Atriums suit tropical, desert and Mediterranean designs.

How to Plant Your Atrium

by Jenny Green

Free from the ravages of wind, rain and scorching sun, atriums are gardens within the home where kids can play on rainy days, or moms can escape to for some quiet puttering around. Atriums can house a range of plants that wouldn't survive outside, such as tropical and subtropical species with lush foliage and exotic flowers. Include plants that give variety, color and height in your indoor garden, and plant them in planters to give the illusion of garden beds.

1. Planting

Large planters filled with compost and gravel help maintain a garden appearance in atriums, and a humid atmosphere suitable for many tropical plants. Fill planters large enough to hold your plant containers with a half and half mixture of compost and gravel, and push the containers into it, filling in any gaps with additional mixture. When watered, this provides a humid atmosphere around the plants, and allows for easy adjustments to your planting design. Use planters with drainage holes on waterproof tiling to help avoid over-watering. You can check moisture levels by plunging your hand to the bottom of the planter. Always use containers with drainage holes and water plants individually.

2. Color

Protected from the elements, flowers can bloom unspoiled in atriums. Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) lends a tropical accent with its unusual spiked blue and orange flowers resembling birds' heads. Suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, this evergreen perennial grows in clumps of stiff leaves 3 to 4 feet tall. New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) is another colorful plant suitable for bright indoor gardens, providing prolific flowers in a range of shades including lavender, pink, orange, white and red. New Guinea impatiens grows in USDA zones 10 through 12 and grows 1 1/2 to 4 feet tall and 1 1/2 to 3 feet wide.

3. Height

Cloaking atrium walls with vines and tall plants helps create the illusion of a garden background. Asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus), hardy in USDA zones 9 through 12, climbs 10 to 20 feet and bears ferny, feathery sprays of bright green leaves, and small white summer flowers followed by deep purple berries. Hardy bamboo palm (Chamaedorea microspadix) grows 4 to 6 feet tall as a houseplant, and bears 2-foot-long leaves. Suitable for USDA zones 8 through 11, this palm grows well in bright, filtered light indoors.

4. Foliage

Foliage plants form a textured canvas in atriums, highlighting bright flower color. Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) bears 18-inch, fiddle-shaped, dark green leaves and grows well in bright indoor light. Hardy in USDA zones 10 through 12, this evergreen grows 2 to 10 feet tall in a container. Zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa) is another lush foliage plant, bearing striking white-veined, deep green leaves. In its native Brazil it can grow 6 feet tall, but is usually pruned to 12 to 18 inches tall when grown in a container. Zebra plant grows in USDA zones 11 through 12.

Photo Credits

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