At the recent edition of IDS West, the interior-design show and trade fair held in Vancouver in September, you couldn't see the wooden furniture for the trees.
Plants bloomed large as the main event, perched on tables in minimalist pots or else cascading downward from macramé holders inspired by the 1970s comeback trend influencing fashion as well as decor.
Greenery is growing, and in a living room near you.
"Decorating with plants is definitely big, an offshoot of the boho mid-century look seen in interiors right now," observes Gloria Cheung, co-owner and lead designer of the Flower Factory floral studio in Vancouver.
"At the IDS West show, I could see the influence of designers like Jamie Pryde, Jonathan Adler, Gillian Segal and Justina Blakeney, she of the Jungalow Instagram site, which I just love. All of them are known for incorporating plants in home decor and it's a trend that's catching on," Cheung says.
Aerated wall planters, living walls, hanging plants, indoor gardens and terrariums are just some of the ways Canadians are bringing life into their homes right now, and just in time to counter the deadening effects of winter.
Easy-to-care for plants like succulents, cacti or soil-less air plants requiring next to no watering make indoor gardening easy, especially for beginners.
"We all live such busy lives," Cheung says. "Some of the new varieties of air plants are so textured and intricate. It's nice to know they are low maintenance, too."
Inspiration comes not just from home-decor sites and magazines, where column inches are sprouting around earnest discussions of what qualifies as the season's it plant – the fiddle-leaf fig tree or the vine-like pothos? (We shall drive a shovel into that particular debate in a bit.)
Exerting a surprising influence on the decorating-with-plants trend is the international fashion runway, which has flagged a green thumb as the day's most coveted accessory, turning fashionistas into gardenistas faster than you say philodendron.
"Christian Dior created the house of floral in Paris, well before the Kim and Kanye floral wall," Cheung remarks, referring to the luxurious wall of white flowers at the 2014 wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. She says plants on the catwalk have boosted sales at her shop. "Wedding floral walls increased for us after the Dior Haute Couture show in 2014. People want a bit of that for their homes, and it gets them thinking of how else can they decorate with greenery."
Benoit Godin, proprietor of plant design firm Vertuose Inc. in Montreal, also cites the runway as a catalyst driving the decorating-with-plants trend, his reference being Karl Lagerfeld's garden-themed show for Chanel in 2015. He also notes that plant decorating is trending at Maison et Objet, the hugely influential lifestyle, decor and design show in Paris.
"So we know that plants are on the books until 2018," Godin declares. "It's not just a seasonal trend. It's here to stay."
But beyond being fashionable, decorating with plants satisfies a primal need.
"Reintegrating greenery into decor is about wanting to feel a connection to nature. It restores a sense of balance, especially in cities where office buildings and condos dominate the landscape," Godin observes.
"Filling the home with plants is bringing life back into the indoors, surrounding ourselves with things that are living when everything on the outside, with the arrival of winter, is dead."
Informing customers about the therapeutic properties of plants is a large component of how Alexander Chan spends much of his day.
The owner of Plant Decor in Markham, Ont., says the bulk of his online and retail business is driven by customers seeking natural solutions to the problem of indoor pollutants, for instance, and the stresses of contemporary urban life.
Among the plants he sells are fern-like bamboo palms, shiny-leaf peace lilies and sculptural spider plants, air-purifiers that Chan says work better than HEPA filtration machines.
"Indoor plant gardening is no longer an activity for retirees or seniors. With current trends in health, wellness and environmental sustainability, younger generations – particularly millennials – are becoming more and more interested in growing houseplants in their homes and offices. Being 'green' is something young people strive for. And the idea that plants can help purify the air and create a more natural indoor environment has made indoor gardening very attractive," Chan says.
To ensure customers are getting the right plants for their wants and needs, Chan offers free plant-decorating consultations for homeowners and corporations, the latter becoming increasingly popular as a result of studies that show a correlation between office plants and increased levels of employee contentment and worker productivity.
"Basically what I do is I send a consultant to the site who can then make plant suggestions after assessing the available light and growing conditions in the space," Chan says. "We also accommodate feng shui and air-purifying requests for people wanting to decorate with plants in the home to optimize flow, energy and air quality."
So how to incorporate feng shui principles into decorating with plants?
The key is to see plants not as separate from furniture but as integral to the decor.
"To me, plants and florals are like the frosting on a cake, or that added element of art in a room that completely elevates a room," Flower Factory's Cheung says.
But the trend in indoor plants is not to overdesign the look. Think minimal in terms of colour, type of plant and container, the experts say.
And think of how to make a dramatic statement with less rather than more.
Fulfilling both requirements is Ficus lyrata, the scientific name for the aforementioned fiddle-leaf fig, whose overwhelming popularity right now (sorry, pothos) is thanks to glowing editorials in Architectural Digest and Elle Decor and its status as the "unofficial official plant" of French luxury brand Céline, according to The New York Times.
Plant Decor carries the tree, whose thin trunk and big, lush leaves work well in most decors.
"It's a large and beautiful plant," Chan says. "It flies off the shelves like crazy."