See Your Plants as Patterns

Quick and easy plant tips from a local prop stylist.

Let’s talk about plants. As a prop stylist I often get to use photo shoots as an excuse to buy greenery.

I have a very specific method when it comes to selecting complementary indoor plants. 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 a piece of designer fabric or wallpaper. 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, and color and texture provide 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. Mix “tiers.” That goes for overall plant size, leaf shape and veining pattern. And don’t forget the overall pattern that a cluster of leaves creates.
Small, medium, large. Tall, medium, short. Glossy, less glossy, highly texturized. Bold veining, subtle veining, no veining. You get the idea. It’s all about variety.

I like to go to my favorite local nursery, Calloway’s, and throw together combinations of plants. Here are a few combinations to keep in your back pocket for your next nursery trip.

Small, medium, large. Keep it simple with a monochromatic color scheme like all bright green. Plant 1: a broad leaf fern with a smooth, glossy texture. Plant 2: something with a totally different leaf shape. For example, another fern in a different variety that’s slightly taller. Plant 3: a short option with tiny, clustered leaves. Choose a third plant that balances the first two selections and rounds out the grouping. Simple as pie.

Bold colors and patterns Step up the statement factor with bold colors and patterns. Plant 1: a purple begonia with what I like to call a “pebbled” leaf texture. Plant 2: a shorter plant with small leaves, tighter veining and a deep green color. Plant 3: Combine both colors from the first two plants – purple and deep green – and add a smooth leaf texture and high-contrast leaf pattern.

Modern groupings Choose a grouping that plays 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. A cacti and succulent grouping works best when there is a variety in height, overall plant shape, leaf texture and size.
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.