Most people are seduced by a plant’s flowers, rather than by its foliage, and this is particularly true of houseplants. Many flowering plants are bought on impulse, seasonal plants that are chosen as short-term investments to brighten up the home.
Foliage plants, while not always the first choice, have a much longer lifespan, and these plants are indispensable in partially shaded rooms, where flowering plants rarely survive due to poor light. In this chapter, we concentrate on some of the smaller specimens that often look best when they are massed together in a group.
Plants like growing together because they give off water vapor, which makes the surrounding air humid and gives the plants a happier growing environment. From an aesthetic point of view, too, a group of well-thought-out plants will make a strong statement in a room and look much more imposing than a single plant sitting on its own.
One of the most important considerations when grouping different plants together is to make sure you choose ones that originate from the same habitat — not only will forest ferns look odd set against desert cacti, but they need different growing conditions.
When you visit the garden center, you will soon discover that foliage plants are far more colorful and varied than you previously imagined. The reason for this is that when they are exhibited with flowering p ants, the brilliant color of the flowers detracts from their leaves, making them appear less spectacular. Only when you single out foliage plants on their own do you start to appreciate their immense variety — not only of color and size, but of leaf shape and form.
Colors range from the meadow green of maidenhair fern (Adiaritum raddianum) and golden-green of Scindapsus ‘Neon’ to the deep red of Rex begonias. When grouping different foliage plants, try to choose a variety of colors and forms for a really spectacular display. Large plants, such as the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), will often benefit from being grouped with small variegated plants, such as the creeping fig (Ficus pumila ‘Sonny’), which is fringed with white.
Not only do variegated plants break up the monotony of the evergreen leaves, but the trailing habit of many varieties looks pretty spilling over the top of the container and is useful for concealing the bare soil surface. If possible, try to keep the smaller plants in their original pots, so that you can tend them on an individual basis. If they require extra height, support them on upturned flowerpots.
The following plants have a trailing or creeping habit, making them suitable for displaying in a hanging basket:
Variegated leaves: Cape ivy (Senecio macroglossus), Creeping fig (Ficus pumila ‘Sonny’), Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Ivy (Hedera cvs.), Pick-a-back plant (Tolmiea menziesii), Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), Tree philodendron (P. bipinnatifidum ‘Variegatum’), Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Albovittata’)