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Next time you’re flipping through a lifestyle magazine, take a look at the room photos. Somewhere in almost every photo you’ll notice that the interior designer has included a houseplant. In a living room there is a classic palm in a white porcelain glazed pot. In the foyer there is a dish garden with 3 color-coordinated orchids. Perched on the bedroom armoir is a calming fern. Design professionals use plants to add style, life, texture, color and mood. They also know that a well-placed plant can soften sharp angles and hide dull corners.


If you are new to designing with houseplant here is a three-step approach to help you get started:

1. Light. Before you buy any plant, first determine the amount of light available in the room. Some plants require lots of light, while others do just fine in surprisingly low light situations. Choosing the wrong plant for your room’s light is a sure-fire path to plant mortality and disappointment. And it’s completely avoidable! Houseplants are divided into high-, medium- and low-light groupings. If you are unsure of what group is right for your situation, bring in a daylight photo of your room and tell us which direction the windows are facing (south, north, etc.) It also helps if you note the number of hours of direct sunlight. We’ll be able to direct you to which plant category is right for your room.

2. Mission. Consider whether you want the plant (or plants) to be a significant focal point, or just a pleasing accent. Another mission can be to hide an unattractive corner or create a visual divider. Knowing your mission will help you decide how many plants and what their size should be.

3. Inspiration. This is where the fun begins. The good news is once you determine the appropriate light category, the plant and pot choices are practically unlimited and totally personal. Unfortunately sometimes the possibilities can feel overwhelming. Because of the light requirements it’s a good idea to choose the plant first, and then select the pot.


Where do you find inspiration? A traditional way is to create your own inspiration board with images from lifestyle magazines of plants and/or pots you like. A newly popular website, Pinterest, has made this process much easier. They basically make the traditional inspiration board digital. It’s like flipping through thousands of magazines! It takes only a minute to create your own free account. Then base your search on the type of plant you want. If you want a tall palm in the living room, type into the search field, “potted palm plants” and scroll through all the various photos. “Pin” the photos you like onto your personal Pinterest boards. Try searching different keywords such as “designer palm plants” or “indoor palms” to find different ideas. When you have a bunch “pinned” on your board, look at each photo in the room you have in mind. You will be able to get an idea of what plant and pot combinations compliment the room, and those that, while attractive, actually don’t fit.


Another approach is to come to Mahoney’s and choose your plant. Then before you make the purchase, bring the plant over to our pottery department. Select several pots you like (approximately 2 inches larger than the grow pot), and try placing the plant – plastic grow pot and all – in each decorative pot. Compare several combinations. If you can’t decide in the store, snap a photo of each combination and bring the photos home to make your decision. Try not to stress about the choice. It’s supposed to be fun. If you find a plant and pot combination you like, bring them both to our “potting bench.” We’ll transplant the plant into its new pot, complete with proper potting mix, at no additional charge.


If all this sounds like too much bother, pick the plant you like (based on light requirements), and have it transplanted in a pot that is the same color as the trim color in your room; white trim, white pot. Don’t undervalue the importance of a decorator pot. Many factors affect the overall look; color, material, shape, finish, design details, etc. Selecting a beautiful pot is as important to the overall look as choosing a frame for a special painting.