11 Sculptural Plants to Add Drama to a Room
Not everyone has beautiful moulding, built-ins, or fireplaces, so what’s an easy way to add some visual and architectural-like interest to your home without spending a fortune or losing your security deposit? Plants!
True statement: We adore all plants! That said, certain plants are more visually intriguing than others; whether it’s due to their striking foliage or eye-catching forms, they enhance and elevate the design of a space in the same way a bold work of art or beautiful lamp would. And the key to finding an arresting plant like this is to think outside of the box.
“I love weird plants,” says Christan Summers, co-founder of Tula Plants and Design. “To me they are these living art sculptures. Over time they take on new shapes and new sizes and ebb and flow with your environment.” Summers knows all about artful plants, having recently launched a design exhibition series in her Brooklyn-based plant shop featuring dazzling varieties in whimsical vessels created by artist Yuko Nishikawa.
Here, Summers and other plant experts give the goods on 11 sculptural plants to consider for your home.
A quick heads-up: Note that any specific plants mentioned in this story or any others may be toxic to pets or humans. “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 ASPCA.org, PetPoisonHelpline.org, Poison.org, or by calling your vet or pediatrician.
1. Bird’s Nest Anthurium
“Statement leaves,” you say? “The Anthurium plowmanii has very large, oversized, wavy foliage that looks as though it’s been plucked from prehistoric times,” says Lisa Muñoz of Leaf and June and author of the upcoming House Planted: Choosing, Growing, and Styling the Perfect Plants for Your Space. “They’re showstoppers and bring a lot of life and unique appeal to an empty corner or plant stand.” This lush plant thrives in humid environments and enjoys bright, indirect light.
All three of our experts recommended plants from the low-maintenance Dracaena family. “It has these bare stems, which people like because they’re thinner plants and they don’t take up too much space,” explains Summers. “But they have a structural design element to them because the bare stems take your eye up to the top.” Rebecca Bullene of Greenery Unlimited likes the Dracaena compacta for its elegant trunk with bushy, statement-making foliage. Summers and Muñoz like the Dracaena marginata, with its foliage that has striking red edges. “The leaves burst from the tops of the branches like a fireworks display,” says Muñoz, who’s also a fan of how the branches swoop and curve, creating a whimsical shape.
3. Euphorbia Ingens
With this plant, it’s all about the arms, says Summers. She’s had customers who, after taking them home, pose with them with their arms up like a stick figure. “It has so much personality,” she says. While the succulent has a fun presence in a room, be warned: The Euphorbia ingens is a super-fast grower.
4. Ficus Moclame
If a manicured topiary-type tree is your thing, consider the perky ficus moclame. “It’s one of the easier ficus to care for,” says Bullene. “I have a seven-foot-tall one in my farmhouse that I adore.” The plant, with its thick, rounded leaves, needs bright light and weekly water.
5. Kentia Palm
“It’s the most elegant of all palms,” says Bullene of this lush beauty. It’s also one of the easier ones to care for. While most palms need very bright light, the Kentia Palm can survive in medium light, provided it is not overwatered, says the expert. Thanks to its low-maintenance nature and graceful, arching fronds, the Kentia Palm is one of Bullene’s go-tos for her many celebrity clients.
6. Myrtillocactus Geometrizans Forma Cristata
“This plant looks like a frozen wave,” says Summers, adding that the artistic shape of the plant is due to a mutation within its DNA. Place it on the coffee table and let the conversation starter do its thing. The plant also appreciates bright light and should be completely dry before it’s watered. Water it sparingly in the winter. How easy is that?
7. Pencil Cactus
Bullene loves the pencil cactus for its unusual and slender stick-like stems. Although you may just want to grab one, don’t, she warns. The pencil cactus has a milky white sap that is highly 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. “It’s a plant that you should never have around a kid or curious animal,” Bullene says. But for the right household — and in the right (out-of-reach) spot — it’s a houseplant with a cool and unusual silhouette that needs high light and low water.
8. Philodendron Congo Rojo
Muñoz recommends the Philodendron Congo Rojo because of its oversized, deep green leaves with burgundy undersides that splay outward. “These bring a lot of warmth to a space with their tropical flare,” she says. “They also have a robust, clean, yet sprawling structure that will make a space inviting and cozy.” If your home is on the darker side, this plant isn’t right for you. It likes bright, indirect light and prefers to dry out in between waterings, says the expert.
9. Ric Rac Cactus
The ric rac cactus, also called fishbone cactus, has jagged-edge leaves that add fun zigzag shapes to a room. Even cooler, in the right condition (which is: keeping it in a bright spot with a few hours of direct sun and adding fertilizer during the grow season) this plant produces pink or white flowers. But here’s the catch: It’s a night bloomer, and the flowers only last up to one day, making the blooming an exclusive, Instagram-worthy moment. As far as care, Summers says the ric rac is used to filtered light and is easygoing. “They’re pretty drought tolerant,” she says. “You shouldn’t leave them to dry, but if you’re kinda forgetful, they’ll be alright.”
10. Sansevieria Lancia
Snake plants are pretty prolific, but the rare, architectural Sansevieria Lancia is one of Bullene’s all-time favorite plants. “It has such an uncommon and incredible structure,” she says about the plant’s thin, glass-esque stalks. Like other snake plants, it’s very hardy and drought tolerant. But unlike its common cousin, it’s hard to come by. “I only get them in once a year, and they sell out fast when people see them in person,” Bullene says.
11. Tree Philodendron
If you’re all about showy leaves like the Monstera deliciosa’s, keep up the trend with the tree philodendron. This easy-to-grow tropical plant (it can take high light or lower light) “has this really beautiful, woody trunk that grows stalks with this plume of leaves at the top,” Summers says.
Apartment Therapy’s Styling with Plants vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Greendigs.