The Must-Have Guide to Grouping Your Plants

updated Apr 19, 2021
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Using houseplants as decor elements is a high-level trend these days, and as your plant collection grows, so do your options for designing with them. One of the most effective and stylish ways to display your plants is to group them. You have many ways of going about this, so choose what feels right for you and your space. Of course, we have suggestions to get you off on the right foot!

A quick heads-up: Note that any specific plants mentioned in this story or any others may be toxic if they’re consumed by a pet or human. “Toxic” plants can induce symptoms that range from mild (upset stomach) to severe (possible death). If you have a cat, dog, or kid, make sure you research the plants ahead of time on a reputable site like, or by calling your vet or pediatrician.

Arrange in Odd Numbers

The “rule of three” in interior design isn’t a secret — and it’s relatively simple: The rule dictates that things arranged in odd numbers (thus, the number three) are more visually appealing. And yes, it’s completely true for houseplants: The difference between grouping two plants together and grouping three plants together is astonishing!

Some people are die-hards about organizing items in trios, but any odd number will work for houseplants. If you’re after that extremely full and lush plant Instagram look, start by bunching your plants in threes, and then bump up to other odd numbers. Also, if you’re messing about with two trios of plants and can’t get them to look quite right, try leaving a space between them to definitively separate the groups. 

Combine Around Seating Areas

One of the best ways to make a dramatic impact with houseplants is to assemble them around the most popular places in your home — aka where all the people congregate. In the living room, huddle plants around the couch and chairs. In the dining room, try placing them closer to your table (within reason). 

This creates drama in your design and makes everyone feel like they’re tucked away in a greenhouse. Also, grouping your favorite, most gorgeous plants around these areas is sure to spark a conversation among guests once we’re able to host again. Or, who knows: Since we’re all isolated at the moment, you might find yourself in the middle of an actual conversation with your favorite plant!

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Display Different Sizes and Shapes Together

When you place plants together that are contrasting heights and sizes, the shape of the array becomes more organic and natural. And with different sizes of plants, you can also draw a person’s attention to a specific section of your space. The eye will follow the line of the plant — either up, down, or sideways — so if you’re trying to highlight a certain feature in your home, you should group plants that point in that direction. 

You can also use this frame of design-mind when thinking about leaf sizes and shapes. Adding more variety to a plant grouping will only promote more visual interest.

Join Based on Leaf Textures

If you love houseplants, then you probably love the individual textures that every different plant brings to your home. And these days, you can find some really funky plants with unique leaf textures to add to your collection. Plus, you guessed it: Leaf textures scored a spot in this guide because varying textures in your groupings can really make your plant assortment pop. From shiny to furry, the following plants will bring unexpected variety and texture to your collection. 

  • Haworthia cooperi: This plant is a slow-growing succulent that produces small rosettes of fleshy, semi-transparent leaves. The transparent leaves catch the light, highlighting the glossy smoothness of the plant’s texture. It looks like it belongs in a jewel box, and it prefers bright light and large gaps between waterings. Do not water until the soil is completely dry.
  • Green velvet alocasia (Alocasia micholitziana “Frydek”): All you really need to know about this plant is in the name. It’s wildly popular, and for good reason: The “Frydek” leaves are large, emerald green, and silky smooth like velvet. To care for it, give it bright, indirect light and high humidity. Pot it in well-draining soil but keep it moist. Don’t let it dry out.
  • Moon Valley Pilea: These cute little plants gained their common name from their bumpy leaves because they look like the craters on the moon. The leaves themselves are bright yellow-green with dark orange veins. The plant remains small throughout its life, never getting much larger than 12 inches in height. It will thrive in indirect light. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Cobweb Spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana): Who doesn’t love a fluffy plant? This one sports leaves that look like they’re covered in soft, white cobwebs (they’re not). Be careful not to put it in too bright of light, as it’s extremely susceptible to sunburn. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Begonia ferox: Begonias are known for their interesting textures, but the Begonia ferox really takes the cake. As the plant matures, the leaves sprout raised black cones that resemble teeth, though they’re not actually sharp. Each cone produces one hair that falls off over time. Typical begonia care applies; place it in bright, indirect light, and water when the soil is dry.

Gather Based on Leaf Colors

Houseplants that have bright, colorful leaves can bring an entirely different dimension to a grouping. Introducing variants in color adds depth and draws the eye in and around the collection of plants, which in turn makes it more interesting to the viewer. From dark maroon to fuschia pink, this mini-list will give you an idea of what colorful options are out there to add to your collection. 

  • Philodendron “Black Cardinal”: This philodendron is sought after for its dark black leaves that appear as the plant matures. It has the allure of rare, delicate plants but can thrive with traditional philodendron care. And it needs bright, indirect light, regular watering, and a moderate humidity level.
  • Maranta lemon lime: Spotting a bright splash of lemon-lime is enough to get anyone’s attention — let alone on a plant! The variegated leaves show off bright greens, yellows, and a vein of pink. The Maranta is well-known for its tendency to open and close its leaves in the morning and as the sun goes down, lending to its common name, “prayer plant.” Put your plant in indirect light, and keep its soil moist.
  • Cordyline fruticosa: The vivid fuschia color of the leaves makes a statement in a group of plants or just standing alone. It requires bright, indirect light and high humidity. The soil needs to remain damp — do not let it dry out. Cordylines are extremely sensitive to fluoride in water, so you’ll need to water with distilled water.

Cluster by Care Requirements  

Of course, the simplest of all plant combo advice is to group them by light and care requirements. This can help you manage your plant collection and the time you spend watering. It also helps you create mini climates for your plants. If you group your tropicals together, you increase the humidity for those plants. If you group your arid plants (succulents and cacti), you can create a dry, well-regulated environment that prevents overwatering.

Ready to get grouping? Here are a few specific ways you can put these tips into practice:

Go Tropical on the Floor

Plants of any size can be grouped on the floor. Anchor your team of three with a large bird of paradise paired with a Dieffenbachia “Memoria Corsii.” Finish the trio with a medium-sized Calathea orbifolia. The deep emerald color of the bird of paradise will contrast against the lightness of the Dieffenbachia, while the calathea will center the group and draw the eye down into the cluster. 

Make a Desert on the Coffee Table

Ever thought of creating a desertscape on your coffee table? You don’t even need a terrarium! Start with a medium-sized Euphorbia tirucalli “Fire Sticks.” Add in a small barrel cactus and an echeveria of your choice. Finally, place a rhipsalis and a string of pearls. Each of these plants brings a unique texture, color, and height to the grouping. 

Note — especially if you have kids or pets around — that Euphorbia tirucalli is one of the more toxic of the euphorbia plants. Like other euphorbias, it has a sap that is toxic when ingested, but also when it comes in contact with the skin and eyes. It can cause rashes and blisters, swelling of the mucous membranes, and even potentially blindness.

Cluster on a Mantel or Shelf

This is one of the most visually satisfying ways to design with your plants. You can go big or small with similar impact. If you’re just dabbling, start with your favorite alocasia — maybe an Alocasia “Frydek,” with rich, velvety leaves. Add in a Maranta lemon lime, and complete the trio with a trailing mini-monstera.  

Apartment Therapy’s Styling with Plants vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Greendigs.