House plant trends at the Chelsea Flower Show 2023
We looked at some key house plant trends and plants at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.
The House Plant Studios are now a regular feature at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, reflecting the growing popularity of house plants in recent years. This year, six house plant havens showcased ways of displaying and caring for house plants.
Many of the exhibitors were keen to emphasise that house plant owners should not be seduced by trends, but should choose plants that suit the environment and light levels in their space. But we couldn't help but highlight a few plants that caught our eye, in addition to some interesting trends.
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House plant trends and inspiration from Chelsea Flower Show
Opperman Plants (www.tropicalplantsuk.com) want us think carefully about where we source our house plants from, as many are imported. The company produces over three million house plants a year in the UK. However it does currently still make some use of peat, claiming that some plants, such as Calathea, struggle without it (while crotons, apparently, grow well in coir). A Government ban on peat use is set for 2030. The company is, however, currently conducting six trials on growing without peat in a bid to find the perfect growing medium. Part of their exhibit showed the different ways in which plant roots behave in different substrates.
Growing without peat
New online sustainable house plant company Geb & Green says that while peat is being phased out in horticulture, the use of peat for growing house plants has long been the elephant in the room (or should that be greenhouse?). Its founder and managing director, Will Clayton, is adamant that peat is not needed in order to grow healthy house plants. Their laundry room-style exhibit features the slogan 'Steam. Clean. Plant. Repeat' to showcase how how their peat-free growing medium is cleaned and steamed at 90°F for 90 minutes, and recycled up to 30 times to grow lush house plants in the UK.
An economical green wall
The Tropical Plants UK stand featured two green walls, one inside the garden room and one that ran from the inside to the outside. The indoor green wall illustrates how plants that need more light, such as variegated plants, should be placed closer to the window, while shade-loving specimens can be planted further away. The outdoor wall included plants that can survive outside for most of the year, including tradescantias and spider plants. Sales Manager Alex Opperman revealed that the green walls were created using pouches from B&Q that cost just £15 - making this a realistic proposition for many of us (a little water does drip from them, making them perfect above a tiled floor, but probably not a carpet).
A variegated monstera
Tropical Plants UK were running a competition to win a sought-after variegated Monstera, Monstera Thai Constellation, which has leaves that are splashed with cream and retails at a cool £200. It is propagated via tissue culture, which explains the high price.
Tradescantias are easy to grow, virtually unkillable and very ubiquitous, but the Tropical Plants UK green wall featured two lovely more predominantly pink types: Tradescantia Nanouk and Tradescantia Maiden's Blush.
... and a lovely pilea
Pilea involucrata 'Moon Valley' is not a new plant, but it certainly is a lovely and eye-catching one, and was shown off to its full advantage outside the Geb & Green exhibit, where several were planted in one planter.
House plant problems
Several house plant experts, including Sarah Gerrard-Jones, author of The Plant Rescuer, are going to be on hand to answer plant owners' queries throughout Chelsea week. Some plants are not cheap – online retailer Beards & Daisies told us that their bestselling plant is the Kentia palm, which retails for around £100. They said owners worry about killing their house plants, especially if they have paid a lot for them. Discover 15 of the best large indoor plants.
One of the most frequently asked questions is always about frequency of watering, and the garment-style washing labels in the Laundry Room's exhibit attempted to tackle this – despite the fact that plants should not be watered to a timetable. Most house plants should be watered when the top of the compost is beginning to dry out.
Several exhibitors told me that it just best to stick your finger into the compost to see how wet or dry it is. Geb & Green's Will Clayton, had a catchy mantra: "One knuckle no, two knuckles yes."
Veronica Peerless is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.
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