THE INTERIOR USES OF PLANTS

OBJECTIVES

Upon completion of this chapter, you should be able to

• discuss the current status of the interior foliage plant industry. list problems unique to the interior use of plants.

• describe the role of light duration, quality, and intensity.

• list the characteristics of a good growing medium. describe steps in installation, watering, and drainage.

describe the working relationship between architects, landscape architects, and maintenance professionals.

BACKGROUND AND STATUS UPDATE________________

The use of containerized plants is not new. Evidence of the use of pot­ted plants is found in ancient Chinese artifacts, on the walls of tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs, and in the ruins of Pompeii. Containerized ornamentals adorned the palaces of European nobility for centuries and filled the parlors of middle-class Victorians and Americans more recently. A pot of ivy on the windowsill and a fern in the entry hall have been standards in U. S. homes for many years. The rubber plant enjoyed several years as the reigning houseplant until other species caught the consumers’ favor.

An amateur psychologist can wade deep in conjecture as to the meaning of all this. Historically, such use may represent an attempt to display dominion over nature. In recent years, the use of foliage plants may represent the desire of urbanites to bring back into their lives the greenery lost as our cities and highways have sprawled their paved sur­faces across the landscape.

Potted foliage plants (houseplants) have had their place in homes for many years. Larger specimens are now appearing in shopping cen-

ters, office buildings, hospitals, schools, churches, airports, restaurants, and cocktail lounges. In response to positive public reaction, architects and interior decorators are using plants as architectural elements in buildings. These plants are as important to the decor as the wall cover­ings, furniture, and carpeting.

So explosive has been the demand for interior plantings in public buildings that the technology necessary to ensure the plants’ survival has not always been able to keep pace. Some of the early efforts, her­alded for their aesthetics, became industry horror stories a few months later when lush greenery turned to chlorotic and necrotic stalks. An unsatisfactory outcome is predictable when architects and interior decorators try to work with plant materials whose qualities and mainte­nance requirements are unknown to them.

The demand for maintaining plants indoors has created a new profession within the larger field of ornamental horticulture. The term coined to describe it is interior plantscaping, a variation on the term landscaping. Since plantscaping has a distinctly contrived sound to it, the term may not survive. Interior landscaping may suffice to distin­guish it from exterior landscaping. Semantics aside, the new profession is fresh and exciting, and not overcrowded. For now, the term interior plantscaping will be used to describe the work.

Tropical foliage plants have proved to be the most successful indoor plants because they do not require the period of cool temperature dormancy that often makes temperate zone plants unsatisfactory. We recognize the desirability of such plants in interior design, and there is a sufficient body of knowledge to permit their widespread production in the nurseries and greenhouses of Florida, California, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Latin America. There is far less knowledge of how to move these plants from their natural habitat or production facility to an office lobby, and ensure their successful transplanting and main­tenance. It is not an exaggeration to state that the profession of inte­rior plantscaping is still in its infancy. As a profession, it deals with the design, installation, and maintenance of plants in interior locations. In scope, it includes but reaches far beyond conventional plant selection and production skills.