Plantings as Living Art

By Charlee Storner

As a botanical stylist, I work in partnership with leading design and architect firms designing retail, hospitality and corporate interiors for many leading businesses. Live plants improve air quality, minimize dust, and help maintain optimal humidity. They are installed in buildings because they look beautiful, and help to provide a tranquil environment in which to work or relax. A naturalistic trend — mixing permanent botanicals which are botanically accurate replica plants made with authentic, dried stems and flowers from natural plant materials or with silk and plastics alongside live plants — is taking root across workplaces. Permanent botanicals do not attract insects, don’t require pesticides and create an allergy-free environment.

This season, the top interior plantscaping trend features integrated plantings that artfully combine live plants with permanent botanicals. Live plants integrated with faux plants offer a creative way to blend artistry, color and style. Integrating live and faux foliage can deliver a look as fresh and alive as it appears in the natural world.

My top five permanent botanical picks that are picking up steam in the integrated plantings world include:

1) Yarrow — According to legend, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was named after Achilles, the Greek mythical figure who used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Today, the yarrow herb is valued for its ability to fight off colds and flu. Plantscaping veterans look to yarrow to complement live plantings in lively arrangements.

 2) Moss balls — Preserved moss balls made of real or artificial moss can add substance and style to a natural décor. These balls are also found as decorative faux moss balls with duckweek and natural twig. These decorative balls can be used simply as an accent in vases or bowls or as the foundation for one-of-a-kind décor mixed with an assortment of greenery.

3) Reindeer moss — Preserved or dyed reindeer moss can add a naturalistic finishing touch to potted plants, and is an ideal decorative covering for plants. Reindeer moss assists in drainage for living plants, and allows air to reach roots on amaryllis and orchids. In its living form, reindeer moss is not a moss at all, but a lichen that grows on rocks and in sandy soil. It was named after reindeer because it is a special treat for reindeer and caribou in northern regions.

4) Bamboo/wood — Mixing a bundle of spiral, curly bamboo or bamboo reed stalks can compliment live plantings. Wood textures drive visual appeal paired with many live plant species.

5) Hydrangea — Permanent reproductions of the hydrangea — a botanical beauty which is a popular and colorful ornamental plant grown for its large flowerhead — adds vibrancy and panache into live planting beds.

The top five live plant species that integrate well with faux foliage include:

1) Succulents — Succulents come in many compelling varieties, and offer a cornucopia of colors, shapes, styles and textures that work well with permanent botanicals. Adding gravel, sand and stones to the succulent container allows for drainage and also provides for some styling variations.

2) Selaginella — Selaginella is a genus of plants often referred to as “spike moss,” “fern allies” or as the “resurrection plant.” These perennials are grown for their eye-catching, scale-like foliage and are used for edging greenhouse benches, covering pillars, planting in hanging baskets, and decorating terrariums. Most of these plants are found wild in tropical areas of Asia, but some come from China, Japan, North America, South Africa and Australia.

3) Tillandsia — A genus of more than 500 species in the Bromeliad family, Tillandsia are found in the wild in forests, mountains, and deserts in Central and South America, Mexico and the southern United States. The Tillandsia genus mixes and matches beautifully with permanent botanicals including hydrangea.

4) Living mood moss — Living moss, which is recommended by Feng Shui masters to help create a space where one feels safe and energized, offers a natural bed that succulents thrive in. The thick moss, which grows in mounds, has a soft look and feel to it, which provides a center stage setting for permanent botanicals.

5) Dragon tree (Dracaena Marginata branched) — Although they are sometimes mistakenly identified as palms, the Dracaena Marginata is a genus of 40 species of subtropical, evergreen, woody plants grown for their statuesque form and ornamental foliage.

Interior plantscaping is more than just putting a beautiful plant or tree in a space. Poor plant placement can be wasteful and costly. When you have a location that is not conducive to live plants, replica plants can create organic beauty in even the most difficult location such as windowless conference rooms. The integration of permanent botanicals and live plantings can create a lush, tropical paradise indoors.

Charlee Storner is a Botanical Stylist for Ambius, and is based in St. Louis. She can be reached via e-mail at

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