Living Decor: Plants, Potting and DIY Projects - Botanical Styling with Fiddle-Leaf Figs, Monsteras, Air Plants, Succulents, Ferns, and More of Your Favorite Houseplants

Living Decor: Plants, Potting and DIY Projects - Botanical Styling with Fiddle-Leaf Figs, Monsteras, Air Plants, Succulents, Ferns, and More of Your Favorite Houseplants

by Maria Colletti


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There's more to living with plants than simply bringing home a houseplant. Living Decor shows you how to artfully integrate greenery into your space.

Living Decor is a manual to introducing the life, beauty, and health benefits of plants into your home in creative ways. Authored by Maria Colletti (Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass), this lovely book is an easy read, and brings fun to creating your own arrangements with moss, succulents, air plants, and other favorite indoor greenery. To tie it all together, Living Decoralso offers simple guidance for taking care of your plants and DIY tips.

This guide to houseplants takes you through modern trends in filling your space with plants, such as display with macramé, concrete planters, new plant stands for popular botanicals like Fiddle Leaf Figs and Monstera, and also shows what a beautiful, unique, and even artistic experience living with plants can be.

More than that, you'll find endless ideas for botanical styling from the author, as well as a large network of shopkeepers and interior designers who bring you into their homes to see remarkable interior design that celebrates everything green.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760362792
Publisher: Cool Springs Press
Publication date: 03/19/2019
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 662,546
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Maria Colletti, author of Terrariums: Gardens under Glass and Living Decor, is a traveling workshop instructor. She currently teaches the Living Décor terrarium series at New York Botanical Garden, where she previously spent thirteen years as the Garden Shop manager. Colletti was dubbed a "terrarium savant" in an online article for Edible Manhattan, and her terrarium tips have been featured in the Washington Post.

Read an Excerpt



PLANTS MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY. This is how I feel about plants — my plants. How wonderful to have a part of nature in your life that invokes happiness. Happiness is warm, pleasant love. This invokes the philosophy that it is the simple things in life that make us happy.

Let me elaborate. My indoor garden designs and my indoor plant choices follow that simple philosophy. Happiness can be a place, a time, a memory, an idea, or a feeling we remember when we gaze at our surroundings and the objects we choose to own.

In my world, nature is my happy place. I need a walk in the woods to see the ferns breaking through the ground in spring. I need a stroll on the beach where I pick up prized seashells for my collection. I enjoy a moment sitting on a rock, gazing at the lakeside, where a breeze blows gently. I feel myself breathe out slowly when I drive down a country road by a pasture full of sheep.

I also enjoy the urban adventure of people racing through concrete streets, and bustling vendors in a historic part of town selling their handmade crafts. On any day, you can take a self-guided neighborhood walking tour and gawk up at amazing architecture.

Let's combine that which we covet. I enjoy city life, country life, and everything in between. Filling our living and working spaces with nature, with memories, and with those objects that evoke a warm feeling reminds us of what we love. I call it snapshots of our lives.


When I create living decor displays, I combine all those objects that give me joy. This includes my favorite plant, which I have tended for years and watched grow into a healthy green specimen. I include found objects such as shells from that wonderful summer I spent on Florida's Sanibel Island beach, my favorite vintage armillary I found while antiquing in the Catskill Mountains, and, of course, my favorite books.

The houseplant has risen to its glory days again. Plants can reduce dry skin by increasing humidity indoors, which makes us look and feel healthier. Plants also purify our air indoors, which improves our respiratory comfort. In the workplace, plants can increase our feelings of wellness, and have been credited with reducing stress and increasing productivity. When we are calmer and happier, our minds are free to be creative. These are pretty impressive accomplishments by our green friends.


Greet your plants every day like you'd greet your children, partners, and pets. As their caretaker, ask yourself what their needs are today. A plant's three most important basic needs are light, water, and care. Once you have the basics, you will find it easier to keep your jungle green and healthy. If your greenery is happy, then you are happy. Here are some basic plant care tips.


Our green plants need sunlight to grow healthy and remain green. Photosynthesis is how our plants create life and in turn create life for us. When explained that way it becomes immediately profound how much we need greenery to sustain us.

Simple factors dictate the intensity of the sun, such as direction of sunlight and time of day. Is it winter or summer, and how long is the daylight where you live? Are you above or below the Equator? Your locale predicts humidity, sun intensity, or the length of winters — it marks the difference between living in Brazil or Canada.

Succulents in particular will grow leggy without enough light intensity. In the Northeast, I supplement my succulents with a clip-on spotlight attached to my plant stand. When I'm home, I turn it on and they struggle a bit less to grab the light, especially during winter. Even a normal, everyday lamp can supplement light indoors.

In what direction does your window face? East light is strong and direct in the morning, which gives plants a good bath of light. Phalaenopsis orchids prefer it. Southern windows offer a longer bath of light from late morning to late afternoon and can be very hot around noon. Western windows are hot into the evening in summer, so choose plants that can handle hot summer sun for hours. North windows receive the least amount of natural light.

Indirect light is a term often mentioned as a crowd-pleasing light requirement for many houseplants. Of course, what it means is up for interpretation per your individual indoor environment, such as whether trees obstruct the light of your south-facing window. Once you establish the sufficiency of your environmental parameters, then your plant care will follow.


As we water our plants, we take a break from the rigors of the day. When I care for my plants, I aim for consistency and healthy responses using what I call factors of threshold watering. When a plant's leaves or stems are stiffly pointing upward, I know they are at their maximum healthiness. I would rather my plants not develop brown or yellow leaves, and I don't like drooping plants or soggy soil. I strive to find that sweet spot with my watering where the plants maintain green, upright leaves and the soil holds a moderate amount of moisture at all times. It keeps the plants at their maximum health.

There are three easy considerations for creating your plant's threshold watering gap:

• What kind of plant is it?

• What direction is the light or heat source?

• Is the water able to drain freely through the soil?

So, what plant are you watering? If it is a maidenhair fern (Adiantum) or peace lily (Spathiphyllum), you can practically sit each of these plants in a dish of water. Both of these plants love having moist soil and usually can't get enough water. If you have an Agave or spiny Opuntia cactus, then you need to let the soil dry thoroughly, meaning deeper than just the top of the soil. The watering schedule or gap between watering is created by the plant itself. Can it tolerate only a few days going without water, or two weeks? Answering that question will get you closer to figuring out your watering threshold.

Light and/or heat sources can also affect the watering threshold. What is the location of your plant? Is it directly on the windowsill, on a table away from windows, near a heat source such as the kitchen, or under an intense desk lamp? This will affect the plant's water usage and the timing of your next watering. If plants live in your kitchen, the heat from cooking will dry out the soil faster. If your plant sits in a cool room that does not receive direct sunlight, a plant will most likely be able to go longer between watering, as it simply will not utilize as much water.

The last factor is whether water properly drains through the pot. Does the pot have drainage holes or is it in a decorative outer pot? I often take my smaller pots to the sink and run water through the pot, then let them sit there on a rack until the last drop of water drips out the bottom of the pot.

If you cannot move the plant, then make sure it has an ample-sized plant saucer, cup, or plate to sit upon. Layering some gravel in the saucer will raise the pot and allow extra water to travel below the gravel and away from the roots of the plant. It also creates an air pocket to help excess water evaporate.

If you have a palm, fiddle-leaf fig, or a plant with flat, leathery leaves that can withstand a nice, warm rain shower, then feel free to sit your plants in the shower for two to three minutes. Allow the water to fall softly so as not to damage the leaves or branches. Let the water be slightly warm, especially if the plant has dried severely or if it is the middle of winter, when indoor heating has a drying effect on leaves. This is a good practice once every six months.


I refer to the care of a plant as the extra essentials that will contribute to the overall health and attractive growth of your plants. For example, pruning is an essential care that your plants will occasionally need.


Vines require a snip at the end to keep them strong and bushy. Anyone who has let their Pothos trail along for yards and yards without ever giving it a haircut will tell you it got kind of scrawny. A haircut is exactly how you should think about pruning. Pruning will properly keep a plant's growth pattern attractive and will help the plant concentrate its growth efforts not only on the tip of the stem but on the entire plant.


Watching for insects is an important care task. Take a closer look at the stems and undersides of your plant's leaves every once in a while, especially if the plant is looking tired and wilted. It could just need water, or maybe it has some bug taking advantage of its good health.

Mealy bugs are particularly hurtful. They are small white bugs that grow in colonies and look like cotton in the crevice of a stem. Mealy bugs love jade plants (Crassula) — when I catch even just one mealy bug, I leap into action. I take the plant into the bathroom, where I dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and remove the bug with it. Then I wash the plant itself with some warm water, covering the pot in a plastic bag so as not to let the water wash through the soil. This usually works for me, but it's important to stay visually alert to any more bugs coming your way.

Spider mites love palms, umbrella plants, English ivy, and other plants that sit in strong sun exposure indoors. The heat and sun create a breeding ground for spontaneous generation. Spider mites seem to mysteriously arrive on the scene and appear out of nowhere, but once they make their way onto the underside of the palm fronds or finger leaves of an umbrella plant, they can do their damage. The top side of the leaf will look mottled. To combat this, you will want to add some drops of dish soap to a spray bottle filled with water and mist the plant, especially the underside of the leaves, with soapy water. It helps to deprive the bugs of a breeding ground and they eventually diminish. If the plant is fairly large, you should place a drop cloth on the floor, then spray, spray, spray. Plants should be sprayed every two weeks with the soapy solution as a general practice to prevent any mites from getting ahead of you.

Fungus gnats are those pesky, small black bugs flying around your plant, its soil, and your living space. Gnats like moisture and they love moist soil — which is where they live. If you start to notice them a lot and you are able to cut back on watering your plants, they sometimes disappear or die off. But often, they leave offspring behind in the soil to invade your space once they hatch. If the gnats really become a nuisance, take the plant out of the pot and discard the soil outside. Then wash the pot with hot, soapy water, clean the old soil off the roots of the plant, and re-plant in a clean, new environment. This is the most effective solution.


Let's talk about some of those fabulous tropical houseplants we are lining up to include in our own oases. These are the wonderful "it" plants and we simply cannot get enough of their wild tropical beauty.

28 • Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig): Majestic in its ability to dominate a room.

31 • Monstera deliciosa (swiss cheese plant): Climbing, large jungle-like leaves just make us happy.

34 • Calathea lancifolia (rattlesnake plant): Delicate spears of color and light-reflective leaves brighten up any room.

37 • Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant): We've simply gone gaga over peperomioides like a bunch of groupies.

40 • Sansevieria trifasciata (snake plant): The comeback kid! This plant is taking indoor decor by storm.

42 • AlocasiaandColocasia (elephant ear plant): Bold colors and stately leaves will make you feel right at home in the jungle.

45 • Tillandsia (air plant): This versatile plant can make a home out of almost anything.

48 • Haworthia (zebra cactus): Queen Haworthia is a green-striped crown who holds herself so regally.



The versatile fiddle-leaf fig is an interior designer's dream plant, a photo stylist–preferred prop. The world-renowned, the one, the only, the fabulous "it" plant of every furniture catalog from IKEA to Crate & Barrel. Let me introduce you to the fiddle-leaf fig. That's its common name; the botanical name is Ficus lyrata.

The fiddle-leaf is easy to care for. If you give this plant the proper lighting and water, it won't ask for another thing. Mine has been with me for about eight years now; I rescued it from someone else's dumpster. After a summer or two outside on a covered deck, where it would get soakings from the garden hose, I was concerned it would not acclimate to my apartment living room, but it is doing great. With new leaves making it a foot taller and growing more each year, I believe it will reach the ceiling one day. How do I keep my fiddle-leaf fig alive and growing?


Fiddle-leaf figs like a good light source. My plant lives in front of two windows. The front window gets strong morning sunrays, which bathe my fiddle-leaf, and then the indirect sun moves around to its left side as the sun moves through the sky. During the year, I turn the tall plant round and round so it will grow straight and not crooked. Both direct and indirect sunlight are good things.


Fiddle-leaf will only drop a leaf if the available water in the soil has evaporated past its threshold. Remember, seasons change available sunlight. In areas of the world where the sun sets early in the day in winter, fiddle-leaf may hold water longer. Where the sun beats strong all day, a fiddle-leaf will need a good soaking until the water drains all the way through the bottom of the pot.

I sometimes drag my darling plant into the shower, which is a challenge now that it has grown to five feet tall. I leave it in the shower for a while, close the bathroom door, and let the humidity gather. If this task seems ridiculous, that's understandable — it's easier to take a damp cloth and gently wipe the dust off the large, veined leaves.


The fiddle-leaf has become so popular that plant suppliers are now flooding the marketplace with different sizes to fit every spot in your space. A plant with one trunk-like stem is often referred to as topiary; a plant with several woody stems can be a bush. Garden shops and centers sell different heights, ranging from smaller, three-foot versions to large, treelike plants standing at six feet tall. Of course, the larger the plant, the more expensive it is.

Consider the spot you intend to place your fiddle-leaf. In most situations, you will see the fiddle-leaf rising from behind a couch in a living room setting or adjacent to a chair or bed. It is part of the decor and should be placed accordingly. The larger single-stem but multi-branched fiddle-leaf can fill a corner spot. My large specimen stays on the same side of the room and I shift it season to season. In summer, it needs to be shielded from the window's powerful air conditioner, and in winter it needs to move closer to the window's light.



The botanical name describes how we feel about this plant: Monstera deliciosa. What isn't delicious about Monstera? Everyone must have one — must! It has popped onto the plant scene with ferocity and abundance. Affectionately, Monstera is called swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron, which describes the natural cuts in its massive, glossy leaves (Monstera is not actually a philodendron, which is a separate genus). Monstera looks like it would be an Amazon Jungle plant, so I was surprised to read it actually originates from Southern Mexico into Central America (Southern Mexico is a more humid terrain, where lots of heat rises). In its native habitat, Monstera will grow fruit, hence its name, deliciosa, but it likely won't fruit indoors.


In a jungle, plants residing in the understory receive dappled light. Remember, jungle understory light is still much stronger than indoor sunlight. Monstera can withstand a bright, sunny window as long as you provide water to keep it from severely drying out. You will not want to expose it to all-day hot sun, say in Arizona or California, but bright light is okay.


Your Monstera's soil should go until slightly dry to the touch before watering. When you water, try to find a way to water thoroughly with proper drainage — then you can go a bit longer between watering. Remember to keep the leaves free of dust and bugs by wiping them with a damp cloth. Occasionally misting with room-temperature water will increase its intake of moisture on the leaves and will create a more humid environment. Monstera is a vine and will need a pinch or two as the plant grows to keep its shape and strength.


Monstera has brown aerial roots, which help them hold on to adjoining trees in the jungle — so, at home, your plant will need room to spread its branching arms. While it is excellently on display wherever you can look down onto those magnificent leaves, you may be able to sit your Monstera on a plant stand or stool to spare it from damage as you walk around them. Monstera can thrive while growing upright on a wooden stake, or gangly and reaching out in all directions. You will need an ample spot for your Monstera so you do not constantly hit the leaves, as they will tear. If you see roots poking out the bottom of the pot in a year or so, that is a signal to repot to the next size up and add some new, rich potting soil. Let your Monstera flourish, because #MonsteraMondays never get you down!


Excerpted from "Living Decor"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Maria Colletti.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 6

I The Greenery 14

Snapshots of Our Lives

General Plant Care Tips

The Houseplant Reinvented

Plants, Cats, and Dogs

II Indoor Gardening Style 54

Planters of Interest

The Mighty Windowsill

Moss Wall Art Preserved

Anatomy of a Place Setting

Picking Pumpkins Autumnal Centerpiece

Terrarium Geometry & Evolution

Herbarium Botanicals & Curator's Corner

Color Inspired by Greenery

III Resources: The Worldwide Marketplace 160

Flea Markets & Craft Fairs

Retail & Instagram Marketplace

Air Plants

Brick & Mortar Shops


Botanical Illustrators

Geometric Terrarium Makers

Houseplant Delivery Services

Macramé Crafters & Workshops



Terrariums, Plants & Workshops

Garden-Inspired Wallpaper

Index 168

Photo Credits 172

Dedication 173

Acknowledgments 174

About the Author 176

Customer Reviews

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