We move twice a year. Not to a new residence, of course, but putting our indoor plants outside in the spring and bringing them inside in the fall is often like a major moving day. We have several indoor plants, and over the years many of them have gotten bigger. As a result, containers, too, have gotten bigger and heavier, and we aren't getting any stronger.
Aside from buying carts and platforms with wheels to help move all these plants around, bringing plants back indoors after they've spent nearly six months outside can be a challenge. When we move them out in April or May it generally means there are large holes in the furniture arrangement as well as on some tabletops. Furniture that seemed close and cozy over the winter was spread out over the summer. We were used to things being a little more wide open. But we try not to just bring them inside and plop them down anywhere.
My friend and interior decorator Dianna Simpson tells me that as a general rule, plants are neutral subjects in any decor.
''They basically go with anything,'' Simpson said. ''Use plants as you would use your accents.''
When decorating with plants, Simpson said, keep in mind how they blend into your decor. You may not want to use tropical plants if you are planning a southwestern design. In other words, don't put a palm tree next to a cactus.
Plants with ruffled-like leaves such as ferns or heart-shaped leaves like philodendron blend well with Victorian decor, and plants with sleek lines, such as peace lily or Sansevieria - a plant with the unfortunate common name, mother-in-law's tongue - would go well with modern or contemporary designs.
But if your taste is more eclectic, you can mix them however you like as long as they have enough light and adequate water. When watering plants, make sure they aren't hanging over furniture that could be damaged by drips or that the water can't run out onto the floor causing damage to carpets or wood.
Tall plants look best if they are behind low furniture, but not if it's impossible to get to them for maintenance. Smaller plants are great for tabletops and can be decorated with commercial wire or wooden plant picks that match your tastes. You can even make your own plant picks such as spiral wires that hold photos or postcards.
Plants also can be placed in groups as long as they all have the same general requirements. Grouped plants look best if they are arranged in different heights either on the floor or on a tabletop.
Regardless of your interior design, the needs of the plant should always come first. South and east facing windows are the brightest in winter and plants that need a lot of light should have first choice over those locations. Most house plants, with the exception of cactus and some euphorbias, are tropicals and don't really need the brightest light. A general rule is the darker the leaf color, the less light the plant needs.
Although there are a few plants that spend their winters in the same spot year after year, finding places to put them all is usually a major decision, not just because we need to blend the plants back into the decor, but because of their needs. Just because that tall Norfolk Island Pine looks really good directly in front of that south-facing window, remember that Norfolk Island Pines don't like hot sun, and the south facing window is the hottest and brightest in winter. Putting the tree off to the side where it can get adequate sunlight but not the brightest sunlight is a better location. Also, be careful your plants aren't too close to heating registers, woodburning stoves or drafty doors and windows.
A few years ago, another friend commented her tropical plant wasn't doing well since she brought it indoors for the winter. After several questions about its light source and her watering habits, it was discovered the plant was in a foyer and received a blast of cold air each time the door was opened.
A lot of dealing with a houseplant's location is trial and error. If it doesn't look happy where it's at, try another spot for a while.