Expert Insights

Plant Theory

Let’s talk about plants for a minute. Did you notice these two lovelies from our dining room reveal? I picked them up just before photographing that room (photo shoots are the best excuse to buy plants) and ever since, I’ve been thinking about my method for selecting complementary indoor plants. Want to know what it is? Well, today’s your day! I’m here to outline my super secret, insider tip.

Jk. It’s hardly a secret. But you may not have considered it!



I see plants as patterns – the shape of their leaves, the pattern of the veining within each leaf, the repeating pattern of leaf clusters. Taken by themselves, they really do look like patterns you’d find on a piece of designer fabric or wallpaper.

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So, considering plants as patterns, I select them the same way I would select any other decorative element for a given space. Scale, shape and size are key. Color and texture are fun opportunities to play. Think “small, medium, large” or, as one of my design professors in college used to say, “sky, trees, earth”. It’s a simple rule of tiers that goes for overall plant size, leaf shape, veining pattern, and the overall pattern that a cluster of leaves creates.

Small – Medium – Large

Tall – Mid-height – Short

Glossy – Less glossy – Highly textured

Bold veining – Subtle veining – No veining


You get the idea. It’s all about variety.


Here are a few examples I threw together at my favorite local nursery. (Calloway’s, if you’re wondering.)


For this first group, I kept it simple with a monochromatic color scheme. All bright green! The first plant was a broad leaf fern with a smooth, glossy texture. Next, I looked for something with a totally different leaf shape and ended up finding a variety that was slightly taller than the first fern. Last, I narrowed in on the shortest option which had tiny, clustered leaves. This balanced my first two selections and rounded out my grouping.

Small, medium, large. Simple as pie.

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This next grouping steps up the statement factor with bold colors and patterns. The first plant I chose was a purple begonia with what I like to call a “pebbled” leaf texture. Next, I found a shorter plant with small leaves, tighter veining and a deep green color. To finish, I chose a third plant that combined both colors from the first two plants – purple and deep green – and had a smooth leaf texture and high contrast leaf pattern. Personally, I love this combo!

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The last grouping played on a more modern look. Cacti and succulents come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and are low maintenance options for those that don’t have green thumbs. This group works because of the variety in height, overall plant shape, leaf texture and size.

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At the end of the day, variety is the name of the game. You can bend and even break rules all day long, but if you keep in mind the tiers of pattern scale and plant size, you’ll come away with a fine looking group of indoor plants.

Now, these are simply my methods. There are a million other ways to decorate with plants! What are your rules of thumb?



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