Huy Bui has an unusual design specialty. So unusual, in fact, that it’s hard to explain. But it has to do with creating little structures — vertical villages, really — that house vegetation rather than people.
“I call them modular ecologies,” said Mr. Bui, 40, who studied architecture at the Parsons School of Design and now spends his time making intricate wooden terrariums under the name Plant-in City, a collective he founded with two partners. “They all have their own little world within, but you can stack them to create a bigger interconnected piece.”
Among his latest projects is a room-size installation on view at the Lowline Lab on the Lower East Side, a plant-sprouting scaffold that can be reconfigured to serve as a jungle gym, a studio or a wine bar.
At home, however, Mr. Bui appreciates the simplicity of a plant in a pot — and the easiest way to achieve that is with a good planter. There are just a few things to keep in mind, he said:
• Know your roots. If you have a cactus, for example, “the root system is small and you can have a planter with a really short base,” Mr. Bui said. “But if you have a tree with a complex root system, you want something deep.”
• Consider a range of sizes. “A planter is a temporary host, like a hermit crab’s shell,” he said. “Once a plant outgrows it, you might want to upgrade to something larger.”
• Take the long view. “Planters are something you don’t just throw away, even if your plant dies,” he said. So make sure you choose something you think you’ll still like years from now.
The Quick Fix
Mossed Redstone Pots | $3.50 to about $15 each at Jamali Floral & Garden Supplies; (212) 244–4025 or jamaligarden.com
“I have a lot of terra-cotta pots at home,” Mr. Bui said, “because they’re just classic and a great color.” But these go one step further, he added, because the moss on them gives them a weathered, timeworn appeal: “That’s genius.”
The Future Heirloom
Flavia Aged White Concrete Planter | $1,200 at Mecox; (212) 249–5301 or mecox.com
In terms of both appearance and price, this piece suggests permanence. “It’s very bold, strong and weighty — it has a rooted feel to it,” Mr. Bui said. It also appeals to his interest in architecture: “It’s the Brutalist planter.”
The Object of the Moment
Weathering Steel Origami Planter | from $575 to $650 at Trey Jones Studio; treyjonesstudio.com
The rusted steel look “is very on trend right now,” said Mr. Bui, who found this piece especially compelling because its sculptural form was inspired by folded paper. With such an eye-catching container, he said, “the plant is almost secondary.”
Mossy Fiber Globe Planter | $128 to $188 at Terrain; (877) 583–7724 or shopterrain.com
With its basic spherical shape, this planter should never look outdated. “It’s a globe that’s so simple, and so beautiful,” Mr. Bui said. Made from fiberglass, cement and stone powder, it has a natural-looking streaky finish.
Babylon Planter | $220 to $1,385 at Dedon; (212) 334–3345 or dedon.de
For an unexpected touch, Mr. Bui liked this planter designed by Harry & Camila for Dedon, with its deep asymmetrical ripples. It comes in four sizes, the largest more than three feet tall — ideal for a tree. The biggest one is polyethylene; the rest are frost-proof ceramic. “You wouldn’t necessarily think it was a planter,” he said. “It could be sculpture.”