In the past year, the RHS has reported a 50 per cent rise in houseplant sales, with an 80 per cent increase in fern sales and 150 per cent rise in sales of the monstera – or Swiss cheese plant – as health-conscious millennials have embraced houseplants for their health benefits as much as their ability to brighten up rental homes without gardens. Plants are very much “on-trend”.
According to Royal FloraHolland, 65 per cent of UK indoor plant imports come from the country – around €208m (£181m) worth a year – followed by Italy (9 per cent), France (8 per cent), Belgium (7 per cent), Germany (6 per cent) and other countries (5 per cent).
Chanel de Kock, UK spokeswoman for the Flower Council of Holland, which markets Dutch-grown plants to consumers across Europe, says: “Holland is above a geothermal source, so a lot of the greenhouses tap into the heat source underground. And they’ve got all these waterways – they’re between these water sources as well as on top of the geothermal, and they literally extract the energy to generate their own electricity that they use for the lighting and the heating of the greenhouses.”
Hi-tech Holland may have the advantage, but the process is still international – while some Dutch growers will plant from seed, others will import cuttings or young plants from warmer countries. Succulents are grown in places such as Tenerife, where they get more natural sunshine, while poinsettias, for example, are often raised in Israel.
“All houseplants are tender plants – meaning that they can’t withstand frost,” says Guy Barter, chief horticulturalist at the RHS. “Mother-in-law’s tongue would come from Zimbabwe or Kenya, where there’s excellent light and heat.” Orchids, he adds, may be propagated in labs in Indonesia, where labour is cheaper, then shipped to Europe.