I’m at home a lot right now, as are most people. Compounded by the greenery outside turning golden, my desire to have some foliage in my home has turned from a mild tingle to a full-on itch. And if you are in the same spot, today I am sharing all the useful tips I have for filling your home with beautiful, and sometimes rare, plants on a budget.
First things first – assess your house
You could buy any plants you want, but unless you live in a fully climate-and-light-controlled greenhouse, it makes no sense. Instead of thinking about the plants right away, take a step back and look at your space carefully. Consider how much physical space you have, how much daylight and how intense it gets, what the level of humidity is and what the average temperature is.
As example, in my own home I have great indirect daylight in the living room, reasonable daylight on the master bedroom, more of an afternoon sun in my office and a fairly dark kitchen and a bathroom. The humidity downstairs varies from around 60% in the cooler months to 30% in the summer and the temperatures stay around 19 Celsius degrees outside of summer and easily hit 30 Celsius in the height of summer. I also have two cats which limits my options to plants which can sit on shelves or be hung out of their reach. This limits my options to plants which can handle moderate humidity and temperature changes and also limits my options in some spaces to plants which do well with less light. I also refuse to invest into grow-lights and climate controlled terraria, so whatever I buy must survive well in my existing envornment.
Examples of easy-care plants which will do well in home like mine include smaller forms from Araceae family such pothos, monsteras (be mindful that deliciosa can grow quite large) and some varieties of hoya and ficus. For the less sunny rooms, ZZ, calathea family and in particular marantas as well as certain ferns will do well. Succulents and cacti will also do well in theory, but I like watering on schedule and would likely overwater them. If you’re out of house a lot, they might be great for you though.
Now that I have a clear idea of the kind of which plants could work and how I might want to arrange them, it’s time to start sourcing them.
Next – start sourcing your plants
The key to building up your indoor garden on a budget is some patience and a little bit of bravery. Why, you ask? Because large plants are expensive and you should only purchase them if you get them at a dirt-cheap price. So first, ask for cuttings. At restaurants, hotels, offices, from friends, family and strangers. If you love succulents, ask for leaves and root them. The process does take a while, but it is the most cost-efficient ways to start.
The second affordable option is sourcing baby plants and paid-for cuttings. This involves scouring the internet and your local nurseries for literal baby plants – look out for small pots and small prices, as well as rooted cuttings. My most recent favourite is (not sponsored) PLNTS.com from Netherlands. You can see what I have to say about my experience with them here and spoiler alert, it was a pretty good experience. In addition to ordering my plants from abroad, I also frequently check etsy, FB Marketplace and even gumtree – a lot of plants can be bought within your community for low prices. One watch-out is that you should inspect each plant you buy carefully. This ‘checking’ includes inspecting for pests and root rot – both can kill the plant and the former can even ruin the rest of your home garden.
If you would rather buy well established large plants, the next part of this article is for you.
Finally – make your urban jungle pay for itself
This is not for everyone, but it might be for you. Your houseplants can pay for themselves in the long run. As example, if you are willing to splash a bunch of money on a plant which is rare-ish and desired (think monstera Albo and Thai constellation, Florida ghost, Prince of Orange and a handful of others), or just desired (Adansonii, Deliciosa, ZZ Raven etc), take good care of these plants and see them as an investment. Let them establish themselves in your home and thrive. And if you do a good job as a plant-parent, they’ll reward you with abundant growth enabling you to propagate them and sell their green offsprings on. As example, monstera adansonii which you can purchase from £5 for a small plant to £35 for a big one grows like a weed in my home. I purchased a 3-leaf adansonii back in 2018 when they were just becoming popular for just over £10. Since, I grew it so much that it needed a little trimming every year, resulting in me rooting the trimmed stems and selling them on further – my £10 investment paid for itself and funded a purchase of a couple of cousins.
Whether you chose to take the same route or just purchase larger plants for the pleasure of having them, I also have tips for getting them on a budget. Given that Patch and Crocus are for rich people (just kidding, but they’re not particularly affordable), you will mainly be looking elsewhere. And the places you will be looking at are:
- online nurseries in Netherlands (as unaffiliated examples: PLNTS.com, growjungle.nl and similar)
- individual seller platforms (eBay, etsy, FB Marketplace)
- Amazon (I’m serious)
- Ikea (yes, I am serious)
- big box stores (a friend of mine once found a monstera deliciosa for £5 at homebase and another one got some lovely ZZ Raven at waitrose for £8.95)
All these options will cover some of the more popular plants. However, if you are looking to invest and really splash out on something rare, which you really should not unless you already have established green thumbs, are online nurseries in Thailand and Indonesia. For these you must read your country’s import policies first and then look at specific company reviews – purchasing from far afield can be more cost effective but comes with specific risks. You could also look into specialised rare plant shops (as example, again not sponsored, The Rare Plant Shop with their next launch for EU and US on 24th October, I’m not recommending others as I am yet to find comparable ones) but again, they are going to be expensive and if you kill one, you’ll have wasted a lot of money. So don’t :-).
I hope this article was helpful. Feel free to share your own tips for building an affordable at-home-tropical-forest in the comments – we’ll all appreciate your input!