Decorating with botanicals – 10 ways to use foliage with feeling

Bring a fresh, summery appeal to your home year round by decorating with botanicals – these are our favorite looks

Decorating with botanicals
(Image credit: Future)

Decorating with botanicals is having something of a fashion moment, and no wonder – the strictures of the pandemic have made us all long to find ways to bring the outdoors in, and to create inspiring, refreshing, colorful schemes inspired by far-off places. 

The quintessential image of paradise, the palm motif, whether in a jaunty leaf repeat, classic toile interpretation or a rich foliage scene, always brings a space to life – so we asked our decorating editor to show just how fabulous decorating with botanicals in your interior design could be.

Decorating with botanicals

For anyone looking for decorating ideas with a bold, yet easy to live with appeal needs to consider decorating with botanicals. More modern than floral room decor, botanicals make for a more-toned down look, too, sticking to mostly green or neutral color palettes. Smaller repeat patterns are suitable for more traditional spaces, while maximalist decor fans will love the more exuberant take on the botanical decor theme. There are many options when decorating with green.

1. Create a feature wall

Classic palm leaf wallpaper with bamboo panelling and lounger

(Image credit: Future / Adrian Briscoe / Olivia Gregory)

Looking for living room feature wall ideas? One wall with a vibrant banana leaf motif wallcovering can be a striking addition to a calm, neutral, contemporary open plan space such as this. With so many floor to ceiling windows it is a lovely way to connect with the outdoors beyond. 

Banana Leaves wallpaper, Mind the Gap (opens in new tab). Phoenix Table, Tom Faulkner (opens in new tab)

2. Create a foliage flourish with fabric

Manuel Canovas fabric

(Image credit: Manuel Canovas)

This striking sketch of luxuriant palms in vibrant greens and blues is always going to be the star of the show. When decorating with botanicals, you can use it in a small but powerful way to punctuate a scheme – as seat covers or curtains. 

Chair and curtain in Malacca in Prairie, Manuel Canovas (opens in new tab). Bespoke chair, Kingcome Sofas (opens in new tab).

3. Bathe a bathroom in botanicals

bathroom with palm print wallpaper, shutters and freestanding bath

(Image credit: Future / Chris Everard / Alyce Taylor)

Looking for traditional bathroom ideas – with a contemporary twist? A palm print is ideal for bringing the feel of a tropical paradise into the bathroom, as shown with this feature wall of trees intertwined with flower blossoms and stems of bamboo. The subtle blush pink tone is both uplifting and relaxing. 

Bamboo Garden wallpaper in Dusky Pink, Linwood (opens in new tab).

4. Take a subtle approach with neutral tones

arte wallpaper

(Image credit: Arte)

If you are looking for neutral room ideas, a subtle way to incorporate the tropical motif, this wallcovering features Greek scenes in a neoclassical style reminiscent of a toile de jouy. The neutral colorway is the perfect backdrop for a calm bedroom scheme, with a gently toning palette of textural linens and natural wood.

Le Mythe wallpaper in Sand, Arte (opens in new tab).

5. Conjure up the tropics with a maximalist scheme

vibrant palm leaf wallpaper with bamboo panelling and lounger

(Image credit: Future / Adrian Briscoe / Olivia Gregory)

Another idea with wallpaper ideas is to use a large-scale leaf just above the dado, with the area below in a complementary contrasting texture or material. The white of the print background and neutrals keep the look fresh and clean. 

Hinson Palm wallpaper in Green, Scalamandré at Turnell & Gigon (opens in new tab)

6. Dish up botanicals in the kitchen

kitchen with dramatic oversize botanical leaf wall mural

(Image credit: Future / Simon Bevan / Claudia Bryant)

Even backsplash ideas for kitchens can be given a botanical treatment. Leaf designs translate beautifully into more unusual palettes – so there's no need to stick with greens if you want a more neutral look. The oversize botanical here in soft pinky browns makes an impact, while its scale allows the space to feel more expansive. 

Garden of Serica wallcovering in Mallow, Anna Glover (opens in new tab). Signature Encaustic Tourmaline flooring, Amtico (opens in new tab).

7. Serve up spring greens for a fresh feel

palm tree wallpaper with patterned cushions on bench

(Image credit: Future / Chris Everard / Sally Conran)

Green room ideas are, of course, really suited to decorating with botanicals. A delicate cartouche motif wallpaper is a classic choice – mixing it with more modern fabrics in green and white keeps the look fresh. 

Rousseau wallpaper in Old Olive, Cole & Son (opens in new tab). Toby’s sofa, William Yeoward (opens in new tab). Cushion fabrics selection from Nile & York at The Fabric Collective (opens in new tab).

8. Create a vintage appeal with pastel shades

miami inspired lounger with palm print fabric and pink chevron flooring and yellow curtain

(Image credit: Future / Damian Russell / Ali Brown)

Joyfully expressive painterly pastels will transport you to a 1950s' hotel terrace. 

Sun chaise, McKinnon and Harris (opens in new tab); cushion in Rainforest Rabble in Sherbet, Linwood. Curtain in Sedona 3927 0135, Casamance (opens in new tab). Impasto wallpaper in Magenta, Designers Guild (opens in new tab). Fairground vinyl flooring, Atrafloor (opens in new tab).

9. Create a retro vibe with dark neutrals

Cole and Son wallpaper

(Image credit: Cole and Son)

Inspired by South Africa’s stunning landscape, this wallcovering depicts the feathery crowns of hoopoes hiding amid lush fronds and foliage. Teamed with sleek furniture and broken up by arched white shutters, the pattern feels rich and intricate without overwhelming the space. 

Hoopoe Leaves wallpaper in Olive, Chartreuse and Fuchsia on Cream, Cole & Son.

10. Conjure up a contemporary appeal with brights

vibrant palm botanical leaf wallpaper in bedroom

(Image credit: Future / Jake Curtis / Melinda Ashton Turner)

For those looking to indulge a love of color and pattern, this whimsical palm design with its deep sunset pinks and fresh greens serves as an exuberant bedroom flourish. Plain bedlinen and minimal decoration keeps the look balanced.

What colors go with botanicals?

Botanicals are usually styled in greens or natural shades, so it is best to pick colors that would naturally complement these colors outdoors – from whites to browns and every spice shade in between. Other greens – whether lighter or darker – will work too, creating a rich, layered look that's bold and inviting.

Is decorating with botanicals on trend?

Decorating with botanicals is really on trend right now – with maximalist motifs becoming more popular than classic florals or smaller repeat patterns as people become more adventurous with their home decor. 

Style Editor

Emma Thomas is the Style Editor at Homes & Gardens and Livingetc magazines, looking after the decorating features. Before joining Homes & Gardens in 2014, Emma worked for over 25 years mainly as a freelance interior stylist and art director producing photo shoots for many editorial titles and commercial clients, including Elle Decoration, Livingetc (she worked on the launch issue back in 1998!), Habitat and The White Company, to name but a few. As well as overseeing and art directing the original photography we produce, Emma also leads on many of the decorating and design ideas and features you see in print and online.