10 Cool Flowers and Foliage for Modern Spaces

Match the plant to the feeling you want to evoke, be it fun, rustic, tropical or romantic

By Laura Gaskill  / Courtesy of Houzz.com

Beyond furniture and decor, there’s one thing that can really bring a room to life: fresh cut flowers. Flowers (and foliage) exude personality, so the plants you choose can help emphasize the style of your space. Take a mini-tour of 10 blooms and branches that will give stylish spaces that finishing touch.

1. Craspedia. Also known as billy buttons, these cute little summer-blooming, ball-shaped yellow flowers are native to Australia and New Zealand, and are typically available year-round at florists. The stems are stiff and leafless, making them especially easy to work with.

Style: Fresh, clean, modern, minimalist.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.14.41 PM.png

How to use: Their small stature and simple shape make them ideal for arranging in a cluster of bud vases or grouping multiple stems in a sculptural vase. They also add a fun element to mixed bouquets.

2. Anemone. These elegant blooms are available in late winter and early spring. Anemones come in many varieties, but the floral design darling has a black center and white petals.

Style: Elegant, classic, romantic, fashion-forward.

How to use: These flowers are best appreciated up close. Try placing small bunches in cream pitchers or vases to decorate your dining table or nightstand.

3. Cotton. Yes, you read that right — natural cotton stems are enjoying a bit of a moment. Most often found dried, either through a florist or craft store, the soft, fluffy cotton ball-adorned branches make an unexpected and long-lasting arrangement.

Style: Casual, farmhouse, natural.

How to use: Display them on their own or use them to adorn a wreath. Dried cotton stems can last a year or more.

4. Protea. If these huge blooms (some can be 12 inches across) look sort of prehistoric to you, you’d be correct — fossil records show members of the Proteaceae family dating back to at least the Cretaceous period, more than 66 million years ago. These striking plants are native to the Southern Hemisphere but can be found at florists year-round.

Style: Tropical, modern, organic.

How to use: Proteas are scene stealers, so let them have the spotlight. Left on long stems, they can hold their own in a hefty vase on the floor. Or call attention to smaller kinds of proteas by cutting the stems short and placing one or two blooms in a bud vase on the dining table.

5. Thistle. In season from summer through fall, these spiky blue or purple blooms have an untamed, wild look. There are many varieties, from small globe-shaped blue thistles to artichokes left to bloom (yes, they’re a kind of thistle), as well as other plants that aren’t true thistles but are known as them (like Eryngium, or sea holly).

Style: Rustic, natural, elegant.

How to use: These striking blooms work well on their own, tucked into a small square vase. Or mix thistles in a cool-color bouquet with white anemones, silvery dusty miller and blue viburnum berries.

6. Olive. These Mediterranean branches have a lovely shape and beautiful silver-green hue. Olive branches are available year-round from florists — or simply snip some outdoors if you or someone you know has a tree.

Style: Relaxed, farmhouse, elegant, natural, simple.

How to use: Cut one or more olive branches and place them in a large glass vessel, such as a jug or demijohn.

7. Eucalyptus. Decked with silver-green leaves, eucalyptus branches are fragrant and especially long-lasting. They also dry beautifully: Simply tie a bundle with twine and hang upside down in a dry, well-ventilated place.

Style: Fresh, organic, modern, clean, natural.

How to use: Keeping it simple is best: Put a cluster of eucalyptus branches in a tall vase. For an aromatic addition to the shower, hang a bundle upside down from your shower head.

8. Split-leaf philodendron. Leaves trimmed from a split-leaf philodendron, usually grown as a potted plant, also make an unusual and long-lasting display.

Style: Modern, tropical, dramatic.

How to use: Find split-leaf philodendron leaves at a florist or cut a few from your own plant. One or two large leaves are all you need to make a statement.

9. Cherry blossom. Cherry trees produce prolific sweet-scented blooms in the spring. Some varieties are pink, while others are white or white with a pink tinge.  

Style: Elegant, romantic, fresh.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.19.04 PM.png

How to use: Spring branches are all about height, so choose a vase that’s tall and heavy enough to contain them without trimming too much. Set it on a console table in the entryway or place an oversize vessel filled with cherry blossoms directly on the floor.

10. Allium. A member of the onion family, alliums have big globe-shaped flowers atop long, thick stems. Purple is the most common color, but these spring and summer bloomers also come in shades of pink, white and yellow. 

Style: Modern, feminine, elegant, fun, fresh.

How to use: Allium’s sculptural blooms look best on their own in simple glass vessels. Try lining up tall vases down the center of your dining table and plunk an allium or two in each.