Honey I shrunk the apartment


Don’t you just love those beautiful green babies you get to buy at nurseries and markets?
The cute little Philodendrons, Calatheas and rubber trees. They are photo-ready and look amazing on your window sill and desk and you just love the fact that they fit, until they don’t.

(Fun Fact: No plant is actually an indoor plant, they are just plants that have been identified to suit indoor dwelling conditions that mimic their natural growing conditions.)

Almost every ‘indoor’ plant we’ve come to love originates from tropical or subtropical climates. So, what does this mean?

In the tropics and subtropics, size matters, especially for the plants we purchase for our homes. They are often plants that need to survive under large tree canopies, receive constant moisture and are rooted in poor soil. Living in conditions such as low light, little wind and large amounts of leaf litter means that these ‘exotics’ must survive by holding on to whatever they can, to gain as much height as possible and, above all, to photosynthesise – for which they need leaf area, big leaf areas.

Fan favourite Monstera deliciousa is probably the most well known of its family and looks amazing in little pots when it starts to sprout into heart-shaped leaves with large cavities. It has become a symbol of houseplants. However, some seller neglect to tell you that these leaves become gigantic; on average they span more than a meter in length, dwarfing you and your apartment in the process.

Next up is the equally admired rubber tree or Ficus audrey. She looks the part, fills the gap and has stunning glossy leaves. But at the end of the day, she is a fig and in the botanical world, figs are known to survive every condition, and they love to grow. They pack on more weight than a sumo wrestler before the season and they never stop growing. Make the mistake of planting one outside next to a wall and it will crack your foundations and leave you with more damage than joy. The biggest problem with the ficus family is that they often become too big for our homes, finding their way outside and then just take over. Bonsai it rather, you’ll be able to keep it small and still admire it.

Purchasing or growing these plants is not wrong in any sense, plant parents. But research does pay off before purchasing a potential giant plant.

Mark Mac Hattie is a Landscape Designer and blogger for Contours Design Studio.
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