What Is Texture?
Texture plays a very important role in our life, it impacts our mood and gives the illusion of depth and space. We associate textures with the way that things look or feel.
From sofas, the beds in our home to every single part in our garden including trees, leaves, and grass, whether we notice it or not, we are surrounded by texture.
By combining a degree of plant texture in a landscape, your home or garden design will be engaging and save you a lot of money on art.
“Texture and foliage keep a garden interesting through the season. Flowers are just moments of gratification.” – Kevin Doyle
Why do plants have different textures?
Though on the surface it appears as art, actually plants have developed textures over millions of years to survive. For example, a rough-looking leaf has more surface area and therefore can absorb more light. While smooth glossy leaves, that often grow in hot or windy environments, are more adapted to retain moisture. So yes, plant textures are not for show, they are actually quite handy.
What Are The 3 Main Plant Textures?
Interestingly, that there are so many reasons that can make up a plant’s texture, such as the plant size, shape, and leaf surface. Plants can be grouped into three main textures:
- Fine texture – Fine textured plants have thin and light-looking foliage. This includes garden plants with thin stems and fluffy leaf textures. Also leaves with white or another color in the margins and plants that are shiny and reflect lots of light can appear fine textured too.
- Coarse texture – This describes plants with large foliage. Due to the larger size of their leaves, stems, and branches, coarse textured plants are very eye catching and can provide a great backdrop for finer textured plants.
- Medium texture – Medium texture describes foliage that is larger than fine but not as large as coarse. Plants with medium sized leaves and stems are usually smooth and rounded. Most plants fit into this category
*Ornamental grasses and ferns would be an example of a fine or medium fine plant texture
When decorating with plant texture, a balance of 33% fine, and 66% coarse and medium textures is ideal. But how you use these textures is largely up to your artistic style. Anything is possible!
“Don’t worry about perfection. Nature doesn’t grow in straight lines.” – Lisa Lubell
Let’s find out more about how plants with texture could turn your garden and your home into a textured and remarkable place.
1. How To Use Fine Texture Plants
Fine-textured plants usually have small, delicate foliage; strappy, small leaves; tall, thin stems, and delicate flowers. They have a light and fluffy feel and create an illusion of filling space. Ornamental grasses are typical fine-textured plants.
Placing this texture in the house can help small spaces seem bigger. Fine, feathery, and small textures can be used to accentuate the form and color of other plants as well.
Here are some fine-textured plants that can light up your sweet home.
Best fine texture plants
1. Summer sparkles (Gypsophila)
Summer Sparkles is a compact gypsophila, also known as Baby’s breath. They can grow around 40cm in height with a 100cm spread, forming branched, rounded clumps with thin long stems. They are full sun plants and bloom around early summer to late summer.
With the habit of creating profuse blooms and clusters of densely white/pink flowers, they will add more texture to your bland, dull balcony. They go really well with almost every other plant, so growing them alone or using them in an arrangement is perfectly beautiful.
2. Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus)
The Asparagus Fern, which can grow up to 100cm in height, is a wonderful botanical that is easy to grow. They’re not actually ferns, but members of the lily family. The reason why people call them ferns is because of the way their foliage grows, arching delightfully to look like the leaves of a fern.
They love bright but direct sunshine and don’t forget to give them some water, humidity keeps them green and healthy. Asparagus Fern is a lovely way to get texture in the garden and with very fine leaves, they can bring out an elegant and relaxing feeling for your home.
Be sure to check out how to grow them!
3. Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegan)
The parlour palm is one of the most popular houseplants. Growing to around 180cm in height with a 90cm spread, it forms thin stems and feathery leaves with a fresh green color. The parlour palm creates a charming and delicate form with an airy overall texture.
Although they are famous because of their looks, people also know them from NASA’s list of “50 Indoor plants that clean the air”, which highlighted their air-improving ability. Unlike some other plants, parlour palm is an easy-going one. They can survive in low light conditions but no light at all is not healthy for them.
Place a couple of parlour palm pots in the house and your bland corners will be absolutely jazzed.
4. Hens and chicks (Sempervivums)
Hens and chicks are beautiful plants, also called Liveforever. There are around 40 species of these flowering plants, growing up to 12cm in height and 30cm wide. They are very low-maintenance and super easy to grow.
Known as highly aesthetic plants, they have a really cool texture. The way their leaves are set up means they look like wonderful lotuses on land. If you’re looking for a plant that can bring out a relaxing and calming vibe for your home, then Hens and Chicks are perfect for that.
*Honorable mention: Mexican feather grass ( Nassella tenuissima )
2. How To Use Medium Texture Plants
Medium-textured plants are the most common plant type. Different from fine texture, medium textured plants have bigger foliage and branches, their medium-sized leaves normally arching into simpler shapes with smoother edges.
The structure and size of their leaves are dissimilar to fine-textured plants. With medium-sized foliage, it allows them to create a cozy feeling. Interestingly, if you place them alone, they will help to reduce empty space; but if you mix them with plants that have a fine plant texture, your home or landscapes will appear to have more room. That’s why they work very well as background plants.
As we mentioned, most plants are medium textured, but have a quick look at our plant recommendations below for some beautiful medium-textured plants that will refresh your home and add interest to your garden design.
Best medium texture plants
Pothos or Devil’s Ivy is a type of vine plant. The reason why people call them the Devil’s Ivy is because they can survive even in the worst conditions, survive sustained neglect, and use other plants as a support to grow. This enables the plant to reach sunlight with a minimum investment of energy.
Even though their characteristics of covering large areas of trailing vines can be overwhelming if planted outdoors, they do great for growing inside and delivering beautiful
Pothos has pretty, heart-shaped foliage, and they look fabulous in any room; you can hang them up or let them sit on top of the fireplace. They love bright, indirect light, but room light or even deeper shade will also be fine for them.
2. Peperomia caperata (Variegated)
Unlike other green plants, Peperomia caperata variegated has very nice and unique coats on its leaves. They are bushy plants, with thick stems and glossy, cupped, heart-shaped leaves, growing up to 25 – 30 cm in height; easy to grow and don’t need to constantly take care of. The interesting part comes from their multiple shades of olive, envy green, and cream white/yellow color. Their merry appearance will look right on any spot of your house, place them by the bookshelves or on your desks to create colorful environments.
3. ZZ plant
ZZ Plant is a beautiful plant with shiny medium-sized leaves, and thick evergreen foliage; growing up to 30-60 cm in height. They are very easy to grow, accept a fair amount of neglect, and can also grow with a lack of water and low light levels.
They look good in almost any location in your house, their upright stems with glossy oval leaves can easily brighten up your bland corner; they can also clean the air in your home too. But like several house plants, they are mildly toxic if ingested. To keep it safe, keep them away from children and pets.
3. How To Use Coarse Texture Plants
We identify plants with coarse texture by their thick stems or branches and large leaves with irregular edges. Different from fine texture and medium texture, coarse plants bring out a rough and bold feeling; because of their characteristics, they are very visible and tend to catch the eye. Coarse-textured plants can provide a highlight for your house and they look good in virtually any location.
Here are some suggestions for coarse-textured plants that will make your home become a fun and interesting place, with coarse texture contrast!
Best coarse texture plants
1. Cast iron plant
Cast Iron plant is a popular indoor plant. They have thin stems that grow up to 60cm in height and elongated forming leaves. Being low maintenance, a fair amount of neglect is acceptable for them.
Moreover, their charming appearance is almost perfect for every corner of your house; regardless of where you place them. By the door, by the sofa, or in the bathroom, they still bring out a fresh and peaceful vibe.
The combination of deep green colors, dense and luscious foliage, and their low effort requirements has turned them into a must-have plant for interiorscape gardeners looking for a textured landscape garden design.
2. Chinese fan palms
Chinese fan palm is one of the most popular indoor palms. It’s a lovely little plant with foliage that looks like a large and fancy hand fan with ridges running down the leaves to become feathery at the end, therefore, running the gamut from coarse-textured to medium and fine-feathered tips.
Though Chinese fan palms grow to 30 feet in height when cultivated outdoors, their slow-growing nature means they can be used to decorate interiors for many years with a little pruning before retiring to the yard.
Plants like the Chinese fan palm have a coarse texture that boldly draws attention and enough complexity to keep that attention. Place a Chinese fan palm center stage in your garden or room to create a display that is more like art than just an ordinary garden plant.
3. Philodendron lacerum
Philodendron Lacerum has always been a wonderful houseplant for decades. Coming from a climbing genus, they stand out with their dramatic large leaves with irregular edges, they are also low maintenance and easy to grow.
Plus, they have the kind of incredible glossy green color only found in tropical rainforests. With an untrimmed max height of 70 feet, Philodendron Lacerum is well known in the landscape and interior design world for its tall stature. Their coarse frilly leaf textures are perfect to decorate with in large rooms or hallways or anywhere that can carry their size.
4. Hydrangea macrophylla
Hydrangea Macrophylla is a charming shrub, which is known for its big leaves and rounded flower clusters (Mopheads) or (Lacecaps) with flat flower clusters. They are not so difficult to grow and can reach 200cm in height with a 250cm spread.
Suitable to place in wide rooms or outside in any garden landscape with enough sunlight and moisture, they pack a punch when it comes to contrast and colorful textures. Plus, the element that affects their flower color is the pH of the soil which you are totally capable to adjust.
Hydrangea Macrophylla is the most beautiful around spring-summer. If you’re a summer lover then this is the plant that you can’t miss- its beauty will turn your home or garden into a remarkable and dreamy place.
5. Prickly pear
Prickly Pear is a plant with distinctive looks, comes from the desert so they demand very low maintenance, survive in extremely rough conditions, and grow to around 50cm in height. They have classic spines and flattened, fleshy, oval-shaped leaves in a dark green olive color that sprout beautiful fruit-like flowers.
Having a unique appearance, Prickly pear is pretty popular in home and garden design. They are perfect for any spot in your house, but people normally place them in the living room or garden to create a desert landscape
Bonus: Leaf textures
Texture is one of the leaf qualities used to identify plants, but it plays an even bigger role in garden design. Leaves can be leathery, hairy, smooth, or shiny, and their texture can provide a lot of variation to a flower arrangement or a garden bed.
Botanists have created a collection of words to characterize the different textures of leaf surfaces. The purpose is to learn about some of the many textures that leaves can have. Knowing about some of the leaf texture variations may spark your interest in finding out more.
Here are some common terms:
1. Without hairs:
- Glabrous: smooth, not hairy
- Coriaceous: leather-like
- Rugose: deeply creased with distinct veins
- Farinose: mealy, with a covering of waxy, whitish powder
- Glaucous: having a whitish or bluish waxy covering
- Glutinous: sticky
- Scabrose: rough like sandpaper
2. With hairs:
- Pubescent: having hairs
- Arachnoid: having fine, entangled hairs like a cobweb
- Downy: having very short, weak, and soft hairs
- Tomentose: having matted, wooly hairs
- Hirsute: having coarse, stiff hairs
- Hispid: rough with bristles, stiff hairs, or minute prickles
- Floccose: having flocks of soft, wooly hairs that tend to rub off
- Stellate: having star-shaped hairs
Touching the leaves allows you to appreciate the varied textures and contrasts between them. This feature of leaves is especially significant to the visually impaired, but learning to appreciate foliage with more than just the eyes can be beneficial to everyone.
The start of your plant texture experiments
Using plant texture helps a lot in home design and garden design. When considering your design theme, don’t hesitate to mix and match plants together. The right plant texture can create a wonderful appearance, enhance your mood, and make your landscape engaging.
Don’t forget that planters also play a key role in beautifying homes and gardens. Check out our tips on planter color, arrangement, and landscaping to make your garden eye-catching!
For more home decorating tips, check out our full guide on interior design. Or if you have all the inspiration you need and just need a planter, then we have the best!