Like wood and natural fibers, plants are an indispensable feature of Nordic interior design. They play a central role in creating that serene, in-touch-with-nature atmosphere that characterizes these homes. After all, just looking at greenery is relaxing.
Natural shades of green go with any color palette. In fact, in many monochrome Nordic decor interiors, green plants are the only color. Favorite species tend to be green-foliage only plants with clean, bold lines that complement simple, streamlined furniture and uncluttered spaces.
I’ve profiled six of these plants here. If you’re a fan of Scandinavian design magazines and blogs, you’ve probably seen some of them around.
While I was making up this list, I took an accidental survey of some friends of mine and wanted to share a few of their insightful comments on choosing houseplants. 😉
“One was injured and I felt sorry for it.” – Swedish friend, on adopting two rubber plants.
“I just asked them for something I couldn’t kill easily.” – Danish friend, on buying three snake plants.
And now on with the list…
Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
This common houseplant owes its popularity largely to the fact that it’s extremely low maintenance. It can survive irregular watering and low light levels, and rarely attract bugs. It also efficiently cleans your air of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that come from a variety common household sources, such as new carpet. Its variegated, gently rippled leaves stand in tall spikes that can break up the horizontal lines of the sofa and coffee table.
Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica decora)
Another common potted plant, the rubber plant comes in several varieties. The broad, oval leaves droop a little, giving the plant a relaxed, casual look. Their dark green tone (depending on the variety) and leathery surface help them fit into rooms that have a darker color palette or a more masculine vibe.
Taller plants look great framing interior doorways or standing by bookshelves. While this plant fairly tolerant of a variety of conditions, it prefers sun, and dislikes cold drafts and being over-watered. This seemingly modest houseplant will happily grow into a 30-meter tree if given enough space, so keep that in mind when you pot it. More often, grown indoors in a small container, they reach between 1 to 3 m tall.
Cacti and Succulents
Cacti, especially smaller species, are surprisingly common in Scandinavian interiors despite their American Southwest look. They work will in terrariums or in small groupings on a sunny window sill.
Cacti are drought-tolerant, but that doesn’t mean they can put up with anything. They need plenty of sun, good drainage, and correct (read: not too much) watering. A few good choices are the spherical golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), the fuzzy, columnar nivosus cactus (Echinocereus nivosus), and the pink-flowered rose pincushion cactus (Mammillaria zeilmanniana).
Even more common are succulents without spines or prickles. Some good picks are just about anything from the Echeveria genus, hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum or and sometime Echeveria elegans), spikey zebra haworthia (Haworthia fasciata), coral jade plant (Crassula ovata ‘Coral’ or ‘Gollum’), and stubby-leaved Pachyveria Opalina.
Air plants (Tillandsia) are popular for their ability to grow anywhere with the need for soil, so they can be placed in glass, wire, and other decorative planters that can’t hold dirt or water. They only need to be soaked periodically.
Hardy Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla)
Also known as the umbrella plant, schefflera lends a room a touch of a tropical air and the whimsical arrangement of its leaves give it a playful look that works well in a casual kitchen or living room. Contrary to their name, schefflera aren’t that hardy. To survive, it needs bright but indirect light and regular weekly water. There are several varieties to choose from, so you can a plant with the color and leave-shade you want.
Million Hearts (Dischidia ruscifolia)
This plant takes its name from the tiny heart-shaped leaves that grow along its long, trailing shoots. The spring-grass green leaves are interspersed with white star-shaped flowers. Its growth pattern can be a little wild, especially in the case of younger, smaller plants, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a plant with a little personality, rather than something neat and restrained. Because it naturally takes its moisture from the air, it needs high humidity and dislikes wet feet.
Common Fig (Ficus carica)
Although not especially common as a house plant, a fig brings an element drama when grown in a pot and allowed to grow into its natural lanky form. The big, bold leaves have a distinctive shape reminiscent of sunny Southern European gardens. Indoors, can reach several meters, so it’s perfect for filling vertical height in a room with a high ceiling. It needs a sunny, south-facing window with a full day of light to stay healthy. Even indoors, it will often try to grow fruit, but there’s no guarantee the fruit will ripen.
For a minimalist look, try a single specimen of an eye-catchy plant such as schefflera or fit. For a more lush look will still achieving good visual balance, arrange your plants groups of three, five or another odd number, and vary the height and color.