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8 Houseplant Ideas to Steal from a Grand Parisian Escalier

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8 Houseplant Ideas to Steal from a Grand Parisian Escalier

February 13, 2018

One day last summer photographer Mimi Giboin just happened to be in Paris at the right time to capture our friend Tom de Fleurs‘s tiny courtyard garden, looking its summer best, on Rue Bichat. At the end of the day, as Mimi was packing up her camera, Tom asked her if she wanted to see one of his friend’s unusually enchanting indoor gardens nearby, with potted plants along a staircase and landing outside the entrance of a grand Parisian flat.

The instant that Mimi saw the unusual collection of houseplants in the apartment building on Rue Bichat, she unpacked her camera again—to capture the unexpected mise-en-scène of greenery against a formal beaux arts backdrop. Here are eight ideas you can steal from a grand Parisian escalier for your own installation.

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

Riding the Rails

Create a living wall using the balusters as a framework.
Above: Create a living wall using the balusters as a framework.

Here ferns and other cascading plants behave just as they would if mounted on a vertical wall.

Entanglements

Allow creepers and vines to wind in and out of the balusters on the railing.
Above: Allow creepers and vines to wind in and out of the balusters on the railing.

For more of our favorite vines, see our curated design guides to Vines & Climbers 101 and to Houseplants 101, where we’ve covered vining Philodendron 101: A Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Winding Path

Above: Place pots ascending a staircase and take advantage of the roominess of a landing and the natural curves.

Ideally, potted plants will look luxurious without blocking egress. With a profusion of foliage, it doesn’t matter if you leave the plants in their nursery pots.

Low-Maintenance Plants

A potted Zamioculcas zamiifolia (also known as a ZZ plant) is a popular houseplant for good reasons—it&#8\2\17;s hard, low maintenance, and creates a structured backdrop for other plants.
Above: A potted Zamioculcas zamiifolia (also known as a ZZ plant) is a popular houseplant for good reasons—it’s hard, low maintenance, and creates a structured backdrop for other plants.

A ZZ plant’s silhouette is a shapely fountain of glossy green tapering wands. A tropical foliage plant native to Africa, Zamioculcas zamiifolia will thrive as a houseplant with baseline care: indirect light, moderate temperatures, and not too much water are key.

Lacy Flowers

Begonia &#8\2\16;Angel Wing&#8\2\17; is a cane begonia, a tropical plant that thrives in bright light and moist, well-drained soil.
Above: Begonia ‘Angel Wing’ is a cane begonia, a tropical plant that thrives in bright light and moist, well-drained soil.
 &#8\2\16;Angel Wing,&#8\2\17; a hybrid created as a cross between Begonia coccinea and Begonia aconitifolia, earned its name because of the shape of its clustered flowers. Cultivars bloom in shades of red, white, and orange as well as pink (shown).
Above: ‘Angel Wing,’ a hybrid created as a cross between Begonia coccinea and Begonia aconitifolia, earned its name because of the shape of its clustered flowers. Cultivars bloom in shades of red, white, and orange as well as pink (shown).

Casual Formality

Shaggy vines contrast with the formality and geometry of an antique stained glass window.
Above: Shaggy vines contrast with the formality and geometry of an antique stained glass window.

Use plants to soften architectural details.

Heightened Perspective

Tall potted plants draw the eye upward as one ascends the staircase.
Above: Tall potted plants draw the eye upward as one ascends the staircase.

Play around with heights, textures, and shapes when you group container plants together.

Privacy Screen

A cascade of ferns and vines creates a curtain of mystery and privacy for an entryway.
Above: A cascade of ferns and vines creates a curtain of mystery and privacy for an entryway.

With its purple leaves, a Tradescantia pallida vine, shown at center, is a dramatic accent plant and looks especially good against the backdrop of glossy black-painted doors. Shown at left is a spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) with clusters of flowers that bloom along its long, drooping stems. Placed between the two, a sword fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) explodes exuberantly.

See more ideas to steal from our favorite European gardens (indoors and out):

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.

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