For Hilton Carter, life got a lot more interesting when he met a fiddle-leaf fig named Frank. It was 2014, and Hilton, feeling inspired after dinner at a café in a greenhouse, purchased the tree in an attempt to infuse his New Orleans apartment with a similarly idyllic feel.
Today, more than 200 plants (including the now towering Frank) fill the apartment he shares with his wife, Fiona, in Baltimore. His specimens climb the walls and take up every last inch of the windowsills. "I just started bringing in plants to create a space that made me feel great," he says, "and somehow ended up with a lot."
It’s a story that no doubt sounds familiar to the plant obsessives featured in Hilton's second book, Wild Interiors: Beautiful Plants in Beautiful Spaces ($19, Amazon), which showcases leafy homes in the United States and Europe. What all the spaces have in common are inhabitants who, as he likes to say, have been bitten by the botanical bug. "Plants are a way of creating a moment of escape within your own home, of bringing the outside world in," he says.
And, of course, that feeling has never been more welcome. Hilton documents his plant-collecting adventures on Instagram, where you can also sign up for his virtual workshops on topics like potting and propagation. He believes there's no such thing as too much green, so here he offers six simple ways to fill every room in your home with houseplants.
"The power that plant life has in a home is transformative," Hilton explains. Floor-to-ceiling greenery surrounds a hanging chair in this Antwerp, Belgium, apartment. "By gathering plants in this deliberate way, the homeowners were able to create a spot everyone is drawn to," Hilton says.
“Unlike a vase of flowers, a plant can breathe life into a dining space for a long time,” Hilton says. In this Los Angeles dining room, a dwarf umbrella bonsai tree serves as a centerpiece (its diminutive size means it won’t block sightlines) while tangles of golden pothos and philodendron brighten an otherwise neutral nook.
"Sometimes more is more," says Hilton of this deliberately overgrown credenza in a Berlin apartment. "I love the feeling that wildlife has taken over a space," he says. "It’s almost like the ruins of an old building, where the people have left, and the plants have moved back in." However, to keeps things from getting too out of control, "only bring in what you can care for," Hilton advises.
This patio in Barcelona is surrounded by tall, white walls that seemed to overpower the space. The owner’s solution: Hang small ferns, spider plants and more with brackets. "What’s great about this arrangement of little containers, as opposed to something like ivy or another climbing vine, is that the pots add a real sense of depth," Hilton says.
Add excitement to a stale vignette with a few well-placed plants. Here, a simple cart doubles as a plant stand and bar. "I’m always looking for ways to tuck little plants into an unexpected spot like that," Hilton says. "They make a space dynamic." Plus, the heart-shape philodendron trained around the mirror frame "really adds depth and interest," he says.
Try hanging trailing plants from the ceiling or placing them on a shelf over your bed. “Sleeping under plants makes it feel like you’re camping or on vacation,” says Hilton, whose wife made a mini macramé hammock for his plants.
Which Plants to Choose for Specific Rooms
Not sure which plants would thrive in certain areas of your abode? In general, Hilton cautions against "bringing plants into a space just because you like the plant due to its trendiness." Instead, pay attention to the light each type of plant needs. A few low-maintenance favorites for beginners include ZZ plants, ponytail palms, and peace lilies, which are easy to love and hard to kill. Plus, Hilton's got a few more tips for specific parts of the house.
Sturdy specimens like snake plant or rubber plant best withstand the changing temperatures that come from opening the front door, as well as the occasional brush from a winter coat.
The space where you host guests calls for a statement-maker like a giant monstera or a tall and leafy bird of paradise.
The easy access to a sink makes this room an ideal place for water-lovers like rattlesnake plants. Or line up small succulents on the windowsill or counter to add life without occupying the valuable surface area.