Using Fireplaces To Display House Plants

Although most fireplaces do not provide the ideal position for house plants, a wonderful temporary display can be created.

Often on a wall without windows and therefore providing a low level of light, fireplaces are usually draughty spots too. Most plants could not put up with these conditions over a long period of time, but will happily survive in a less than ideal spot for around seven or eight weeks. They will then need a week’s holiday in perfect conditions to revive.

Plants can be moved straight from a light to dimmer spot but will need to be moved gradually from less to more light. So give them a period of a few days in a position that is between the two.

The disadvantage of this situation can be turned to advantage as a changing picture can be much more exciting than a static one.Using Fireplaces To Display House Plants

Using just one plant

One beautiful specimen will very effectively fill the black hole of the fireplace and will allow the surround and mantelpiece to form a frame to show it off. A large, low, bushy plant, a sword Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) or Hare’s Foot Fern (Polypodium aureum) for instance would be ideal. Alternatively use a climber, a Cape Grape (Rhoicissus capensis) or Grapy Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) and train it on wire loops, a small trellis or even around the handle of a basket.

Forming a group

A background of darker green plants could show off some small and inexpensive but brightly-coloured flowering plants,

such as Busy Lizzie (Impatiens), Flaming Katy (Kalanchoeblossfeidiana), Primula (Primula obconica) or Geraniums (Pelargoniums). A container of mixed plants could be brought in temporarily from outdoors, like the Geranium and Modwort (Alyssum mart/mum).

The pine fireplace above with its central hanging container shows how the use of a number of different levels for positioning plants creates a most effective arrangement.

Using accessoriesUsing Fireplaces To Display House Plants 2

A mirror used as a fire screen will help to eradicate draughts and create attractive reflected images. In the same arrangement, a collection of green glass is integrated into the design, and two sleeping pottery cats add humour to another arrangement.

Matching style and colour

Each type of fireplace requires different plants and accessories.


The warm colour and rough texture of brick looks best with flowering plants in pink, red, rust or orange. Smooth, shiny copper or brass containers will show off the rough texture.


The softer, creamy colour and smoother finish of stone is a good foil for green plants. Variegated-leaved plants pick out the stone’s colour: Spider Plant (Chlorophyum comosum),

Spotted Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia exotica) or Wax Vine (Senecio macroglosus).


White containers produce a simple country look that shows off stripped wood. Clear yellow flowers mixed with a bright blue Hydrangea (H. macrophylla) or Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus)

would produce a wonderful sunny scene.


Pick out the hints of colour in the marble’s streaks and use for plants and containers.

Using the mantelpiece

Don’t forget the mantelpiece when showing off your plants. Often the shelf width is narrow and therefore only suitable for small plants. One plant on its own will look lost, so form a group.

Integrate the mantelpiece arrangement into the main fireplace display using some trailing varieties with containers to match.

Display Ideas

  • Use a row of identical small plants across the shelf to form a symmetric effect. Mind-Your-Own-Business (Soleirolia solierolii) or Bead Plant (Nertera granadensis) would be good for this.
  • A mirror will give depth to plant arrangements. Check that plants look good from all sides.
  • Position a group of glass containers along the shelf or at one end and grow hydroponic plants.
  • If your mantel shelf is very narrow, hang two baskets on brackets from the wall at each end of the fireplace and use these instead.

Practical tips

  • Have the chimney swept at the end of the winter if using your fireplace for plants. 0 At nightime highlight plants with a low lamp placed behind the arrangement.
  • Plants dry out less quickly in low light areas, so check they really need watering. O Use inverted pots to provide height for plants at the back.

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