If the pandemic has turned you into a plant person, you’re in good company. “Even before 2021, as more people began to spend a majority of their time at home due to remote work, we’ve noticed an increase in people’s interest in incorporating plants into their lives,” Lindsay Pangborn, Bloomscape’s Gardening Expert, tells TZR in an email. In fact, she says, there were 16 million (!!!) new gardeners in 2021 alone. With this increased interest, more and more people are gaining confidence in their plant-parenting skills and investing in large statement plants. Which explains why plants as art was one of the biggest trends Bloomscape predicted for the year ahead.
That’s right — according to Pangborn, plants will no longer be simply a small detail in your space. Instead, they’re coming into their own as a form of artwork. “In place of a traditional piece of art, designers are using large statement plants or curated groupings of smaller plants to create focal points within a room,” she wrote in the trend prediction. “We see people looking specifically for large, mature plants that make an instant impact.” She’s not alone in this observation, either.
“I think before, when plants were starting to trend, people were looking for easy plants to care for that would fit into a busy lifestyle,” Eli Manekin, founder of Loop Living, tells TZR. “Now with work-from-home situations and quarantines, many people are growing more complicated plants that have more distinct looks, and definitely want to show those off.” And it’s not just that they’re choosing unique plants — people are also incorporating them into their living spaces in creative ways, she continues.
The pandemic isn’t the only factor behind this trend, though. Really, plants just naturally (no pun intended) work as a sort of art replacement. “Plants have a sculptural quality to them; they have been inspiring people creatively from the beginning of time,” explains Manekin. “They are always changing and have such intricate details, and complement every type of decor style. There really isn't any other design element like them, and they bring out the best in every interior.” In short, she says, they command attention — exactly what any great piece of art does.
Obviously, many (or most, some would say) plants simply serve as a work of art no matter where or how you place them. But if you want to really lean into this trend of using your greenery as decor, there are ways of amplifying your plants’ artistic effects and giving them a unique display all their own. To find out how, keep scrolling — Manekin and Pangborn share their best secrets, ahead.
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As with art, Manekin says to look for plants that demand your attention. Pangborn echoes this, citing some specifics to look out for. “Plants with unique qualities can also act as artful decor!” she shares. “For those looking to add signature items to their plant collection for decor purposes, adding plants with statement leaves, such as our Whale Fin Sansevieria,” is a perfect way, continues Pangborn. “Other plants with sculptural qualities are the Snake Plant and one of my favorites, the Bird of Paradise,” notes Manekin.
Along with the shape of the plant, color is a great way to create an art-display effect in your space. “Plants with variegated leaves and strokes of pink are great as art because of their dramatic contrasts,” says Manekin. “They literally look like an artist created them. For these types of plants, I love Hoya Crimson Queen, Ficus Elastica Ruby, and the Triostar.” Pangborn also suggests finding dramatic foliage colors, and notes that the Burgundy Rubber Tree or the Tradescantia Nanouk both fit the bill.
Don’t stop there, though. Enhance these hues by placing your plants strategically. “Plants with colorful foliage and those with showy flowers tend to give the best show in a spot with the brightest possible light, like that near a south- or west-facing window,” notes Pangborn.
“I love when people hang plants instead or as part of a gallery wall!” Manekin says. “We have a wall plant hanger design that people often use to balance out art on their walls and I'm always amazed at how well plants and art complement each other!” To take this to the next level, use some of the aforementioned plants with contrasting colors — these can emulate brush patterns and really elevate the effect.
According to Pangborn, using macrame or flat-sided hanging saucers can not only be used to make the most of vertical space and to expand into areas in front of windows, they also allow plants to “naturally ‘spill’ and trail as their vines grow.” (Philodendron Brasil and English Ivy are some plants that will provide this look, she continues.)
The Bloomscape Gardening Expert also suggests “adding vertical space by installing shelves” if you have limited floor or table space. “Walls, ceilings, tops of cabinets, bookshelves, and desktops can serve as the best spots for houseplants,” she says. Or, you can even invest in higher, skinnier plants for a play on the look. “Tall, narrow plants like the Staggered Dracaena Marginata are also a great way to add drama without taking up much floor space.”
Though Pangborn and Manekin share slightly differing advice on the kinds of display accessories to pair with your plants, the main takeaway is to keep them minimal and be intentional with what you choose.
Pangborn suggests choosing unique pieces that enhance your plant’s growth and further layer in your style — the minimalist Adjustable Wooden Plant Stand or the textural Macrame Plant Hanger are two she likes. Manekin, on the other hand, prefers to keep things even more pared-back. “I always recommend potting in white planters in simple shapes, as these don't compete with your plant,” she says. At the end of the day, you want to “let them take center stage like you would a large painting or beautiful sculpture,” she continues.
Want to make your room appear more lush? “Having several various-sized plants on a coffee or side table can make a big difference in presentation,” says Pangborn. “For those with more limited space, having a collection of small plants on a windowsill is also a great option.”
Manekin actually offers opposing advice on this topic, telling TZR that you should try to display any statement-making plants on their own so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle. However, she does go on to note that it’s also worth considering buying “a couple of the same plant and grouping them together in the same pot color (I always prefer white) for an installation of sorts.”