While you’ve had your eye on the fiddle leaf fig—which requires a more watchful approach than the everyday succulent—there’s another green beauty climbing to the top of the pile: trailing plants. You’ve seen them out and about, covering the world’s most charming homes or spilling over window sills. But trailing leafy greens, which often grow naturally as groundcover, are here to flourish inside, too.
Perfect for hanging from the ceiling or flowing from a bookshelf, we asked a few experts about these trendy, trailing plants—and how you can bring them home.
Trailing plants can charm whichever nook they’re given; their bright tendrils wrap around stool legs, or reach towards the floor when perched on a bookshelf. It takes time and care to let them flourish, but some are easier for beginners to handle.
“They’ll be trailing in no time,” says Erin Marino, the savvy marketing director at The Sill in NYC, who recommends Philodendrons and Pothos as low-maintenance, fast-growing varietals. “They can handle anything from bright indirect light all the way down to low indirect light, and water about once a week to every two weeks, depending on how much light the plant is receiving,” says Erin. “A good rule of thumb is to only water when the soil is completely dry.”
Thanks to aerial roots, many trailing plants can crawl—but by all means, let them cascade. Particularly in itty-bitty apartments where surfaces are in short supply, dangle a potted variety from the ceiling; as it continues to grow, it will bring a touch of drama to underutilized, overhead space.
Plus, it puts them out of reach. Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff, founders of Urban Jungle Bloggers (a global community of plant lovers), recognize the dual purpose. “Hanging plants from your ceiling (or a hook on the wall) is a fun way to decorate with plants and creates a nice dynamic in the room without taking up precious floor space,” they say. “It can also be a solution to keep your plants from being destroyed by your pets—as long as your furry friends are not too acrobatic, your plants will be safe and your home will look stylish.”
Perhaps you’re afraid of putting holes in your ceiling—or maybe you’re just afraid of heights altogether. Luckily, Ryan Tansey, co-owner of Seattle’s Plant Shop, recommends starting from the ground up.
“Most trailing plants are either hanging or on a shelf, but it’s always nice to do something a little different,” says Tansey. “Take a fast growing plant like a pothos, plant it in a large pot on the floor or down low, and use hooks or nails to guide it up your wall—with some time and coaxing you can get it to climb your wall, frame a doorway or climb a bannister.”
Up and down aren’t the only ways to grow: try across. It takes finesse, but some home-style plant enthusiasts use sturdy vines which can be twisted and patterned across the wall. Who needs a solid fern print wallpaper when there are living, breathing patterns to be made?
Based in Helsinki, Anni of @nomoreplants struck gold: Using painting hooks and double-sided tape (so as not to damage the wall), she guides stems from her potted Golden Pothos—which sits on a floating shelf—through the hooks and across the wall.
No matter how high or low they trail, Kerry Ann McLean, part of URBN’s team at terrain, recommends keeping your display pretty and practical. “It is so obvious but most people overlook it: Hang high the plants you don’t need to water as much—like a succulent—and hang low your thirstiest plants,” she explains.
For trailing plants which can stay high and dry, McLean recommends Senecio, String of Bananas, String of Pearls, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, and Selenicereus anthonyanus. If you have a lower spot, like a stool or table, she suggests Aeschynanthus ‘Black Pagoda,’ Philodendron Micans, or Selaginella Uncinata, as they need to be watered more frequently.
While a single trailing plant can go a long, long way on a bookshelf, they’re often grouped together in voluminous bundles. Place two or three in a cluster, and their leafy tendrils will stream together in one brilliant waterfall. Ask Erin Harding, co-creator of the ever-popular @houseplantclub, and she’ll say that more is, well, more.
“Grouping different hangers together in a corner or on a tree branch creates a fun and eclectic way of displaying plants,” says Harding. “My husband built a hanging shelf as a way of displaying multiple plants at once.”
Some trailing plants take it up a notch. For that, The Sill’s Erin Marino has an alternative suggestion.
“I love the neon variety of pothos—it’s a bright, chartreuse color,” says Marino. “I follow this awesome plant guy out in London named Jamie Song on Instagram (@jamies_jungle), and he has this spectacular Neon Pothos growing up his brick wall behind his couch. Definitely worth checking out.”
While Philodendrons and Pothos are widely available, surprise any interior by going wild. Sophie Lee, founder of London’s Geo-fleur, a botanical styling company, specializes in “weird” plants—unusual varietals still on the fringe.
“People are currently loving monstera adansonii [aka swiss cheese plant] as it’s a great trailing plant, ideally hanging from a geometric brass plant hanger or an improvised macrame plant hanger. It’s slow growing but sometimes shoots out some beautiful leaves that will trail down. One of our favorite hanging plants at Geo-fleur HQ is a scindapsus pictus which has beautiful silver green leaves, that in some light can almost look iridescent.”