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Ask the Expert: Plant stylist Natsumi Hayashi on how to build a greener home

By Megan C. Hills 3 March 2023

Header image courtesy of Terada Plants (via Facebook)

In Hong Kong, space is a premium, and making a house feel warm and inviting is a tall order when you have to cram everything into limited space. Interior designers can go a long way to help maximise your space, and Terada Plants ensures you squeeze in your greenery, too.

Interior plant stylist Natsumi Hayashi, born in Hong Kong to a Japanese family, started thinking about the relationship between our space, plants, and our mental well-being after studying interior architecture and behavioural therapy in Melbourne. After moving back to Hong Kong, friends continually asked her for advice on styling plants in their home—as well as how to keep them alive.

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“My friends and colleagues—even my bosses—would start asking me about suitable plants [for their homes]. Some of them actually asked me to style their apartments or their offices,” she says of the days before she set up her company.

“There’s a big gap between what people know about plants and how they want to curate their space. They just don’t know where to start,” she says.

She set up Terada Plants, which runs out of a co-working space where she sticks out like a green thumb amongst the square grids of innumerable laptops. Since launching her company, she’s brought ZZ plants and snake plants to private homes and to the offices of companies such as Native Union, focusing on the relationship between mental health, productivity and greenery all the while.

She shares some tips with us on what to know about styling plants in your home, from plant trends for the year to simply keeping them alive.

Photo: Terada Plants

Consider the aesthetic of your home

As with all great interior design, even plant styling begins with a look at your interior colour palette, according to Hayashi. Certain plants and their pots can complement your style, whether you’re opting for a sleek, all-white minimalism or exuberant boho.

She says, “The first thing I look at is the sunlight requirement, then the colour palette of the space and how big the area is of where the plant can go, so I can choose the right type of plants for that.”

She advises choosing more neutral colours when picking a pot, something that works well with whites, browns, and woods in your home. Concrete pots are also an option, adding a chic industrial feel to a residential flat.

“Sometimes, I do get requests for terracotta pots, which I think is very dependent on the style of the space. So if your home is more bohemian-looking, or if the company’s colours are more towards an orangey-red tone, then I would choose terracotta pots,” she says.

Photo: Terada Plants

Over- and under-watering

According to Hayashi, plants will display “certain symptoms” if their watering requirements aren’t being met. Plants that look “a little flat” compared to normal, with leaves browning at their tips, are typically a sign “they’re not getting enough water.” The solution? Obviously, water it.

On the other hand, overwatering is a little trickier to fix and a common issue with people mistakenly watering their plants every single day. She says, “If they’re getting too much water, then usually the leaves turn yellow on the tips and you can feel the leaves are quite soft. That means being overly hydrated and they’re not absorbing too much water.”

“I usually tell my clients just leave it alone for a couple of weeks, maybe two weeks maximum. Snip off all the like yellowing parts of the leaves, so the plant will understand not to give too much energy to that yellowing [part] trying to fix it. It’s better to snip it off,” she says.

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Photo: Terada Plants

Think before you jump on the balcony garden trend

While growing your own fruits may sound appealing, there are a few things to consider before you set up your mini garden. Hayashi, who has helped clients start thriving balcony and rooftop gardens, says the most crucial things are “definitely space and sunlight.”

“My first question [is] how much sunlight do you get in that area? Because big vegetable gardens do require at least six to eight hours of sunlight. So that’s like, a full day of sunlight,” she says, adding that proper draining was also important.

The types of crops you choose are important too, as well as what time of year you plant them. Hayashi says, “I always make sure that the vegetables or the herbs that [my clients] choose are going to be planted at the right season because you can plant them in the wrong season and they will never grow and they won’t be successful.”

Photo: Terada Plants

Plants for beginners

For those looking to bring feng shui into their home, bamboo is also a great shout “especially if you’re studying or starting a new business.” Money plants, referred to by Hayashi as the “four-leafed clover of the feng shui world,” are also a great choice as they don’t require much sunlight and are fine in office lighting. The plant is associated with good fortune as she explains, “Their leaves look like coins.”

To learn more about Terada Plants, head to their website here.

Megan C. Hills

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