This article appears in Spring Home & Garden magazine 2020.
Houseplants and indoor garden rooms are having a moment, probably thanks to the lush looks posted to social media accounts.
“I think as people continue to look for ways to escape hectic lives and try to find a place to unwind, garden rooms will continue to grow in popularity,” said Amy Enfield, spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants. “They are a great place to unwind, tend to plants regardless of the weather outside and destress. For people who live in parts of the country where the winters are long, it allows them to grow plants year-round, and not just houseplants.”
The indoor gardening trend has been growing for the last five-plus years in a way that can be compared to the enthusiasm for houseplants seen in the ’70s, said Shane Pliska, president of Planterra, a West Bloomfield, Michigan-based interior landscape firm that provides plants to workplaces throughout the United States and Canada. The difference now is that people are using them as a design element, Pliska said.
‘Became a lifestyle’
“Millennials are especially involved with houseplants and exotics,” said Megan Wages, owner of Fancy Free Nursery in Tampa, Florida. “People started greening their spaces, which grew into the parenting of houseplants. What started as indoor plant styling became a lifestyle.”
Plants are something to come home to, to care about, to love.
“First of all, plants are beautiful,” said Kerbi Howat, owner of Flora plant shops in Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee. “There are different sizes, shapes and structures that can complement the desired aesthetic for a space. Additionally, studies have shown that plants improve air quality, boost creativity and focus, and simply make people happy. There is also a therapeutic element to caring for your own plants and watching them grow.”
Before giving this trend a try, think about what you want in your garden room, how you will use the room and what plants to grow, Enfield said.
“Do you want a tropical paradise or have access to fresh herbs and veggies year-round?” she asked.
Consider light, temperature, humidity and airflow.
“Unless you have a sunroom that gets lots of natural light, you will likely need to add lights to the room,” Enfield said. “Fluorescent lighting, specialty grow light bulbs, even LEDs will all work in a garden room.
“Plants need good airflow to grow well. Adding a ceiling fan would be a great option to help keep the air circulating. Most plants, especially during the dry winter months, also benefit from having a humidifier in the room to help increase the humidity.”
How to start
Start with one type of plant that needs the same type of light and watering schedule, such as philodendron, and grow them in groups, Wages said.
“If you’re a beginner, start small. You want to make sure you understand how to care for plants successfully before you invest a lot of money. Also, get educated,” Howat said. “It’s OK to start with just a few plants and then add more to your room as your plant knowledge and confidence grows. Don’t be afraid to experiment with plants, and add seasonal plants like Christmas cactus, poinsettias, spring bulbs and amaryllis to your room.”
“The staple plant for many garden rooms is going to be houseplants,” Enfield said. “Great houseplants for beginners include spider plant, pothos, snake plant, ZZ plant, peace lily and ponytail palm. Succulents and cacti are also great for beginners as long as you give them lots of light. If you want to add a pop of color to your space, look for Phalaenopsis (or moth orchids) or African violets.”
“Succulents seem easy, but they thrive on neglect. People want to love them to death,” Wages said.
From the fiddle leaf fig to the rubber tree, Swiss cheese plant (monstera deliciosa) to bird of paradise, more is more in a garden room.
“An abundance of plants is luxe,” said Pliska, offering these tips:
• Don’t be shy.
• Buy what you like.
• If it’s not working out, don’t get emotionally attached. Get rid of what is dying or doesn’t work.