Imagine a room, empty and uninhabited for years -- you can cut the static stillness with a knife. Then someone places a potted lavender plant on the windowsill, and this lonely space seems infused with life. Followers of the ancient Chinese philosophy of feng shui will say this lavender is more than simply a pleasant window dressing. According to this age-old custom, decorating with houseplants will balance the energy, and create a sense of harmony in every room in the home.
Author and feng shui expert Lillian Too says the Chinese describe good feng shui as "the ideal balance of energies in the home." Plants represent wood, the only one of the five elements - the others are air, water, earth and metal - containing energy, or the life force. Indoors, feng shui is all about the placement of objects, including plants, for the best balancing of energy, or ‘Chi'. And Chi quality depends on the balance of yin and yang energies. Yang refers to masculine, creative energy - the more active life force. Yang's feminine counterpart yin, represents passive, still and reflective energy.
Yin/yang in the bedroom
In most bedrooms, quiet yin overpowers vibrant yang energy. Though all plants are energizing, those with feathery, softer-looking leaves, namely ferns, are more yin and will promote bedroom tranquility. According to Koidu Sulev, feng shui expert with Richter's Herbs, hanging baskets are great harmonizers as they "lift and circulate the plant's energy." A hanging basket inside the bedroom window, or a planter on the windowsill filled with feathery herbs like lavender or woolly lamb's ear will draw serene energy in from the outdoors.
As the activity hub of most homes, the kitchen usually needs little help from what feng shui followers think of as energizing houseplants. But for a kitchen with a lack-luster feel, Koidu recommends plants with broad, full leaves - they radiate with potent yang energy. Try herb plants with larger leaves like basil, sorrel or sage - and the bigger the better. As sun-worshippers, herbs need either a southerly exposure or a grow-light to thrive. Koidu adds, "In a sunless, low-energy kitchen, even a good quality silk plant in a drab corner adds warm, creative energy - more than a real, but wilting, plant.
A balanced living room
From lively entertaining to quiet reading, the living room needs the best balance of calm and active energy. A small water fountain surrounded by an arrangement of feathery and broad-leaved plants will create balanced energy or Chi. In feng shui belief, water feeds wood, and draws energy from nearby plants. Corners, where energy is said to stagnate, are excellent locations for a harmonizing plant-fountain arrangement in the living room.
Feeling like a feng shui skeptic? Try placing a potted cactus on your night table, and don't be surprised when you sleep fitfully. According to feng shui, prickly cacti release negative energy and bad luck. Replace that cactus with a feathery fern, and say hello to sweet dreams.