Using Figures For Houseplant Displays

Consider the colour, material and style of a figure when building up a plant group around it. Achieving balance in size and shape and picking the right position are also important considerations.

Deciding on size

Generally speaking, plants and figures need to be of a similar size. There are of course always exceptions to every rule: a small wild animal sculpture could be used very effectively just peeping out of the front of a large plant group and a life-sized figure in a corner could have just a few feathery ferns at his feet.

Using Figures For Houseplant DisplaysWorking out balance

A figure does not have to be centrally positioned in a group; it can often be just as successfully placed to one side or even placed apart from the plant group, yet arranged to be viewed as an integral part of it. Delicate items can be blended with plant leaves that are similarly small and delicate, such as Maidenhair or Asparagus Fern. Alternatively their delicacy can be highlighted by adding them to larger, dark- and shiny-leafed plants.

A humorous look, too, can be achieved. Arrange one or two ‘balls’ of Mind Your Own Business with a china figure of a cat or add papier mache figures of parrots and other exotic birds to a foliage group.

Picking a site

The size of the figure will, to some extent, govern where you decide to put it. Larger, life-sized shapes are usually best placed on the floor and in a position where they form a view — at the end of a hall, on the turn of the stairs, by a doorway or window or in a corner. The surrounding colour scheme is important too, the texture of plants and figure will usually be shown off best against a plain background.

Small figures are best viewed closer to eye level, on a shelf or table top. A collection of figures on a shelf could be arranged against a backcloth of greenery or interspersed with plants of a similar size.

Outdoor sculpture

Most of us don’t have the money or the space to incorporate great works of art with our outdoor plants, but even the smallest space can gain from the addition of a figure, strategically placed, or simply introduced for fun.

A figure looks best if it is in harmony with its surrounding. A small pond on the patio can become much more interesting when a figure is added, but this could equally well be part of a plant group.

When deciding on a position, check the view from indoors as well as outside before picking the final spot. The figure can create a focal point, as when seen through an arch for instance, or can he placed to extend a curve made by a group of pots or the garden path. But generally, a large figure needs space and a small area requires something less obtrusive.

A surprise element can be introduced by a stone frog at the side of the pond, a crouching cat that leaves the birds unmolested or a stone stork to protect the fish.

Bear in mind that figures placed in groups on the patio will he subjected to the elements so expect a hit of ‘weathering’ — or don’t use them outside.

China figures

Simple white human and animal figures lend themselves to being included with a group of green plants. The addition of one white flowering plant would provide a link, or white plant pots can do this.

Carved wood

Ethnic figures, both human and animal, ask for a plant background in keeping with their origin. African animals could be provided with a ‘jungle’ background of tropical plants, including ferns. South American figures might be grouped with cacti, succulents, air-plants or bromeliads.

Stone and cast concrete

Garden figures don’t have to be left in the cold. A floor-standing plant display in a hall or living room can be enhanced by the addition of a figure.


Small brass and copper sculptures can be very effective as part of a tabletop plant display. Emphasize their warm, golden colours in the flowers or leaves of the plants you choose — Painted Nettle, Croton or golden Chrysanthemums. With silver, use white flowers and grey or cream variegated-leaf plants such as Painted Lady, Rosary Vine or Chinese Jade Plant.

Garden gnomes

Old gnomes are now becoming collectors’ pieces worth thousands of pounds. Although the side of a pond is their traditional site, gnomes can be effectively included with a group of pots on the patio, or even indoors. Gnomes provide a sense of fun and beg to be used with humour, wherever they are placed.

Buying figures

Garden centres usually have a range of stone, cast concrete or pottery figures suitable for gardens and conservatories which could equally well be used indoors.

Holidays provide an ideal opportunity for obtaining figures in styles and materials of the country visited. Use with plants and colours reminiscent of the area.

China and pottery wild animal and bird figures are widely available. These are usually wonderfully life-like and could be added at the front of the plant group or could be grouped with other plants that echo their colours and shapes.

Junk shops and market stalls can also turn up unusual old figures that may need a little renovation or can, by strategic placing, have damaged sections hidden from view.

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