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