The bookshelf is a common household piece of furniture to store our much-loved books to read during our downtime. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic and spending more time at home, we’ve all been looking at ways to decorate our homes with more houseplants. If you’re looking to give your bookshelf some more greenery, then I’ve got six versatile plants to give your bookshelf a more decorative punch!
While there is no “best” plant to place on your bookshelf, ideal plants would be ones that thrive under the occasional neglect, indirect sunlight, and minimal watering. Plants on top of the bookshelf have the advantage of height, so cascading plants such as the String of Hearts are an excellent choice. For plants to be placed at the center of the bookshelf, compact plants such as succulents offer green texture to your furniture while occupying minimal space.
Ideal plants for the bookshelf include:
- String of Hearts
- String of Pearls
- English Ivy
This article explains how each of these plants deserves a spot on your bookshelf.
Before You Shop!
With so many different plant varieties and combinations possible, it’s best to experiment with different houseplants that match your bookshelf. However, there are a few commitment considerations before you decide to buy plants for the bookshelf.
Bear in mind that taking care of bookshelf plants requires more effort than outdoor plants. For instance, you’ll need to take the plant out of the pot covering and bring it outside (or sink) for a soak when it comes to watering. You won’t be able to water it on the bookshelf as excess water will flow out of the pot and into your shelf, thus potentially damaging your expensive books!
Also, as humidity is higher indoors than outdoors, there’s a higher risk of plants developing mold in the soil. You’ll need to regularly check your pot to ensure that it’s free from mold and fungus.
Regularly rotating plants
You will need to rotate plants weekly to avoid plants from stretching out (not a pretty sight!). More likely than not, your bookshelf will be placed against the wall. This means that your plants will only be getting light from one side. Your plants will most likely stretch to the direction of the light source unless you rotate it regularly.
Bookshelves are typically placed away from the window. Consider how much light your plant is potentially getting. Ensure that the placement of the bookshelf is somewhere with sufficient lighting. If the bookshelf is placed in a dark corner, I highly recommend moving the bookshelf closer to the window. Otherwise, the chances of your plant dying from insufficient light are highly likely.
Sturdiness of bookshelf
Assess the sturdiness of your bookshelf before placing any plants on it. I once had a cheap and flimsy cubic shelf that was knocked over by my flatmate. Needless to say, this created a mess on my carpet floor. Make sure your bookshelf is solid and sturdy enough before putting any houseplant on it.
What To Look For
Once you’ve considered the above concerns and are ready to shop for some plants, the next question is: What plant should I get?
While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to planting selection for bookshelves, your plant of choice must:
- Thrive under indirect sunlight
- Not require a tremendous amount of effort to maintain
- Be appropriately proportionate to your current bookshelf
Just to expand the last point, you obviously would not choose a plant that is too large or dangerous for your bookshelf. For example, putting a fiddle leaf tree on top of the bookshelf does not make sense as these plants are typically quite big and grow up to 10 feet tall. Not only does it look silly, but it’s also very dangerous if the shelf is accidentally knocked over.
Six Ideal Plants For Your Bookshelf
String of Hearts
The String of Hearts is a beautiful cascading plant that produces small heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are shades of green, purple, red, and cream, which provides a soft splash of color for your bookshelf. This South African native vine goes well against light-colored bookshelves and walls.
The String of Hearts grows between 3 to 9 feet long (0.91m to 2.7m), providing a stunning waterfall effect for your bookshelf. This plant is a popular choice as a hanging plant from the ceiling because it’s light and grows a long trail of soft color without dominating your surrounding decorations. The String of Hearts is a perfect plant for the top of your bookshelf.
As the String of Hearts is easy to propagate, this plant makes it an inexpensive option if you want to reproduce it. This might be ideal if you’re looking to decorate a larger bookshelf without spending too much money.
String of Pearls
The next top plant for your bookshelf is the String of Pearls. Much like the String of Hearts mentioned above, the String of Pearls has bead-like foliage attached to along a string. This trait is one of the reasons why it’s a popular choice to place it on top of a bookshelf.
The String of Pearls is an easy succulent to grow indoors and offers a raindrop effect for your bookshelf. If your bookshelf is positioned near the window where sunlight shines through, the String of Pearls is perfect as it enjoys some direct sunlight.
Like most other succulents, this plant is forgiving of the occasional watering. As a general rule, you should only need to water once a week, depending on the season and sunlight conditions. With correct conditions, your plant will reward you with pretty green raindrops that beautify your bookshelf.
The Pothos, or otherwise known as Devil’s Ivy, is one of my favorite cascading plants because it’s virtually indestructible and takes care of itself. The highlight of this vine is that it grows very in water without the need for soil. This eliminates soil-related issues such as repotting and taking the plant outside for a soak; simply top up the water where necessary.
The Pothos comes in different varieties to match the style and color of your bookshelf. For instance, if you have a dark-colored bookshelf, you might want to opt for the neon pothos. The bright-colored leaves will provide an exciting highlight against the dark coverings.
If you’re looking at filling some space or adding texture to your bookshelf, consider getting an English Ivy. This plant is a familiar sight as coverings for unfilled ground, walls, fences, and anything that looks hollow.
The English Ivy is a vigorous grower, making it a great option if you’re seeking to quickly fill in empty space. This Ivy is ideally placed on top of the bookshelf to allow the leaves to cascade, leaving a curtain exterior protecting your books.
There are many different varieties of Peperomia, many of which have thick and fleshy leaves. What makes the Peperomia such an attractive plant for the bookshelf is that they’re usually compact in size, which is suitable for smaller bookshelves.
Many peperomias can tolerate low humidity levels and infrequently watering, which means you spend less time maintaining the plants and more time actually reading!
My personal favorite is the Watermelon Peperomia that have foliage of green leaves with silver stripes, resembling the skin of a watermelon. As the Peperomia has showy patterns, I like to put them next to my plain books with mostly white coverings.
If you prefer something simpler, you could go for the Raindrop Peperomia that has a tone of darker green. This plant is suitable for a bookshelf that is perhaps more cluttered or ‘busy.’
Succulents are great plants for the bookshelf as they’re petite, compact, and hardy. They tolerate limited watering better than most indoor plants. Take, for example, the cactus. They have thick, hard and fleshy stems that preserve water. This means less time is needed to maintain these plants as decorative ornaments for your bookshelf.
If you’re not sure where to start, try the South African native Haworthia. This is a common indoor houseplant as it grows well in bright indirect sunlight and only requires watering every 2-3 weeks or when the soil dries out. This plant has interesting white spots in stripe-like patterns, adding an interesting texture to your bookshelf without demanding too much attention.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing the best plant for your bookshelf. Just make sure that your bookshelf is sturdy enough to hold houseplants and make your way to the indoor plant section of your closest nursery. Cascading plants are a great option because they take advantage of the high shelves, and succulents are great for bookshelves with tighter spaces.
Have fun decorating your bookshelf!