Special delivery service! Plants on demand
By Gabrielle Stannus
Interior plantscapers are experiencing strong demand for their plant hire services, although they are always under pressure to produce the ‘wow factor’. How can they do more with the plants they already have?
Peter Anderson from the Frenchams Group knows first-hand the demand for indoor plant hire services. “We have seen a growing trend towards incorporating plants into the office fit out. Plants are being considered at the design phase rather than added once a fit out is complete. Most popular with designers is to incorporate plants into joinery units. Interior plantscaping is being considered a contributor to the overall fitout design and feel”, says Peter.
Steve Brough, Plants For Hire, also receives plenty of office jobs and has experienced strong growth in the housing auction market. Many of his plants are hired for display in high end residential properties over a four to six week auction campaign.
The Plant Life Balance initiative has helped to make indoor plants popular once again in the residential market, with its ‘ Sharehouse Heroes’, ‘ Dark Matters’ and ‘ Jungle Vibes’ looks setting new trends.
Similar vibes are being sought by corporate clients. “We have moved on from the single pot in a corner, now we are clustering planters of various heights.Clients are focusing more on design and are looking for options that complement and add to their interior design concepts. Plants have also moved to those with bold leaves such as Ficus lyrata, Monstera spp., Strelitzia spp. and Philodendron ‘Congo’”, says Peter.
Peter says that hanging and wall-hung planters have become very popular too.
“Our biggest issue facing the industry is availability of plants.With the increase in awareness of the benefits of plants in the office environment, the industry is going from strength to strength.The demand on growers has been steadily increasing and can outstrip supply at times”, says Peter.
Architects and interior designers are always after something new. However, Steve says there are only so many plants that can grow indoors. His advice to other plant hirers is to grow or present proven plant performers differently.
Steve recommends multi-planting the same plant in planters to give a fuller, lusher look. These days, growers now grow Dracaena massangeana (Happy Plant) as a mature cane with foliage stripped on lower parts. Steve never stripped the foliage from Happy Plants in the 60s and 70s, and suggests that growers may revert to this practice for a different look. Growers also strip the lower leaves from Ficus benjamina to expose more plant stem. Steve suggests multi-planting and braiding F. benjamina to make its interesting trunk more of a feature.
Steve proposed stripping back Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ to its stem like other dracaenas, rather than leaving it fully foliaged. Podocarpus could easily be clouded to create a Japanese look. However, this may take up to seven years, a commitment that many commercial growers are unwilling to make. Could this be your niche? Or perhaps growing F. benjamina or F. binnendijkii (Narrow Leaf Fig) as standards, or Portulacaria afra (Jade Plant) and its variegated forms as bonsai?
Revive old favourites
Steve says that Spathiphyllum remains popular for good reason, being well-suited to indoor growing. However, clients seeking something different tend to lean away from this plant. So the grower that comes up with a new variety of Peace Lily may be onto something special. Look out for those sports!
Steve also laments that it is now difficult to source totem-grown philodendrons, e.g. Philodendron ‘Congo’.
Steve recommends that plant hirers and growers work with designers to encourage them to think of new ways to display plants that capitalise on their plant habits and traits. That is, the horticulturalists need to create their own demand.
Steve urges growers to be careful when it comes to following plant trends, which may move on quickly or be copied. He recalls the Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Zanzibar Gem) boom and bust cycle in Queensland some years ago now. Twenty to thirty growers started growing it at once, flooding the market. Ultimately, the price dropped, so the growers stopped supplying it, making it unavailable for some time.
Use different planters
Consider using a different range of planters to mix up your offerings, e.g. mobile planters. Steve says that continuity of planter supply is also problematic. Frenchams manufacture their own range of planters to keep up with designers’ and architects’ requirements.
Presentation is key
Steve’s clients want to see exactly how a plant will look in its planter before they purchase it. Peter agrees, “With our website and social media playing a bigger part of the customers’ research, they usually have a good idea of what they like before we speak to them”.
So finally, ensure you present your stock beautifully online, whichever way you choose to create your own niche in the indoor plant hire industry.