Hilton Carter's Best Tips for Styling a Home with Plants

Step into the wild world of stylist Hilton Carter, and take home his ideas for designing an oasis where the indoors and outdoors meet.

Frank the Fig started it all.After moving to New Orleans as a filmmaker, Hilton Carter walked into a local plant shop in search of a tree for his new home. He left with a bushy fiddleleaf fig, which he lovingly dubbed "Frank." Carter's first houseplant blended style and function; the organic element would bring his bare apartment to life while also serving as a natural screen from the bustling streets of the French Quarter outside. A single plant soon became two, and by the time he moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, Carter had collected 60 (all of which made the trip).

Hilton Carter at home in Baltimore, MD with his houseplants
Gabriela Herman

Frank and his leafy comrades had brought more than just greenery into their owner's space. Through caring for them and studying their individual nuances, Carter had learned more about himself too. "While tending to these plants, I found joy in seeing the positivity of new growth. Due to that excitement, the people around me reaped the benefit of a happier Hilton. I was also learning how to be a bit more patient with and aware of the people around me through nurturing these living things," he recalls. While setting down roots in Baltimore, Carter sowed a side hustle that combined his passions for houseplants and interior styling. He started posting photos of ferns, fiddleleaf figs, philodendrons, and more specimens alongside practical care tips on Instagram (@hiltoncarter), which caught the attention of the plant-loving community. Carter's hobby soon blossomed into a full-blown career—he has now published three books (Wild at Home, Wild Creations, and Wild Interiors,) launched a limited-time product line at Target, and hosted a show on the Magnolia Network.

Carter (whose personal plant collection has expanded to include several hundred) likes to offer this piece of advice: "Happier plant, happier you." He explains, "It's not just about having plants. When you care for them and see that they're doing well, you'll receive that joy." Here, Carter shares tips for creating a stylish space with flourishing plants, plus his top picks for novices.

Personal Growth

Carter's number one tip? Patience. "The more plants you bring in, the more difficult it's going to be to properly manage them," he says. Once you've found the right amount of light and water, taking the time to tend to each individual houseplant will help it thrive. "Plants can transform the look and feel of your house, but they also need the care and love you'd provide any other living thing. When you get it right, you'll reap the true benefits of having them in your life," he says. Overwatering is a common mistake made by beginners. To avoid harm, Carter recommends using a moisture meter to check the dryness of each pot's soil before watering again.

Hilton Carter Pruning his Ponytail Palm Plant
Gabriela Herman

Ground Control

Maintaining healthy plants starts at the bottom. Carter's picks (below) prefer fast-drying, well-aerated soil. For 'Marble Queen' pothos and Chinese evergreen, he uses a ratio of 80% potting mix and 20% perlite. To grow the ponytail palm, ZZ plant, and snake plant, he mixes 20% perlite, 10% sand, and 70% potting mix. For a more standard soil, these three options can also be planted in cactus or succulent mix (sold in bags at garden shops or nurseries).

Pretty Houseplants That Are Hard To Kill

Bring the look of Carter's organic interiors into your home with five low-maintenance options

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Snake Plant

Spider Plant
Gabriela Herman; Styling: Hilton Carter

Lots of water not required. Allow it to stay completely dry for two to three weeks before watering again; use a moisture meter to check the soil. Put a snake plant in bright indirect sun to encourage new growth; place in a low-light corner of your home to maintain its look.

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'Marble Queen' Pothos

‘Marble Queen’ Pothos
Gabriela Herman; Styling: Hilton Carter

Place this plant in medium light so the foliage continues developing its off-white mottled look. Water once the soil is dry according to a moisture meter. "A 'Marble Queen' pothos talks to you about its need for moisture. If it wants to say it's dry, the foliage will curl up," says Carter.

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Ponytail Palm

Ponytail Palm
Gabriela Herman; Styling: Hilton Carter

Be prepared: This plant requires a lot of light to thrive, so set it in a spot with bright indirect light or direct sun. Rotating it regularly is important for balanced foliage and growth. Once the soil is completely dry, let it sit that way for two to three weeks before watering again.

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Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen
Gabriela Herman; Styling: Hilton Carter

Since it's prone to getting overwatered, use a moisture meter to gauge the status of the soil. A Chinese evergreen needs a drink as soon as the soil is dry. If you see the leaves start to faint, water right away. It tolerates low light, but for new growth, set it in medium-to-bright direct sun.

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ZZ Plant

ZZ Plant
Gabriela Herman; Styling: Hilton Carter

Tolerates low light and infrequent watering. Let the soil stay dry for two to three weeks (measuring with a moisture meter) before giving it another drink. "It's important to rotate your ZZ plant every few weeks," adds Carter, who says this helps the thick stems grow upright.

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