5 Key Tips for Using Indoor Plants in Interior Design

Published May 1, 2018
Plants in living room

Plants bring color and texture into your décor. There are many plant choices for rooms with low, morning or afternoon light. A few tips can help you add this vibrant element to any room. Be sure to transplant into a pot that goes with your décor.

Tip 1. Individual or Plant Groupings

To use a plant by itself or in a grouping, consider the leaf shapes, color and plant height. This is especially important when grouping plants. Work with odd numbers for the best aesthetic look, such as three, five and seven. You can also plant more than one plant in a pot for a layered effect.

Houseplants in pots

Tip 2. It's All About Light

Determine the type of sunlight in each room. Understand if the plant(s) can thrive in low, medium and bright light. Some are versatile and can survive in any light while others are light sensitive. Be sure the room's light is adequate for plant(s).

Room with plants and couch

Tip 3. Variegated Leaves

Plants with variegated leaves bring depth and interest to a room. Some plants have green and white leaves while others come in various colors.

Plant in flower pot


Tropical-looking cane-like stalks with variegated leaves makes this treelike plant a great choice, especially for coastal, tropical and Asian décors. Grow in bright indirect light. This plant is available from small to large sizes. It's an excellent choice for empty spaces, such as corners and spaces between large pieces of furniture, such as a sofa and bookcase. (Warning: Sap can be toxic if ingested.)


This tropical plant comes in a wide range of variegated colors, such as red, yellow, pink, orange, cream and even black. It typically grows two feet tall, yet some grow to five feet. It requires bright to low light. Group with green leaf plants for contrast. Set on a dormant fireplace hearth, foyer or at the foot of a staircase in a grouping of three or five. (Warning: The sap is poisonous if ingested.)

Tip 4. Tall Plants

There are several tall plants ideal for corners and other areas you need a column or tree-like plant.

Tall plant in modern dining room

Mass Cane

The cane plant has leaves shaped similar to corn stalks. Arched pointed leaves have a gold band down the center. This tree-like plant with two or more stalks produces fragrant flowers at night. It requires indirect bright light. Use this plant in areas needing tall plants, such as a corner or staircase landing.

Norfolk Island Pine

Bring a little forest into your home for a magical touch. This plant needs bright indirect or direct light. You need about two to three feet of floor space to accommodate this awe-inspiring plant. Place it on either side of an interior door, such as the double doors of a dining room or living room. You can also set it on either side of a dormant fireplace or fill an empty corner with it.

Dwarf Umbrella (Schefflera)

The waxy green oval leaves are plentiful on the dwarf umbrella, with massive shoots forming a full and lush appearance. It grows four to five feet tall and requires around four hours of indirect bright light. It's an ideal choice for a large space, especially if grouping with taller dwarf plants.

Tip 5. Ideal Plants for Tables and Hanging Baskets

There are several compact plants ideal for tables, such as coffee tables, dining tables, end tables, nightstands, buffet and console tables. Some are also hanging-basket worthy. These include:

  • Succulents: These are available in green and multi-colors. Use succulents to fill a framed box to display on the mantel.
  • Prayer plant: Green leaves with rose, white or yellow veining and spots add a pop of color. It grows in low to indirect bright light. Use on tabletops and older plants in a floor grouping.
  • Orchids: Add color with a sophisticated element to any decor. Place an orchid plant on a table that receives medium light.
  • Pothos plant: This vining plant grows to about 12" tall. Use it for a unique tablescape train the plant to create a living runner. It's also great for hanging baskets in a home office or kitchen.
  • Baby tears: Place this trailing plant in a hanging planter. The tiny, round leaves cascade down slender stems, and it produces tiny flowers. Hang it in a window or over a table.
  • Ferns: There are many fern varieties you can use on a small table or hanging basket. Most ferns don't need direct sunlight. Ferns add a feathery texture and nostalgic ambience.
  • English Ivy: With variegated or dark green leaves, English ivy can soften harsh corners of shelves, bookcases, armoire or highboys. It grows in low to bright indirect light.
    Hanging plant in room

Choosing the Right Indoor Plant

There are more indoor plant choices than you could use. Be sure a room meets the plant's need for light before placing in a room.

5 Key Tips for Using Indoor Plants in Interior Design