Indoor plant collections a growing business

By Karen Smith

The interest in indoor plants is still strong with many consumers not settling to buy only one indoor plant. They are keen to get their hands on a whole collection, so it’s a jungle out there!

A recent report, from the Global Garden Retail Conference 2022 by John Stanley, found that since the pandemic began, people have spent more time in the home and  their focus has been on home and garden improvements. Consequently, paint and plant sales have been up. The increase has mostly been driven by the under 40’s whose desire is to spend time amongst nature and improve their health and wellbeing. They are also concerned about the environment and sustainability. Plants are one of the few products that are sustainable and have a positive impact on the environment.

Social media sites are full of people sharing videos and photos of their indoor plants. Anything from an image of one indoor plant to apartments filled from floor to ceiling with greenlife, creating their own indoor jungles. Others are into collections and the desire to add to their collections is very competitive. Online auctions have seen some species sell for enormous amounts. Another point that John Stanley made was that price is not the driver behind the desire to purchase plants, it’s all about the experience.

Price does not appear to be an issue for those who want to grow a collection of a particular genus and plant collecting can be very addictive!

“Plants that have many varieties are popular, such as peperomia, begonias, alocasias and caladiums, as they have so much variety and diversity in their families”, said Jeremy Critchley from The Green Gallery.

Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ (Image: Karen Smith)
Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ (Image: Karen Smith)

Plants with interesting foliage colours and patterns such as Begonia maculata, with its polka-dotted leaves, Alocasia zebrina with its striped stems and the Caladiums with their bold colourful leaves, are very eye-catching. I can see why people get hooked, so how could you possibly stop at just one?

The amount of money some people will part with for something a little unusual or even purely because it is variegated such as a Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’ or Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Borsigiana’, is mind boggling.

Hoya are another genus that is high on the collectors list. There is in fact a ‘collectors’ series with some varieties considered rare and others that are more readily available. Collectors can choose for flower, leaf shape, perfume or purely because they like to continue adding to their collections. Social media is full of people trading varieties, with a Hoya compacta ‘Hindu Rope- Reverse Variegated’ selling for NZ $6500.

Aglaonema widuri ‘Red Peacock’ (Image: Karen Smith)
Aglaonema widuri ‘Red Peacock’ (Image: Karen Smith)

Not everyone is a collector of one genus. They just like to own lots of indoor plants for all the reasons John Stanley talked about, and there are some plants that are just great at adapting to the indoor life.

Bronwyn Hillier from Dracaena Farm Nursery agrees that customers are concerned for their health and wellbeing, and take seriously the evidence that is now available. “They look to their indoor plants as a health benefit. They like the idea of placing plants indoors to provide oxygen and remove toxins”.

While some customers are looking for something a little unusual, there are some plants that are solid performers. Bronwyn shares her top all-rounders for indoor use.

Epipremnum aureum (Devil’s Ivy, Pothos) is an oldie but a goodie!

Alocasia reginula ‘Black Velvet’ (Image: Karen Smith)
Alocasia reginula ‘Black Velvet’ (Image: Karen Smith)

Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ (Happy Plant). “Who doesn’t want happiness in their life?” said Bronwyn. They are low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Zanzibar Gem) are ideal for those not blessed with a green thumb. They really do thrive on neglect and/or very little care and attention. They are well suited to low light areas but easily adaptable to bright spots as well.

Monstera deliciosa is a winner and will grow to a large size quite easily. However, the smaller leaf varieties like Monstera adansonii are popular. The leaf fenestrations in many of the monsteras make them an interesting and attractive addition to any collection. 

Tillandsia spp. (Air plants). Being epiphytes, they do not require soil to grow. Tillandsias are easy to include in collections as there are so many varieties both large and small. They are easy to ship and popular with customers with limited space. They can survive on air as per their namesake and with just a semi-regular misting. For collectors, there is certainly variety in tillandsias and their popularity is on the rise.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ (Image: Karen Smith)
Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ (Image: Karen Smith)

With the continued exposure of people sharing the love of plants on social media, it’s the perfect advertising for our industry and the growing interest in plants should continue to grow. Let’s hope the trend to collect plants continues, so to all those plant breeders out there, keep the variety coming!

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