Design 101: From the Flora Files…  

“I hate fake flowers, but I have a black thumb. Are there options for me?” “Help! I can’t pick a color for this room.” Interior designers deal with these and many other questions every day. For the purposes of this article, we’re tackling the first one. “What decorating options exist for using flora…”

Are there plants that do better indoors? Absolutely.  Most of the time this question means “Are there low maintenance, low light tolerant, hard to kill plants that I can ignore?”  One of our clients swears by Snake Plants and we concur. Not only are they easy to care for and hardy, but they are also great at improving indoor air quality.  Spider Plants and Aloe are also top choices for the neglectful gardener.

Pro Tip: Make sure to read our final question to learn when you might want to avoid the above listed plants.

No matter how low maintenance they are, I can’t seem to keep my plants alive.  Are there other options? Absolutely.  There are many places where you can get fake flowers…but there are only a handful where you can get amazing synthetic botanicals typically referred to as “Faux-florals.”  Hands down our favorites are produced by NDI (Natural Decorations Incorporated) in Alabama. We use them for our own home, our office, client’s houses, and for staging photos.  They have pre-made arrangements, custom design pieces, and even sell individual stems. Their products cover both traditional favorites as well as exotic options.

Pro Tip:  They appear so real that you need to remember to warn your house-sitter not to water them when you are on vacation.

I don’t want “faux-florals.” What else is there? For people who insist on real plants but can’t keep them alive there is a category referred to as “preserved plants.”  These were live plants that have been treated with a solution of glycerine to keep them looking unchanged for years. Do they look real?  Of course, because they are real. The process is neither difficult nor expensive should you wish to try your hand at preserving some yourself rather than purchasing them.

Pro Tip: Unlike most synthetic plants these don’t build up an electrostatic charge that attracts dust.

Are there options other than faux or preserved? If live, artificial, or preserved plants are not to your liking then consider utilizing textures and patterns that mimic nature.  Botanical printed fabric, nature photography, and verdant colors are traditional suggestions; but you can also capture some of the benefits of bringing nature inside by employing elements of Biophilic Design.  Try diffuse irregular patterns, dappled light, and gentle moving air currents to give you the feel of the outdoors within your sheltered space.

Pro Tip: If you don’t want live, dead, or fake plants that’s okay.  You need to be happy with your space and a large part of that is being true to your own tastes.

What do you consider that most homeowners don’t?  The most important thing to consider with any decorating project is the health and safety of the occupants and guests.  Most people don’t consider that many plants are toxic to our four-legged friends. Always make sure that you avoid potentially harmful botanicals, even if “they never bother them.”  Why take the risk?

Pro Tip:  You should avoid every one of the plants listed in our first question if you have a cat, some for dogs, and even one for horses!  You can check online for a list of dangerous plants free at the ASPCA website. Better safe than sorry.

Yaron Linett
About Yaron Linett 37 Articles
Yaron Linett is the principal designer of Formal Traditional, a full-service design firm located in Warrenton. To submit your interior design questions, drop him a note at or visit

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