Indoor Landscaping with Palms

By Joerg Witticke, Am Eulenberg 13, 06528 Beyernaumburg, Germany
Chamaerops No.49 - published online 04-11-2004

Indoor arrangements with Yucca, Phoenix roebelenii.
Photos by Joerg Witticke

Yes, I’m a landscaper and yes, I also green up the indoors by using the different Ficus on my jobs. But although I’m a palm enthusiast I can’t share the opinion of Tobias Spanner [CHAMAEROPS Editorial issue 46]. The different species of Ficus may be weeds in their tropical habitat; nevertheless, they can also be impressive plants for indoor landscaping, not more or less than the palms I’m using.

It’s true that some indoor landscapers know just a few plants, like Ficus benjaminii, Howea forsteriana (a palm!!!), Schefflera arboricola, Yucca elephantipes and so on. But recent developments in indoor landscaping bring some other plants to light. The trend is to build little landscapes into rooms, especially in hotels and office buildings. These landscapes can have very different characteristics. In the beginning most customers wanted landscapes that replicated tropical rainforest, with plants like Ficus, Dieffenbachia, Monstera, and Philodendron, but also orchids and bromeliads.

But now everybody has indoor landscaping like this and the customers are interested in new things. One of those new things is a desert landscape with cacti and other succulents. This can also make a very impressive picture with monumental flowering cacti in combination with small rocks.

Unfortunately, it is rare to have the chance to create such impressive scenes. The biggest part of my work is just with pots that go in drab rooms like offices. Plants in these situations encounter many problems, the greatest of which is the lack of light. True, you can use artificial light; but, a cheaper method is to use plants that do not require as much light. Many palms, unfortunately, need a lot of light to grow well. Washingtonias are a good example. But there are some palms I use often. One of the best palms for my purposes is Rhapis excelsa. This palm grows everywhere! It can be bright or dark, wet or dry; they are not susceptible to pests and you simply never have problems with this plant.

I also often use different kinds of Chamaedorea. These palms are forest plants and so they need less light for growing. Most of them grow very quickly and can live as a mature plant in a room of normal height. The different kinds of leaves in this genus provide variation and they work well in combination with other plants; but, they are not so resistant against pests.

Last but not least on my list is Howea forsteriana, also a palm with modest requirements. You do need a lot of room for this plant, however, and this is often a problem.

From time to time I have the chance to use plants I like. These are cases when there is enough room, enough light, and most importantly, the customer has enough money to pay for expensive plants and my work. These chances, however, are few and far between. Only the lucky have the chance to create buildings such as the glasshouse at the WFC, or, to take an example in Germany, the Sony-Center in Berlin. To get a job like this is like winning the first prize in a lottery. So far I haven’t won that lottery, so in the meantime I’ll continue to create scenes like those in these pictures.


  21-07-18 - 11:28GMT
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