Meet Lewis, who until the early summer of 2020 was flying regularly with BA as cabin crew, travelling the world taking every opportunity to see and find out more about tropical plants. His is one of several start-up businesses selling plants at Chiswick Flower Market. Lewis heard at the end of July that he was being made redundant, and immediately set about creating a business out of his passion.
“My parents were keen gardeners and I’ve always known plants were important to me. I love having lots of plants around and creating that jungly feel indoors”.
Flying for British Airways for 13 years he had the opportunity during stopovers to visit some of the best collections of tropical plants in the world, such as the Botannical Gardens of Singapore, but also to experience what we regard as houseplants just growing wild, all over the world. From the look of his living room, he brought half of them home with him.
Urban Tropicana sells houseplants for every taste and level of pastoral ability – everything from the delicate and sensitive to the virtually indestructible.
Where does he get his plants? In fact, he buys his plants from Holland, where they are grown, so in tropical house plant terms they are almost local.
What’s he buying? “People want statement plants which also bring health benefits”.
There has been a recent increase in people buying indoor plants for their usefulness as air purifiers. A famous study published by NASA in 1989 demonstrated that indoor plants can remove cancer-causing volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene.
Admittedly a space station is a controlled environment, unlike most people’s homes, which tend not to be hermetically sealed. But given the levels of air pollution in London, more people are concluding that if indoor plants help clean the air even a little bit, they’re worth having.
Images above: Snake plant (Zeylanica); Cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)
‘Retro, ’70s plants’ all the rage
One of the most effective plants for air filtration is the humble snake plant (Zeylanica), which might account for its sudden popularity.
“Seventies retro plants are very fashionable” he told me, “snake plants, cheese plants, spider plants are all very Instagrammable”. The Monstera Minima Rhapidophora Tetrasperma (pictured) is a ‘must have’ for your indoor jungle, according to Lewis. “It is a rarer member of the monstera family and is a bit of a stunner”.
I never knew house plants had fashions. I just thought people just killed them accidentally and bought new plants, like I do. Lewis gave me a tip to improve my track record in keeping house plants alive. “Don’t over water” is his main advice.
“People always buy plants and take them home and put the pot the plant is in inside another decorative pot, which doesn’t usually have holes in the bottom. Then they water it and leave it sitting in water and kill it”. (Guilty as charged)
“Usually plants die because they are over watered. If the soil is at all moist then it doesn’t need watering. The way to tell is to stick your finger about two inches into the soil. If it’s still dry, then it needs watering”.
Check out Lewis’s selection of tropical houseplants, cacti and succulents. He also has a small stock of cement plant pots (also trendy).
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See also: Chiswick Flower Market