Indoor Plant Arrangement Ideas
Here's how to mix your houseplants to create beautiful indoor landscapes—dish gardens, terrariums and other displays that will thrive in your home.
Some people are blessed with south-facing windows. For the rest of us, there’s this dish garden, built to thrive in sunlight-starved homes. It features (clockwise from top right) peperomia, satin pothos and bird’s nest sansevieria. Stones and synthetic moss accent the plants and look tidier than bare soil.
A single plant like this variegated Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) takes on a bonsai look when planted in a low dish, top-dressed with dark pebbles and elevated on a platform. It grows fastest in bright filtered light but will tolerate medium light. It prefers humid conditions, ideally a bathroom with a shower or above a kitchen sink. As aralia matures, it can be transferred to a larger pot and grown as a floor plant.
Afraid of over- or under-watering? Fill a sill with a water garden. Here, we’ve mixed a bowl of water hyacinths, an aquarium of umbrellalike papyrus and Marimo moss balls, and a vase with a start or “pup” of a sansevieria. Start with a glass jar, vase or aquarium. Place plants (you can find some aquatic varieties at pet shops) in the container, secure them with aquatic gravel or decorative pebbles, then gently pour in tap water at room temperature. Finish with moss balls, larger stones or shells. Change water every two weeks.
Moss balls prefer cooler, lower light conditions like north-facing windows. If needed, you can recharge them in water overnight in the fridge. Stir them occasionally, so they don’t grow lopsided.
Repurpose holiday Norfolk pines in a planter with flowering cyclamen, trailing parallel peperomia and a layer of moss. The terrarium isn’t just for looks; it helps boost humidity for these moisture-loving plants.
Dish Garden Tips
Emily Kellett, co-owner of Ohio-based Stump houseplant boutiques, explains how to master these indoor plantings that often combine several species or mimic scenes in nature.
CONTAINER Find a shallow dish, ideally one with a hole in the bottom for drainage and one that matches the size and root depth of your plants. “It’s helpful to bring your container with you to the garden center,” Kellett says. Try repurposing saucers of large ceramic and terra-cotta pots; they’re just right for shallow-rooted succulents and cacti.
PLANTS Begin by choosing like plants—ones with similar light and water needs. For example, use all succulents or all tropical plants but not a mix of the two. Dish gardens look best when you hide the soil, so either pack the container quite tightly with plants or artfully fill gaps with accents or gravel. (More on that under Design.)
SOIL Indoor potting mix works for most plants, but cacti and succulents need the sandier blend. When using extra-shallow containers, mound the soil a few inches above the rim to give roots more room.
WATER Some shallow containers or saucers lack drainage holes. To prevent waterlogged soil and rotted roots, take extra care when watering. Water when soil is dry, let sit for a couple of hours, then drain off any excess by tipping the saucer over a sink at a 45-degree angle. (A layer of gravel or horticultural charcoal at the bottom of the container can also help absorb water.) Be especially mindful not to overwater cacti and succulents. Kellett suggests using a cup about a third the size of the container to avoid overwatering.
DESIGN Play with scale to mimic grander landscapes. Top-dress the container with fine bonsai gravel. Experiment with different gravel colors, and make sure to cover all the soil. Add accents like driftwood, larger pebbles or natural keepsakes from travels.
CARE Follow light and water guidelines on the plant tags. If your plants are doing well, Kellett says they’ll outgrow the dish garden in a year or two. “So, the beauty of that is you gain mature plants to separate and grow in their own pots or to give to friends and start over.”
Everyday containers such as carafes and vases can make ideal terrariums. Inside (pictured, from left): a miniature guzmania bromeliad; maidenhair fern and selaginella; and a mix of selaginellas, button fern and variegated Dizygotheca.
An old-fashioned dome makes a perfect container for tall plants. This group of insectivorous plants—'Scarlet Belle' pitcher plant, purple-blooming Mexican butterwort and Venus fly trap—grows in sphagnum moss. The raised dome allows insects to enter.
An antique terrarium becomes a stage for a miniature woodland garden, arbor and all. Ours has flowering Cape primrose, rabbit's-foot fern, golden club moss, black and dwarf mondo grasses, variegated ivy, angel's tears and Kenilworth ivy. See more ideas for terrariums.
Cup of Succulents
Succulents make ideal low-care indoor plants. For plants in nondraining containers, keep them in bright light, protected from frost and give them just enough water to keep the soil moist.
A vintage radio makes a creative succulent container. Using a tiny screwdriver, remove the radio's back panel and pull out as much of the inner workings of the radio as possible. To make room for a planting vessel-a loaf pan works well-cut a rectangular opening out of the top of the radio (a stencil cutter may work best). Place a container inside, screw the back panel on and get to planting.
Teacup Succulent Display
Gather a handful of vintage coffee, tea and/or egg cups. The more variety, the better. Plant a single succulent in each container, making sure to balance the shape and scale. Display your charming cup garden on tiered cake plates or pedestals. See more ideas for creative ways to display succulents.
The mottled colors of old metal compotes complement this collection of succulents. On the left, ruffle-leaved Mexican hens (Echeveria shaviana) pair with ghost plants (Graptopetalum paraguayense). In the lower tier, a collection of hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) circles the fleshy paddles of Cotyledon spp.
Moss Ball (Kokedama) Planters
Here's another idea for a striking indoor display: Japanese moss ball (kokedama) planters. The spherical "container" is really just a ball of moss and mud tied with string. Hanging your string garden makes a dramatic statement, but string gardens look lovely displayed on tables as well. See how to make a moss ball planter.