to a grouping.

Consider the décor of the area where you want to group your plants. A plain painted wall provides a better backdrop for most plants than a busy design on wallpaper or a complicated wood or stone wall. However, if that is the background you need to use, consider plants that will complement the wall. Ferns like maidenhair (Adiantum cappillus-veneris), spike moss (Selaginella) or asparagus fern look good in front of a background with large patterns.

Consider the light coming into your room, too. Be sure to use plants that can handle the bright light or the filtered light. And think about the shadows that the plants will throw against the background as you choose which plants to use and group together.

Color is an important consideration also. You don’t want the foliage or flowers on your houseplants to clash with either your décor or with each other.

Finally, think about your furniture and overall style in your home as you choose houseplants. If you have a home that is decorated in a more farmhouse style, flowering plants add to that look. For sleek, big-city contemporary décor, look for plants with tall thin stems and gracefully curving lines and simple foliage. Peace lily and spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) come to mind.

Many homes in Steamboat sport a rustic log cabin décor, which works well with many of the succulent plants, ficus and schefflera.

For good ideas on which plants work well in groupings, check out the plant section at our local florists or garden centers. They will be able to help you determine which plants will look best together and which ones will do well in the environment of the home you’re seeking to spruce up with greenery.

Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the Routt County Extension Office.Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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