Secrets of a plant stylist – How to style the top of the pot

Home » Moata Tamaira » Secrets of a plant stylist – How to style the top of the pot

1 October 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Instagram star Hilton Carter lives surrounded by hundreds of plants, and his new book includes tips about how to display indoor greenery and keep it healthy.

With the plant being the star of the show and the planter being the outfit (the dress if you will) that your plant is wearing, sometimes you want to add a little bling to pull it all together. I mean, come on, if you’re going to name your plant, you might as well make sure it looks good. In this case, covering the top of the soil can make your plant stand out, but it can also help your plant survive.

It’s all about being creative, while also considering the type of plant you’re working with and the individual the plant is for. You could use Lego bricks or marbles for kids, or for someone more spiritual, you could consider using crystals.


Using stones to style the top of a pot is a classic look. I’m sure you’ve seen this done but possibly haven’t given it a shot yourself. If not, you should! Especially if you have desert plants like cacti, succulents or snake plants. One reason is that it just looks good. For the most part, these plants grow vertically, exposing the soil, so why not just enhance their look by dressing the top of the soil with something more appealing. Another reason it works with desert plants is because they require less water than other house plants, so while you’ll want to check the moisture level of the soil before watering, with a desert plant, given that you won’t be watering it often, you’ll never have to worry about getting your finger through those stones in order to check the soil. Overall, it’s a really great look that makes your desert plants stand out and brings in that extra touch of the outdoors.

a windowsill with a collection of succulents and plants


Not only does moss help to make your terrariums look amazing, using reindeer moss, sphagnum moss and sheet moss to dress the top of your pot can do the same for your potted plants. In the case of mosses, I’d recommended only doing this for plants that like their soil to be evenly moist between waterings. The reason I say this is because the moss will help retain the moisture that you’ve given your plant, and this isn’t something you’d want for a plant that likes its soil to dry out. Adding moss is a simple and fast way to bring a little more green into your home, but it doesn’t mean you have to make it look simple. Because moss comes in so many different colors and looks, you can get creative in the way you style it.

a black and white pot with mossy plants

Old terracotta pots

If you have cats, you might have memories of when your fur friends got a little too excited and knocked over one of your plants. That has definitely been the case in our household. There have also been times when a plant’s roots grow through the drainage hole, and the only way to repot the plant without damaging the roots is to break the pot. In a situation like that, instead of tossing that terracotta pot in the trash, I’ll wash out the broken pot to clean it up and then take a hammer to break it into smaller pieces. It’s these pieces that I’ll use to decorate the top of my planters. Terracotta is porous, so it’ll pull moisture away from the soil. For that reason, I only use it for the containers of plants that like their soil to become dry between watering. This is a really cool way to upcycle your broken pots, while also providing your plant with a fresh look.

Lastly, another great reason why you should dress the top of the pot is if you have a pet that likes digging into soil or using it as a toilet – not only will you have a beautifully styled plant, you won’t have soil all over your floors or a dying plant in your home.Be a bug sleuth

The one thing that you can almost guarantee when bringing plants into your home is that at some point you will see a bug or two. That’s just a part of “bringing the outdoors in”. It’s like wearing white and being surprised that you got a stain on it. One begets the other. When it comes to plants and bugs, it’s kind of like that. Some bugs are destructive to the life of your plants, while others are just an annoyance. That’s probably why the number one question I get from most plant lovers is how to deal with bugs. My hope is to try my best to get on top of the issue before it becomes a real problem. So here are some tips to limit the number of critters you see crawling or flying around your plants.

Wild Creations by Hilton Carter
Extract from Wild Creations by Hilton Carter (Cico Books, distributed by, $49.99).

Subscribe & WIN!

Subscribe to WOMAN+ for only $19.99 for the year and you’ll have a chance to WIN 2 Nights for 2 at JetPark Rotorua +
an Evening in the Polynesian Spa.

*You can unsubscribe at any time. By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.