Interiors: At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond and Kara O'Reilly will get you started caring for stress-busting indoor plants

Laura Ivill
Indoor plants in action

For me, indoor plants are key to bringing another energy and life to a space,” says Tara Bernerd, one of the world’s most in-demand interior designers.

“The greens add bold colour and the textures add an emotion that anything man-made can’t achieve.” No wonder they are everywhere around town – The Ivy has even created a full-on conservatory on Old Broad Street to rival the Palm House at Kew.

The virtues of potted plants are legion. Plants take in nasties, including VOCs found in paints and furnishings, and give out oxygen as they photosynthesise, refreshing the air. Herbs, such as basil, parsley and lavender give off subtle aromatics. The health benefits of surrounding ourselves in nature are well established, and when we have to abandon the outdoors as the nights draw in, our indoor gardens are going strong.

At Home with Plants

You can do no better than using them as a focal point on entering a room, like an artwork or a living sculpture. The first thing your guests will see is a well-cared-for, flourishing, growing thing, stylishly potted, of course, that enhances your home. Think how this subtly communicates to your guest (or your date) how good you are at looking after things!

Even if you are a beginner, there are simple ways to success. Arming yourself with the beautifully produced new book At Home with Plants by the interior landscape designer and Chelsea gold medalist Ian Drummond and interiors writer Kara O'Reilly is a good start. Together their fully illustrated hardback is an easy step-by-step guide to everything you need to know to ensure long-lasting success.

It is all breezily contemporary and easy to follow, with every plant named, where to use it, how to care for it and how to design with it, all interspersed with tips and tricks, including how to find a plant specialist who’ll know which ones are harmful to pets if eaten.

If you are designing a room from scratch, you have the advantage of integrating your plants from the get-go, but otherwise you just need to make sure they have enough light. Plants and natural light are best friends, although, some (such as ferns) do well in a shady bathroom.

Think about single statement plants as architectural features. Not only are they an investment, they also demand a beautiful pot as a focal point of your room scheme. For small to medium plants there are three modern, easy-to-master design techniques that scream “finesse”: groupings (use similar tones of plants or similar-style containers), symmetry (place either side of a fireplace, say) and repetition (such as rows of alternating succulents).

Make watering, cleaning and pruning your plants a new mindful pastime. As Tara Bernerd says, there’s nothing else quite like them.

At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond & Kara O'Reilly is published by Mitchell Beazley, £20 (

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