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The Agony Plant Weighs in on How to Style Your Shrubs

AnOther's resident botanical buff offers her expert advice on injecting colour and cohesion into your indoor garden

TextNik Southern PhotographyEmma Hartvig Photographic EditorHolly Hay

Every month, AnOther's dedicated Agony Plant – otherwise known as Nik Southern from London floristry Grace & Thorn – draws upon her extensive expertise to answer your questions and queries about best botanic practice. Today, having weighed up your most-asked questions, she offers some much-needed advice on how best to style your shrubs and seedlings.

Dear Agony Plant,

Last month I went on holiday to Marrakech, and while there visited the incredible Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful, sprawling garden once inhabited by the late Yves Saint Laurent which is filled with plants and pots of all shapes, colours and sizes. After my visit I felt thoroughly inspired, and I've returned determined to make my own houseplants just as chic (or at least as vibrant)! I wondered if you could offer any hot styling tips? 

Thanks so much! 
Charlie L.

Hi Charlie,

I always come back from a holiday bursting with new ideas for plants, and I'm so happy that you and your friends have done the same. You certainly have set your sights high with this one, as the Jardin Majorelle is quite a garden to emulate... "Go hard or go home," as I say – or, in this case, go green, orange, blue and yellow!  I think it's time to get your craft on. Here's how to colour up your indoor garden.

First of all, you need to go out and source a variety of terracotta pots. These can be bought from Grace & Thorn (of course), eBay (which is always great for random shapes), and from most garden centres.

Prep it
Remove any price tags and stickers from your pot by soaking it in a tub of warm water for up to an hour, then scrubbing it with a stiff brush. Allow the pot to dry completely before painting.

Sand it
Lightly sand the outside of the pot with sandpaper, and then wipe the dust away with a clean damp cloth. Leave to dry fully.

Seal it
You can use any waterproof finish for the acrylic sealer, be it matt, satin, or gloss. Spray the inside of the pot with your chosen sealant, leaving it to dry between coats. Two to three coats should do the trick.

Prime it
Hold your can of primer six to eight inches away from the surface of the pot, and apply a light, even coat. You can apply a second coat, if necessary, once the first has dried. Applying a primer will help you achieve a smoother finish and prevent the pot from soaking up any paint.

Paint it
I'm going to recommend an acrylic spray paint here, as I am all for a quick but efficient method! Hold the can six to eight inches away from the pot's surface, and spray on a light, even coat. Allow this coat to dry before applying another. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on the manufacturer's recommendations.

Show it
After you are happy with the colour, get your plants out, and get planting! Check back to our guide to repotting your houseplants for our advice on how best to tackle this. Aim for lots of different plants, varying in shape, texture and height.

I love the Jardin Majorelle's chaotic but cohesive selection: cactus and succulents, cheese plants and palms, desert and jungle plants are all having a great old time together in its diverse grounds. I encourage this varied approach, but remember, take it back to their roots! Desert plants need little water and lots of sun, while jungle plants need more water, love humidity and grow best in the shade.

Good luck, and keep it green! 

The Agony Plant 


NB: Have a burning question about botany? Want to ask the Agony Plant for advice? Tweet or Instagram your query to @anothermag using the hashtag #asktheagonyplant