Mar 012017


By Monica Hagen, March, 2017 –

Many of us love companions in our homes, such as family members, friends, and pets.  But, what about plants?

Some of us have no desire to maintain plants.  Other people impulse-buy a potted beauty or two and try to keep them alive.  A few of us revel in that green thumb, surrounding ourselves with leafy vegetation of all sizes and shapes, even getting lost in a jungle inside our homes as our potted friends flourish.

Whichever category you fall into, consider using plants to enrich your home experience in an artful way.

Plants add a natural, grounding feel to a space, and even just the color green can relax and calm us.  If you are a member of the first group and really don’t want to take care of plants, you might want to consider a few other options.

You could paint a wall or whole room green.  Dark green is popular now and very soothing.  The best way to pick a shade is to find a painted wall you like and compare paint chips to match the hue.

I have rarely picked a color off a paint chip and been satisfied with the wall results.  Research before you commit.  You can also buy small paint samples, so you can paint a section of your wall to make sure you like it in the space with your light sources.

If you don’t want to care for plants, you can also incorporate a two-dimensional art piece showing one plant, foliage, or multiple plants.  Murals or photographs can be almost as good as the real thing, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s work shows that plants can be stunning, even abstract.

Tall paintings of palms, square images of mighty oaks, or a photograph of rows of colorful vegetables can all ground your room and bring life into the space.  Imagine a painting of lacy rows of Italian lavender fields or a photo of red peppers tucked amid emerald leaves.

When you choose artwork or plants, keep the basic principles of art in mind.  Let’s review.

Art principles: unity, balance, variety, emphasis, contrast, proportion, pattern (including movement & rhythm).


Plants unify your home by bringing the natural world indoors.  You can also place similar plants in various rooms to unify the space or use the same type of plant indoors and out.  For example, cultivate bamboo and nandina in your garden, and keep a lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) on your desk.  Flowers can do the same thing—rose bushes outside, cut roses in a vase on your table.


I use plants to fill empty spaces, such as corners or edges of rooms which need softening.  I have a trailing plant hanging down the side of my refrigerator to soften the space, and I place interesting, fatter plants to fill corners of my family room (a great feng shui technique that softens the look of a home and keeps the corners from feeling stagnant).


Looking to incorporate variety?  Try plants with different hues (colors) or values (dark foliage versus lighter tints).  A tall ficus might look better with some frothy ferns to soften the pot, or a dark leaf might benefit from a contrasting colorful plant.  Remember the color wheel and use it to choose your plant colors—yellow undertone or blue?  Maybe red.  Variety is the spice of life!


Emphasis happens when you highlight a plant.  Is it the centerpiece of the room?  Orchids love to do this.  Place a blooming beauty on a table where it takes center stage.

Larger indoor plants create drama, but plan ahead and make sure you know how large a particular plant will grow.  It may need regular trimming, or might need to be moved to another space to accommodate its growth.

Light sources are very important, so know what each plant needs.  Direct sun or indirect light?  Some plants even do well in almost total darkness.  Make sure your plants are compatible with your lifestyle and light sources (windows).

Also, if you have children and/or pets, research your plants.  Many popular ones are poisonous, and pets are especially prone to snacking.


Think about colors, textures, shapes of leaves, heights of plants, and their containers (color, shape, size, design).  Similar pots create unity, which can do wonders if you want a variety of plants.  Similar plants look great in varying pots or pot sizes.

Do you want hanging plants or a huge, stable pot as a base?  Some plants can be tucked into special compartments in walls, both indoors and out (“living walls”).  “Air” plants need almost no care and tend to be very neat and tidy, often hanging from a ceiling hook or attached to a wall.

Soft edges, hard edges (even cactus!), all can create more contrast and therefore interest.  But, you do want some unity, so find a common leaf color or leaf shape, then use some of the elements of art (form, shape, line, color, space, texture, value) to create variety.


Proportion comes into play here, both plant to plant and plants to the room.  Make sure the scale is what you want (larger plants in larger and taller rooms, smaller plants in tiny spaces).  When considering proportion, don’t forget bonsai.  You could place a pine bonsai indoors while the larger cousin, a full-size black pine, grows outside the window.  Genius!


Of course, many plants have patterns on their leaves.  Repeat for unity or contrast for interest.

Grouping plants in 3 or 5 is a good trick artists use to create balance and interest without the rigid feel of even numbers.  One single plant in a room can seem kind of lonesome.  Give it a friend or two.

Just a word of caution—don’t go all out on one art principle.  Balance can include the other principles but good art usually includes some type of unity.  Mix and match and play a bit to get the look you want.  Coordinate with colors of your room, and then add a pop of color or a dramatic shape or height and you can spice up your life and improve your air quality at the same time.

Foliage can be used as an art form and transform a plain room into a gorgeous living space.  Play with plants!

Additional Consideration – Plant Care

When considering plant care, most plants don’t like to be moved, and one common mistake is over-watering.  Make sure you know what your plants need and err on the side of ignoring them.  Too little water is better than too much.  Also, keep a tray or basin underneath to protect floors and furniture.  Even if plants aren’t leaking water, moisture can damage many surfaces, especially wood.

Tip of the Month: Research ideas by browsing photos on the Internet and in magazines for professionally-arranged plants.  Sunset Magazine is an especially good source for plant ideas.

Make sure to check out Monica’s monthly column Art in Your Life in the HOME section of WVM.

Monica Hagen loves her life as a writer, artist, teacher and registered stock broker.  She loves to share thoughts and images that inspire, guide and heal.  Find her book, “Fit, Fueled and 50,” on  ContactLinkedInBooks