Go Live! Valentine’s Day

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Flowers are big business on Valentine’s Day. According to the Society of American Florists, over 198 million blooms will make their way to lucky recipients this February.

While floral arrangements always make a statement, the delicate nature and short lifespan of cut flowers makes it impossible to enjoy them for very long. Live plants, on the other hand, can thrive for years. In addition to being more sustainable, indoor foliage offers mood-boosting benefits, air purification and a simple solution for adding an organic feel to your home.

This Valentine’s Day, instead of picking up a dozen roses, nurture your green thumb and enjoy the benefits year-round with live plants. Join us as we run through our favorite tips and tricks for adding a little greenery into your living space.

A Breath of Fresh Air

An assortment of planted succulents on a neutral backgroundAs much as you would like to believe your home is free from toxic chemical compounds, it’s easy to overlook the sneaky ways harmful substances can creep into your life. Even after removing VOC-laden sprays, switching to natural cleaning solutions and adding purification systems to your air and water, you’re still at risk. Luckily, plants are here to help.

A natural filtration system, live plants are particularly good at removing airborne pollutants, especially formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen and the most common offender in the home. It can be found in mattresses, plastic products, paints, wood coatings, fabrics and insulation, to name a few.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has classified formaldehyde as a known sensitizer, which means that long-term, high-level exposure can worsen allergies and compound existing medical conditions. Although modern government regulations have drastically reduced the amount of formaldehyde in today’s building materials, the large number of potential sources makes it difficult to completely avoid. Dwarf Date Palms, Boston Ferns and Rubber Plants are all especially good at removing it from the air.

Another concern for homes with attached garages is the presence of benzene, toluene and xylene; three gases released through gasoline exhaust. Together, they can trigger asthma attacks and cause skin irritations and a host of other problems. Strategically placed plants are an easy solution for these toxins — and the best first line of defense — serving the dual purpose of beauty and functionality.

Beyond the Sill

As shocking as it may be, Americans spend almost 90% of their day indoors; which is why we support bringing hints of nature inside. Not only are curated collections of florals aesthetically pleasing, but they’re good for you too. Studies have proven that house plants improve concentration and productivity by up to 15%, reduce stress levels, and boost your mood.

Even though you might be smitten with a certain style or type of plant, it’s important to understand a few things about your space before you start.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no indoor plants. No one species is specifically formulated to thrive under the conditions found in a home, although there are many varieties that tolerate it well. Factor in the shape, lighting conditions, moisture levels and window direction all prior to setting your heart on a certain species or type. Not all plants are equally suited for universal placement.

Plants typically fall into three categories when it comes to light. They are full sun, partial sun or indirect/shade. Hold off putting a plant that needs full sun in a windowless powder room and keep delicate ferns away from unshielded sunlight. While natural illumination is always best, UV lightbulbs may be used intermittently in low-light areas to give your plants the extra boost they need to grow.

Now that you’ve considered light, the next factor is hydration. Where will the plant live and how will it be affected by the ambient moisture? Is this a humid bathroom, a breezy entry or a quiet office? Orchids, Aloe Vera and Snake Plants, also known colloquially as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue are all water-loving and will grow with little to no effort in a bathroom or spa-like lounge. Cactus and succulents on the other hand, should stay out of damp areas.

There’s nothing more difficult than continually working against the elements. Even if you fall in love with a certain species, make sure to consider its needs before putting it in your home.

Plants with Style

With the logistics out of the way, creativity can step in. Take the time to select plants that match the aesthetic of your home and consider how they can be used to achieve the effect you desire. Is your home contemporary or traditional? Do you lean toward a beachy or desert oasis vibe? Do you want to harmonize the space or make a statement? Apply the same principals you would use when choosing paint colors or art pieces to unite your plants of choice with the existing décor.

A great option is to create vignettes around your space. Tell a story with colored pots, miniature sculptures and a selection of plants in similar tones and colors. Succulents are a great choice for their diverse selection of icy hues and both textured or sleek leaves. Keep in mind, they require direct sun and dry soil between each watering.

Close up of fernIf you’ve had your heart set on a tree, bring it indoors. Many fruit trees come in dwarf or ornamental varieties that are perfect for filling in corners and eliminating dead space in a room. Tiny citrus, olive trees and other fruit-bearing plants will produce year-round if properly looked after, not to mention they give a wonderful aroma to the space.

Consider light and heat when placing trees near windows, as their leaves can sometimes burn from excess sun. Choose one or two large specimens and pick a base that matches the feel of the room. Rattan baskets, hand-thrown ceramic or burnished metallic pots can take your space from Mediterranean to modern in a heartbeat. Place your plant on a stand with casters for easy relocation.

Embrace the tropics with ferns and palms. Fantasy and Button Ferns are full and leafy, need only a little light and are therefore perfect for offices or bedrooms. They do require regular trimming, but only minimal water.

For a wall-mounted option, look to a Staghorn Fern. These large, singular plants are attached to a board and nestled in a breathable sling. They can be picky when it comes to care and water and act more like air plants than your typical tropical giant. Absorbing water directly through their large antler shaped fronds, they like bright, indirect light and Southern or Eastern sun exposure.

Don’t forget the option of repetition. If you find a plant you really love, buy it in multiples. Placed together, a forest of tiny topiaries or a cluster of orchids looks classic and chic. Choose hues and textures in a monochromatic palette and accessories that create harmony with the rest of the room.

Finally, for a plant-centric take on a gallery wall, create a custom installation that’s sure to wow. For sun-soaked, dry weather dwellers, try a vertical mosaic of rainbow succulents and dwarf cacti. If lush is more your style, create a living wall of ferns, orchids and creeping vines. An tropical or desert oasis is just an idea away.

Embrace Nature

As a final note, always take into account who dwells in the space. Although they may look beautiful, some houseplants can be toxic to pets or children, so either avoid these varietals or keep them high up on shelves and out of reach.

Choose species that fit your lifestyle and enlist the help of a plant guru to manage the health or watering of your new additions. With the proper research, your green thumb will be flourishing in no time.

No matter your preference, from chic minimalism to urban jungle, with a little forethought anything is possible. So, breathe well, purify your space and enjoy the benefit of these beautiful and long-lasting plant selections.

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Carlisle.
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