Our front door is staged on either side with two tiers of potted plants. Two pairs of cascading slatted wooden stands and an assortment of potted plants, including some Orchids and Begonias but mainly Ferns. My grandmother's house had something vaguely similar also with a tiered assortment, but exclusively Ferns. This must be a tropical home and garden decorating standard intended to cool you down as you step out of the blistering heat into the shade of the porch and venture into the cooler shadowy interior.
It works and I think the ferns are key. The fine feathery greenery is visually cooling and the slightest breeze creates a soft rustle particularly with the two kinds I have pictured a Maidenhair Fern and an Asparagus Fern. There are also more sculptural ones like the Stag Horn and the Bird's Nest that help to create variety. It's also standard practise to take your shoes off before you enter so you linger a little while longer in this transitory space. A wind chime adds to the overall sensory experience.
I love the concept of an intermediate space- there's a Japanese word for this which I've completely forgotten - somewhere neither inside nor outside, but necessary for one to flow into the other. Everytime I stepped into the tiny space just inside my apartment door in New York City, I wished that I could transform it into one like this but of course nothing would grow in that dark windowless space. The trade off though is that the windows here are stark, heavy tinted glass often with heavy curtains to keep the sun and heat out, not at all like the views and assortment of interior potted plants I previously enjoyed.