Underplanting. Can It Be Done With Houseplants and What Plants are Best?

by | Apr 19, 2023 | 0 comments

Underplanting? What is it? Can it be done with houseplants? What plants are best?

When I think of underplanting, I think of annuals under a tree, or ground cover in a landscape. Underplanting is planting plants under a larger plant to add interest. But did you know you can do it with houseplants?

Using houseplants as an underplanting in large containers is a great idea. This practice is seen in botanical gardens but will work in your home, as well. Large houseplants in enormous pots have alot of bare soil showing. Underplanting them can cover the bareness, and soften the edges of the container.

Below are some containers I’ve seen in conservatories.

Underplanting with compatible plants

The most important point, though, is to choose plants that have the same soil and moisture needs. It doesn’t matter what plants you choose, as long as they need the same growing conditions of the other plant. Using a plant that will hang over the side is often the plant chosen. This softens the edge of the container.

Planting pothos or philodendrons under a cactus will result in the death of the cactus. Why? Keeping the pothos or philodendrons well watered will result in the death of the cactus. They don’t want the same moisture or light levels.

The succulent sansevieria (dracaena) and peperomia below work well together. They need the same growing conditions.

underplanting of peperomia

Choose plants that need the same moisture needs as well as lighting needs.

Temporary underplanting

The flowers in the picture below are a temporary addition to this container. I assume that they would change them for the season~ mums in the fall, poinsettias during the holidays.

The Algerian ivy is a permanent part of the planting. What a great idea for a party or dinner party. Adding flowering plants around the bottom of a large planter adds a festive look to the pot.

Palm with underplanting
Palm underplanted

Ground Cover Vs. Underplanting

This fittonia below is at the Belle Isle Conservatory and is a ground cover in the palm house. Though it is still an underplanting, it is in a bed of plants vs. a container.

Fittonias would work well as a groundcover in a container with a larger plant that likes moist soil.

fittonia ground cover
This fittonia is used as an underplanting, but not in a container.

Mixed containers

The container on the left below contains many types of houseplants. This is a mixed container like the annual containers we plant up in the summer.

The planter in the right picture contains a ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ dracaena underplanted with a smaller succulent. There is an obvious difference in these tow types of plantings.

Sago palm in a landscape

I’ve shown you many different plants underplanted with compatible plants. I am going to try planting another plant under my fiddle leaf fig to give it some more interest.

Maybe it will keep Henry the kitty out of the plant. Or maybe he’ll find it more comfortable. What are your thoughts? Have you tried underplanting your large houseplants?


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