Why indoors plants are as popular as they have ever been
- Credit: Linda Viney
A new generation of indoor gardeners are going potty for pot plants. Linda Viney meets one whose passion has produced the first green shoots of a business.
There was a time when indoor plants were the sole preserve of the older generation but now they are back in vogue. The days of the giant aspidistra might be over but students and newlyweds wanting to brighten up their homes have developed a passion for plants in a pot.
That was how it started for Ellie Maylor, who went out to buy curtain rings and came back with a cactus. Her growing fondness for plants is clear when you step over the threshold of her small one-bedroom flat in Longridge. It is jam-packed with a wide collection of houseplants, a hobby that began in 2016. Since then she has become besotted by botany and plans to study it at university.
She is also gradually building up a small business propagating and growing on specialist plants to sell online as well as becoming something of a local expert.
Ellie shares the apartment with her partner, Emma Sykes, and two cats, one of which has commandeered a shelf intended for plants to use as her bed.
They both work in the day to pay the rent, leaving the cats in charge. ‘I find a spare place for my plants wherever I can, from the top of the fridge to hanging them with macramé pot holders,’ Ellie said. ‘Some of them need humidity so I have two humidifiers to pump out mist.’
She also has a grow-light on one of the shelves and because it throws out a purple hue someone reported her, thinking she was growing cannabis. She was soon proved to be innocent. However, she does have one cactus with hallucinogenic properties which apparently has the same effect as magic mushrooms. But it’s growing rather than eating that interests her.
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‘Some young people go to Amsterdam for drinking and fun, Emma and I cycle from plant shop to plant shop,’ she laughed. Having said that, Holland is a place she sources some plants for her collection.
Whether in a garden or a window sill, plants can be therapeutic, as Ellie has discovered and she has a message on her wall saying: ‘Talk to Plants, Ignore People’. Anyone who has an indoor plant knows it is lovely to have a living thing to care for and nurture. She has always loved nature, following in footsteps of her father, who took her fishing as a child. They still walk in the country and study moss which Ellie uses to top some of her pots to keep in the moisture.
Once a week she gathers all her plants together and uses bath tubs of water to give them a shower which removes dust and dirt and any other detritus as well as giving them the humidity they need.
By contrast, the cacti are kept fairly dry especially in winter and are very easy to care for. She will never have too many plants and, in a way, they have become her friends . Even when watching television she often forgets the plot and tries to identify a pot plant in the background.
I ask Ellie what is the most she has paid for a plant. She looks across to Emma who smiles waiting for the reply. ‘I think it was £120 but worth every penny! Others have cost just 50p,’ she confesses.
She both sources plants and sells them on social media as well as buying them from charity shops, car boot sales, markets and even supermarkets. ‘I once picked up a fairly rare plant from the Wilko store. It does help when you know what you are looking at.’ Sometimes she will sell plants she has propagated to enable her to buy a different variety. Emma’s grandmother often brings a plant when she visits and a place is always found for it somehow.
Looking after the plants is sometimes a challenge and a lot is learnt through trial and error and chatting to friends on social media. It can also be frustrating as some will only flower once a year and if that happens in the night it is missed, with just the dead bloom left in the morning.
Once when she decided she wanted a particular plant, she found it was only available wholesale and the minimum order was 200. She bought the lot, kept one and sold the rest.
Plastic drink bottles and plastic bags are recycled as they are invaluable for humidity when propagating to ensure the moisture stays in as they take root. Some plants are propagated by cutting leaves and placing them upright in compost while others are grown from seed, some taking months to germinate.
Forget logging on in the night for Glastonbury tickets, Emma logs on to reserve plants and she can sometimes be found chatting online at 3am with people from around the world.
The whole flat is awash with plants as they are placed floor to ceiling apart from a corner where Emma keeps her art materials. She is an artist and designer and sits quietly sketching plants ensuring they are named correctly and has designed T shirts, yes you guessed it, with a plant design. It certainly shows that wherever you live there is always space for a plant.
A 1970s craze is back on trend
Matthew Pottage, of the RHS, says the popularity of houseplants will continue to rocket with the main increase among younger people who either can’t have or don’t want an outdoor garden.
‘Social media shows that this is a huge and growing trend – hashtags such as #plantsofinstagram and #houseplants are used in their millions and tweets on houseplants often receive thousands of re-tweets. In daily life I see fiddle leaf figs and Swiss cheese plants everywhere, especially among the younger generation who don’t remember the 1970s houseplant trend.’ This is borne out by retail sales at the RHS which have increased significantly, with cacti sales rising by 34 per cent last year. Often plants are being chosen to improve the environment and purify air, with sales of spathiphyllum (peace lily), said to be efficient in removing airborne pollutants, increasing by 23 per cent.