Published: 16 Nov 2021

It’s no longer enough to have a few houseplants dotted in and amongst your decor. Instead, answer the call of the wild and create a fanciful interior where every space defers to nature through an abundance of lush, living greenery

No garden, no problem. Ever since the 70s-inspired houseplant revival, our senses have been reawakened to the emotionally and physically restorative effect of plants. But there’s a new trend for displaying indoor specimens that are taking root in spatially restrictive urban settings – a more-is-more approach underpinned by a maximalist mantra. The result is a hyper-stylised, and whimsical aesthetic of woodland fairy-tale meets tropical fantasy.


Typically well suited to indoor conditions, the following plants will thrive with the right care.

Air plants • Asparagus Fern • Arrowhead Plant • Bamboo Palm • Betel Leaf Plant • Bird’s Nest Fern • Bromeliad • Button Fern • Calathea • Creeping Fig • Delicious Monster • Devil’s Ivy • Ficus or Fiddle-leaf Fig • Heartleaf Philodendron • Leather Fern • Maidenhair Fern • Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (also known as the dieffenbachia plant or dumb cane) • Peace Lily • Silver Lace Fern • Spider Plant • Star Jasmine • Sweet Viburnum • Tree Fern • Wandering Jew (also known as the Inch plant)


• The choice of indoor plants and trees is endlessly diverse with wonderful variations in the shapes and sizes of leaves, colouration, texture and the way they grow.

• A tropical mood is easily achieved with plants bearing large, waxy leaves in intense shades of green, while ferns and plants with cascading tendrils such as string-of-pearls and devil’s ivy are delicate and enchanting.

• Group plants the way you would figurines or other objects and display them in living vignettes: potted and arranged en masse in a corner, arranged on floating shelves, on coffee and hallway tables, interspersed in between cookbooks and kitchenalia on pigeonhole shelves, at varying heights on plant stands, in terrariums, under glass cloches, hanging from the ceilings in bathrooms and vertically in contemporary and vintage wall planters.


• All plants – even hardy air plants – have specific needs. Do your research and ask at the nursery to ensure your greenery thrives.

• Indoor plants will benefit from a monthly boost of indoor plant food.

• Growing conditions to consider include: light (or lack of light), temperature, humidity, watering, feeding and potting as well as repotting.

• Yellow leaves indicate over-watering while brown leaves mean the plant needs more water.

• Care considerations aside, most indoor plants are reasonably low maintenance.


Idea: Windowsills, floating shelves and tabletops are familiar places to show off houseplants, but why not elevate your displays into living installations by opting for unusual containers and surfaces. An old painted kitchen drawer, mounted on the wall, has been planted with a creative composition of leafy flora that has a striking gradient colour effect. In addition, a cascading assortment of plants arranged on a vintage wooden stepladder looks abundant and layered.


Display plants vertically in a wooden box, old drawer or hexagon or triangular shadow boxes and mount on the wall as a solo display or as part of your gallery wall. 

To get the look, carefully remove the plant from its plastic pot and set it aside on some newspaper. Make sure the plastic pot fits into your chosen display box and, if using more than one plant, mark out your desired arrangement. Remove the pots and drill small holes, two for each pot (more depending on the size and weight), making sure to align the holes in the box with those in the base of the plastic pots. Use gardener’s wire or cable ties to secure the pot/s to the box, then carefully replace the plants and hang up your creation. To water, use a spray bottle. 

Ferns (both of the delicate and big-leaf variety), air plants and cascading plants such as Philodendron, Chain Of Hearts, Devil’s Ivy and Spider Plants are well-suited to vertical growing. 

Plants in wall display: bird’s nest fern, button fern, maidenhair fern, silver lace fern.

Plants on ladder: button fern, mother-in-law’s tongue, philodendron, spider plant, asparagus fern, silver lace fern, and a bromeliad.


Idea: Recreate the earthy delights of a woodland biosphere and create a sitting niche encircled by tall indoor trees with large, waxy leaves, wispy ferns displayed in hairpin-leg pot stands set at varying levels and hanging houseplants with tendrils that playfully trail downwards.


Tall indoor plants can be used to designate a specific zone in an open-plan space, effectively doing the job of a screen without sacrificing the interior flow of natural light.

To get the look, carefully remove the plant from its plastic pot and set it aside on some newspaper. Make sure the plastic pot fits into your chosen display box and, if using more than one plant, mark out your desired arrangement. Remove the pots and drill small holes, two for each pot (more depending on the size and weight), making sure to align the holes in the box with those in the base of the plastic pots. Use gardener’s wire or cable ties to secure the pot/s to the box, then carefully This reworking of the retro look gets its modernity from leaner lines (the hairpin-leg pot stands), a utilitarian side table made chic by its gold metal top, a masculine edge in the form of the mid-century chair and a wink to Scandi chic with a sheepskin area rug.

Create a super-natural layered effect with plants displayed at varying heights – just as they would grow in the garden.

Books-as-decor, with engaging graphic covers, compliment the setting.

This corner has an abundance of natural light but this selection of plants, given the right care, will also do well in lower light settings.. 

Plants in image: asparagus fern, bird’s nest fern, button fern, ficus lyrata (Fiddle-Leaf) tree, philodendron, star jasmine.


Idea: Dark walls and a monochrome palette allow the greenery to make a statement in this space that’s put together by botanical artist and floral stylist Janine Vermeulen. A mid-century modern coffee table and graphic rug pay homage to retro style, though the prevailing mood is clean and contemporary. 


Prominent in this arrangement of plants is a variety of philodendrons. ‘Philodendrons are my absolute favourite’, explains Janine. ‘The name derives from the Greek Philo (meaning love or affection) and dendron (tree) ‘There are so many variations and shapes of philodendron available and they are very low maintenance, requiring medium shade and an average amount of water. ‘I love both the climbing and non-climbing types. Popular houseplant varieties include the non-climbing split-leaf philodendron more commonly known as delicious monster, and the climbing variety, heartleaf or sweetheart philodendron. The latter make amazing hanging plants. They survive in low light, but grow faster and bigger leaves in medium to high light.’ 

Plants in image: bamboo palm, button ferns, delicious monster, philodendron, magnolia tree, mother-in-law’s tongue, silver leaf ferns, star jasmine, tree fern, silver lace fern.


Idea: This eye-catching installation is made interesting by the juxtaposition of industrial objects designed for creating precision with the tangled, wildly flourishing greenery. 


Pots have been painted black and no other colour except natural wood allows the setting to feel dramatic without being overwhelming.

Trailing indoor plants that spill out of their pots look wonderfully wild and whimsical. Common vines and climbing indoor plants include heartleaf philodendron, devil’s ivy, betel, star jasmine, creeping fig, arrowhead plant, and wandering Jew.

Plants in wall display: Asparagus ferns, button ferns, philodendron.


Idea: Give your entrance over to a profusion of leafy houseplants. The considerable quantity of plants evokes the atmosphere of a Victorian botanist’s foyer; a living cabinet of curiosities that is an antidote to the harsh concrete jungle outside. 


The predominance of clean lines and black, white and natural wood creates a serene atmosphere. 

Interest has been created by the textures and scale of the varying plants, some of which have beautifully patterned leaves. The sizes of the plants and pots is also varied and these have been interspersed with hanging plants, a philodendron in a modern plant stand and a fern in a black woven basket – all of which creates a captivating installation. 

That 70s interiors staple, macramé, has regained its popularity since the revival of the houseplant but in new and contemporary forms.

Plants in image: Air plant (hanging on hook of coat rail), asparagus fern, bird’s nest fern, button ferns, delicious monster, mother-in-law tongue, peace lily, philodendron (in plant stand), spider fern, tree fern.


Ideas: A beautiful bay window is transformed into a leafy, inviting wonderland by an abundance of houseplants. In this context, the plants help to enhance a sense of privacy in a densely populated urban setting. The windows afford the plant collection with growth-enhancing light, while the plants help to moderate the room’s temperature – natural air conditioning for eco-aware homeowners. 

The joy of plants lies in their extraordinary shades of green and graphic forms. Celebrate this natural beauty by fashioning an installation of hanging and potted specimens as well as terrariums with geometric modernity. 


Choose sculptural-shaped terrariums and a monochrome palette keeps it modern. 

Plants on the windowsill: bamboo palm, button fern, delicious monster, ficus millennium, heartleaf philodendron (in macramé), star jasmine, delicious monsters, silver lace fern.

Plants in the table vignette: In macramé hanging planters: asparagus fern, bird’s nest fern; In terrariums: wild olive bonsai trees, moss;

Other plants: bamboo palm, heartleaf philodendron, mother-in-law’s tongue.