A Bogolan-Inspired Houseplant Container Garden Recipe

January 27, 2024

To make a winter container garden with houseplants, I look for themes to let my planting design start to tell a story.

First came the planter found in the clearance section of Anthropologie.  It’s markings seemed tribal and recalled mud cloth patterns and fabrics, traditional in Mali, but often used in high fashion and homewares.  Mudcloth, also called bogolan or bogolanfini, is cotton dyed with fermented mud. ‘Bogo’ means earth or mud, ‘Lan’ means with, and ‘Fini‘ translates cloth. Its patterns tell cultural stories that I don’t fully understand.

Bogolan Inspired Planting Recipe for A Houseplant Garden

Inspired by these patterns and the intricate face paintings seen across tribal Africa, I chose plants for their contrasting tonal stripes, surprising leaf speckles, and detailed patterns.

The result is a beautiful – if slightly challenging – winter container garden that you can plant indoors. All of these plants prefer indirect sun and high humidity. (With the exception of the sansevieria – but it is tough and it puts up with just about anything). Keep this combo moist and make sure the soil drains well – maybe even add a cloche over the top and don’t insist that it live in the sunniest window – it will not be happy there.

More about The Bogolan Inspired Planting Vessel and other Housewares

Bogolan design, also known as Bogolanfini or mud cloth, is a traditional textile art form with deep cultural roots in West Africa, particularly among the Bambara people of Mali. This ancient craft involves the intricate process of dyeing cotton fabric using fermented mud, plant-based dyes, and natural pigments. The result is a fabric adorned with symbolic geometric patterns, often in earthy tones of brown, black, and white.

Bogolan design is not just about aesthetics; it tells a heritage, identity, and spirituality story. Each pattern and motif carries specific meanings, from celebrating the cycles of life to conveying messages of wisdom and history. The production of Bogolan cloth is a communal effort involving skilled artisans and often requires weeks of meticulous work.

Bogolan design has gained global recognition in recent years for its unique beauty and cultural significance. It has transcended its traditional use in clothing and has found applications in contemporary fashion, home decor, and art. The enduring appeal of Bogolan lies in its ability to connect us to the rich tapestry of African culture, celebrating both its artistic intricacies and its profound storytelling power.

House Plant Container Garden Supply List:

Fittonia verschaffeltii ’mini’ plant in a beautiful bogolan (mudcloth) inspired winter houseplant garden
Did you know that Fittonia verschaffeltii ‘mini’ is also known as the ‘Nerve Plant’ due to its intricate vein patterns on the leaves? Fittonia verschaffeltii ‘mini’ showcases its striking miniature leaves, making it a perfect addition to terrariums and small indoor spaces.

Fittonia verschaffeltii ’mini’

Also known as nerve plant, these small tropical houseplants are known for their beautiful leaves. They are great in areas of low light and high humidity. A terrarium is perfect.

Begonia ’My Special Angel’ Bogolan Inspired Planting Recipe for A Houseplant Garden
Begonia ‘My Special Angel’ is a charming hybrid known for its delicate pink blooms that resemble angelic wings. This begonia is celebrated for its compact growth and abundant flowers.

Begonia ’My Special Angel’

Similar to the begonia maculata var. wightii, this begonia also develops speckled leaves. It has pink flowers and matching pink leaf undersides. It is also easier to grow and is much less temperamental.

Begonia maculata var. wightii - Bogolan Inspired Planting Recipe for A Houseplant Garden
Begonia maculata var. wightii, commonly known as the Polka Dot Begonia, showcases its unique charm with distinctive silver spotted leaves. This plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil. Its natural habitat provides insight into its preference for humidity and filtered sunlight.

Begonia maculata var. wightii

This begonia is festive and eye-catching with its bright white flowers and matching polka dot leaves.  They are great gift plants. This is, however, a tricky plant to grow.  It needs good drainage and good light – but I have found it prefers indirect light or partial sun rather than full sun. In the summer, it is very happy to move outside and grow in a container beneath other houseplants that shield and protect it.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Bantel‘s Sensation’

This unusual plant is indestructible.  Sanseveria need little light and are very drought tolerant. This variety has distinctive white striping, and the leaves are narrower than other varieties, giving it a very elegant look.

Update 2023 Gardener’s Notes:

I created this houseplant container garden and wrote this back in 2017 – which is before I adopted the same attitude about houseplants that I have for outdoor container gardens. Mixed plant gardens are hard to get right, and I don’t recommend them for anything other than a short-term display. The difficulty added to keeping all the plant participants happy and healthy is annoying and introduces more problems than you need. Even if your plants are a great match for each other (i.e. they need the exact same type of soil, light, and water – which is unlikely), there are still many challenges to getting them to grow together in a single pot.

Plus, I’ve grown to have a much greater appreciation and love for plant collections that I can constantly re-arrange and re-style without having to re-pot things.

I still grow both of these begonias – in their own pots. They come indoors in the winter and go back outside for the summers. And the Sansevieria is still in my houseplant collections as well. Begonia and Sanseveria are not plants that want the same attention and conditions. The sansevieria (snake plant) needs much drier soil, and had I not removed it and dismantled this collection a few months after I created it, I would have killed the snake plant with root rot.

The fittonia plant (nerve plant) wanted conditions I just could not provide – short of creating a terrarium. My home is dry in the winter, and I was not able to create enough humidity to keep it thriving. RIP.

Plant Finder:

All plants are available by mail order at

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