An empty atrium greeting guests in an entryway is off-putting and unattractive. Half-dead plants give the appearance you don't care. A lush atrium full of healthy living plants or well-cared-for artificial plants gives the opposite impression. It does require planning and, in the case of live plants, special lighting, but your efforts will be rewarded with a green indoor garden.
Live plants require light, water and good soil. Make sure the atrium has a solid flooring. In the case of atriums on a second story and above, the flooring must be capable of bearing the extra load of pots and heavy soil.
Appropriate plants that require moderate levels of lighting include most houseplants. Corn plants grow to 10 feet tall and make a nice specimen plant. Surround the corn plant with dieffenbachia, which has oval-shaped leaves streaked with white. Schefflera has small leaves grouped on its stems and is a contrast to the straplike leaves of the corn plant and ovals of the dieffenbachia. Finish the atrium with a few plants that cascade, such as pothos or creeping Charlie.
If the atrium is located where the lighting is poor, or where it's a chore to get water to the plants, consider using artificial plants. Choices include small trees such as palm, ficus, citrus or wisteria. Good-quality artificial trees are not inexpensive and may run several hundred dollars. The offset is you only have to buy them once and there's very little upkeep and maintenance. Dust the plants every six months and you're through.
Consider combining artificial and living plants for a tropical garden. A good-quality silk ficus tree with a natural wood trunk looks quite real. Make it the centrepiece of the atrium. Add live orchids, crotons, anthurium and colourful bromeliads. Tuck a few air plants into the crooks of the ficus branches. This arrangement works best in a glass-enclosed atrium where the temperature and humidity can be controlled and kept on the high side.
Cacti and Succulents
If you prefer live plants and can provide adequate lighting, but don't want to bother with lots of watering, fertilising, adjusting the humidity and temperatures, then cacti and succulents are your choice. One large cactus surrounded by a few smaller barrel cactus and spreading succulents such as hens and chicks planted in a gravel base is sophisticated and modern. Spotlight the larger plants to provide extra drama.
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