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Styling Plants for A Mid-Century Modern Living Space

Enhance your designs with the perfect modern house plants

Even homeowners who profess that they can only keep plastic plants alive love having plants as part of their mid-century modern décor. Almost everyone enjoys having greenery around their home, but selecting the right mid-century modern plants can be challenging. Fortunately, all it takes is a little research and learning what plants work best with mid-century modern designs.

In this blog, we’ll explore:

  • The best plants for a modern motif
  • The basics of plants and mid-century modern design
  • Evaluating your space for the right plants
  • Frequently asked questions about using plants in your design

Our Top Mid-Century Modern Plant Picks

Here are some of our favorite houseplants for mid-century modern homes. They are great choices because not only do they thrive indoors, but they enhance the living space they share.

Keep in mind that many plants are toxic to pets; while some may just be irritating, others can be lethal. The University of California has a comprehensive list that breaks the more common plants down by common name, scientific name, and toxicity on a scale of 1 to 4 (one being potentially deadly and four being mildly irritating to the touch).

Monstera Deliciosa, Split-Leaf Philodendron or Swiss Cheese Plant

These trees grow more unique with age (and they can live for decades). The older it is, the more “holes” appear in the leaves, creating the swiss cheese look that earned it its nickname. Outdoors and in a warm climate, these trees can grow quite large with leaves spanning a few feet. Additionally, the fruit from it is edible and smells like a pleasant blend of pineapple and bananas.

Spaces it works for: Larger rooms or covered patios. These plants need a lot of space, so high ceilings are recommended.

Toxicity Scale: 3 or 4

Raul654 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Dracaena Trifasciata, Snake Plant

These are hardier plants that can withstand being forgotten for a few weeks at a time. Snake plants have tall leaves with a striped pattern running up their leaves, similar to the animal they get their nickname from. They do fine with indirect sunlight, are easy to care for, smaller, and according to NASA, plants from the Dracaena genus even filter the air.

Spaces it works for: Smaller to medium-sized spaces that need a more vertical motion are ideal for the snake plant. They work in larger areas as well.

Toxicity Scale: 2 or 4

Mokkie – CC BY-SA 3.0

Aglaonema Commutatum, Chinese Evergreen

We love that the leaves are red! They can actually be red, pink, or white, as well as green, and a beautiful mixture of colors that work very well in a lot of spaces. These drought-tolerant plants do well in indirect sunlight and are perennials. Though slow-growing, they can grow up to two feet tall, making them ideal for tabletops initially, and a great larger plant for mid-century modern homes in later years as well.

Spaces it works for: Ideal for small spaces, homeowners that are likely to keep them long-term will eventually need a larger space.

Toxicity Scale: 3 or 4

Philodendron Hederaceum, Sweetheart Plant or Heart-Leaf Philodendron

For spaces where a vine is ideal, look no further. Certain varieties of this vine feature deep, dark green, or maroon-colored leaves and would be a perfect contrast for a lighter color scheme. It grows up to six feet tall and can thrive in indirect sunlight, making it great for many different areas of the home. It is most commonly seen in hanging baskets, but it can be trained to grow upwards.

Spaces it works for: This is ideal for larger or smaller rooms with a lighter color scheme where contrast is needed.

Toxicity Scale: 3 or 4

Jacobaea Maritima, Dusty Miller or Silver Ragwort

A perennial in the southern parts of the United States, it’s popular in garden beds, but also containers in the home as well due to its drought tolerance, smaller size, and appearance. The unique silvery leaves add an unmistakable touch to any room. Plus, it pairs well with flowering plants that also love the sun. (If you search for this plant, you may have to look under its former scientific name, Senecio Cineraria.)

Spaces it works for: Any space that needs a pop of light color, or an arrangement of planters or plants.

Toxicity Scale: 2 or 4

Jasminum officinale, Jasmine

It is easy to understand why this woody vining plant has been so sought after throughout history. Many are surprised to find that it grows very well indoors, although it does need a sturdier trellis to climb on. It prefers warmer temperatures, a well-lit area, and well-draining soil. With the right care, homeowners can enjoy the smell of jasmine year-around in their home. It can grow quite large and at a moderate pace, so it does require pruning and training. Additionally, the star root system of this plant means that the root size reflects the plant size, so larger planters might be necessary.

Spaces it works for: Best for a larger space, this is a good plant for a room with a lot of windows.

Toxicity Scale: Not Toxic

Caryota Spp., Fishtail Palm

This isn’t actually one single species of palm tree, but about thirteen. They are collectively called fishtail palms due to the leaf shape. It can be a little more challenging to grow, but they are a beautiful and unique large tree to have in the home. They require a great deal of sunlight and for their soil to stay moderately moist all the time. Outside and in ideal conditions they can grow up to 20 feet, but they grow very slowly and tend only to reach about 6 feet indoors.

Spaces it works for: This plant is ideal for large rooms with windows that face the sun.

Toxicity Scale: 3 or 4

The Basics of Styling with Mid-Century Modern House Plants

Before going shopping for the right houseplants, it’s a good idea to revisit the cornerstones of mid-century modern design.

Mid-century modern was born from the desire to create spaces that inspired optimism as well as utilized production and technology that came as a result of World War II. Clean, curved lines, patterns, and functional furniture became the main features of home décor. The grandiose look of Victorian furniture and similar fashion trends fell out of favor for something simpler, not to mention easier to produce and more affordable to buy.

Why Indoor Plants are Important

It isn’t just an aesthetic that makes keeping plants important. The right houseplant in the right location adds a visual element to any room that can’t really be achieved with furniture—succulents, for example, are the perfect blend of geometric shapes and nature.

Products from this image: Joan Oval Dining Table Set, Galaxy Chandelier, Alexandra Side Chair

These plants can flatter the finish of certain furniture items, particularly with mid-century modern furniture and casegoods.

Plants can also help to cleanse the air, reduce stress, and increase productivity. According to Healthline, there are a lot of benefits to having indoor plants, beyond just enhancing the décor.

Evaluate the Space

Unless a home is mass-produced, no two rooms are the same. Before shopping for new plants or mid-century modern home décor, take in the details of the space you’re working with. Does it have a typical mid-century modern color palette? Also, the size, shape, and composition of the room and any existing features will impact the kind of plants you need. For example, some plants need a lot of space because they either grow very quickly or take up a lot of room with large leaves or blooms.

Plants for Darker Spaces

Rooms without many windows can make a design challenging at times. One of the biggest concerns designers face with these spaces is lighting and how to bring more light into the room so that it feels bigger. And after all, plants can’t get up and move to a sunny spot.

To include plants in your mid-century modern design, consider ones that are hardier and more tolerant to less light. One such example is the Bromeliad Guzmania, aka. The Scarlet Star. Named for its vibrant orange bloom, this perennial is from South America and can live for years if properly cared for.

Plants for Smaller Spaces

Smaller spaces have their own unique characteristics. While they can be cozy, design-wise it can be difficult to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Our blog post, Mid-Century Modern Design for Apartments, explores designing for a smaller space perfectly. However, it doesn’t cover plants.

For rooms where space is an issue, don’t just explore horizontal surfaces. Wall planters make a great statement in a room. While they can certainly be quirky and fun, there are mid-century modern wall planters as well that blend in perfectly with your other minimalist choices. You could also consider vining plants that can add a decorative touch to walls, and smaller plants that won’t overwhelm the room.

Plants for Larger Spaces

Rooms with a lot of space may seem less challenging, but that isn’t necessarily true. With spacious rooms, you have the unique task of tying everything together. Greenery can be a great way to do that. Plants that are strategically placed can help unify a room whether it is a single theme or an eclectic variety of colors and styles.

Consider plants with larger leaves and brighter blooms to function as focal points in the room and lead the eye through the space. Larger mid-century modern planters are a good choice as well, as long as it is ideal for the plant it is housing.

Having plants, much like having pets, is a priority for a lot of homeowners and business owners. It’s a matter of creating a living space that facilitates productivity and creativity. Few things do that more than beautiful plants for a mid-century modern home. Read our related articles below for more on styling a mid-century modern room.

Frequently asked questions about mid-century modern plants

Are plants home décor?

Plants are living things, but yes, they are also décor. In the realm of adult responsibilities, they require very little from us, and in return provide visual pleasantries, air cleansing, and overall mood-boosting benefits.

Is mid-century modern going out of style?

We certainly hope not. The trend has been going strong for years now and the style doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon.

Why should you decorate with plants?

Aside from the pop of color that can come from leaves and/or blooms, plants create visual interest in the room and add life with their presence. In some cases, they filter the air as well.

How many plants should be in a room?

It depends on the design and space. For designers creating a green design that provides purification and enhances the homeowner’s wellbeing, aim for about one plant for every 20 or so square feet. For reference, the average living room is about 340 square feet, so you’d need 10-15 plants for that space.

What are some mid-century modern plants?

While this depends largely on the size of the space, the fishtail palm, sweetheart plant, and swiss cheese plant are just a few examples of good mid-century modern plants from our list. Succulents and other plants with geometric shapes make excellent choices as well.

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