Ideas for plantscaping your home’s interior
Giving new meaning to the phrase “greening your home,” many eco-conscious and nature-loving homeowners are discovering the connection between healthy living and houseplants. This connection—along with a slew of new offerings of indoor-plant containers—has caused an upsurge in a trend known as “plantscaping.”
Living walls: the new green
The standard practice for keeping houseplants is to place them in a pot of soil located near a window. But a newer concept has gained momentum: vertical planting. Why place something on the floor—taking up valuable square footage and making it difficult to clean the floors—when it can be suspended from the wall?
“Creating green walls is the newest way to go vertical in your designs and they are easy to install,” says Kimberly Oberheu, president and creative director at Plants Forever. “The plants are your “paint” to create a living, breathing focus in any interior space.” Green walls are comprised of panelized systems fed with low-volume drip irrigation. Not only does this minimize the use of water, but the irrigation also can be sourced by reclaimed water, furthering the environmental benefits. Products for green-wall systems are becoming abundant in the market. Kate Wright, owner of Bloom’n Gardens Landscape, likes manufacturer Tournesol Siteworks. “By utilizing a pre-constructed system, your installation of the living wall is easy to create and maintain. Each plant is individual, and replacing a poorly performing plant can be done in minutes without disturbing the remaining plants,” she says.
|(ABOVE LEFT) This vertical gardening system is just one product in a fabulous line of plantscaping containers by Woolly Pocket, makers of flexible, breathable modular gardening containers comprised of 100 percent recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. Available in one-, three- or five-pocket options, www.woollypocket.com; $49-$188
Oberheu also touts the convenience and easy maintenance of green walls. “One of the main reasons I love green walls inside is that the screen systems are instant,” she says. “After mounting, there is no grow time; it’s there in its fullest, looking lush and beautiful. It’s living art for your home!”
Additional benefits of green walls include energy savings (air-conditioning bills are reduced), health benefits, sound insulation and an increase in property value.
Surviving the winter
A major difficulty that homeowners encounter with houseplants is keeping them alive and healthy during cold-weather months. Though your home may be heated, the shock of a cold draft from windows and doorways can be enough to damage—and possibly kill—your plants. On the other hand, too much heat can also be harmful.
Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director of the Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association (MALTA), advises that “the most important factor for success with indoor plants is selection. You must recognize the light conditions in your home and place plants away from heating and AC vents. I move almost all of my indoor plants outside in late spring and return them in when temperatures reach 55 degrees in the fall. This outdoor ‘vacation’ enhances their performance during the winter months.”
Also make sure that the moisture level in your home is appropriate. “Winter home atmosphere is often dry, so make sure that the humidity is right for the plants that you choose,” says Patricia Collins, director of gardens at Callaway Gardens. “Placing several pots of tropical plants together in a tray with pebbles and a little water underneath can keep the humidity up. Be careful not to let the pots sit in water, however.”
Another common concern with houseplants’ health—and homeowners’ comfort—is infestation.
“Ensure consistent watering (don’t over or under water), and utilize careful inspection if plants are moved back and forth between indoors and out,” Woodworth says. Collins recommends inspecting plants every couple of days, as an infestation that is unnoticed for a week can wreak major havoc on plants.”
To scout for pests, closely examine the surface and the underside of each leaf, as well as the area where the leaf blade meets the stem. Look for chew marks, abnormal spotting or mottling, discoloration, cottony-looking substances, sticky residue that looks like soda or black, sooty mold. These are all signs of pest problems. If you find any of these, collect samples and take them in a zip-top plastic bag to your local garden center for diagnosis and treatment.
Collins says that physically removing insects and their eggs quickly can often prevent a full-scale insect problem. “A weak solution of mild soapy water can be a great help, too,” she notes.
The burdens of regular maintenance and pest inspection and control are far outweighed by the benefits of plantscaping your home’s interiors. After all, indoor air pollution consistently ranks among the top five environmental risks to public health, and plants are a great way to improve your indoor air quality while adding life—literally—to your home.
—Helen Grebe and Kate Parrott contributed to this article.
Check out these unique ways to display your greenery.
1. In the Doghouse
What do you get when you merge an indoor planter with a doghouse? A Leifers pet retreat—a 32-inch-deep by 32-inch-tall palatial pooch palace topped with a 29-inch by 11-inch planter, separated by a saucer designed to trap water runoff and leakage. Reserve yours today for spring 2011 shipping. www.leifers.com; $675-$825
2. Fair-Trade Fancy
This recycled-aluminum flower pot stands 5 inches tall and is handmade in a village cooperative workshop in Bali. Available online at www.zendeluxe.com, a member of the Fair Trade Federation; $13
3. Ingenious Invention
Created by designer Mathieu Lehanneur with Harvard professor David Edwards, ANDREA is a freestanding air-filtration product that incorporates a living plant, using its natural absorptive and metabolic properties to absorb toxic gases, such as formaldehyde, from indoor environments. Available through several national retail chains. www.andreaair.com; MSRP $199
4. Pots for Thought
Brighten up your kitchen or deck with Philosopots: hand-painted, whimsical flower pots available in dozens of colors and embellishments, each with its own unique quote. Available online or at local retailers. www.philosopots.com; $28
Why Plant Indoors?
“Plants help make a healthy and attractive living space when the weather keeps us inside. They also contribute to a healthy mental attitude!”
—Patricia Collins, director of gardens, Callaway Gardens
Green Walls at a Glance
Before installing a green wall, Kimberly Oberheu, president and creative director at Plants Forever, advises homeowners to consider the material with which the wall is constructed, as well as how much weight it will hold, “Usually, anchors for the screen systems will hold 50 pounds,” she says. “The screen [system] is great because you simply hang the grow pot into the cache pot and it’s there for simple watering. You can also add or change the design according to the season for fall, spring or the holidays.”