London is home to an eclectic mix of plants from all over the world. Nowhere is this more true than in our taste for tropical house plants. From Caribbean yucca to Chinese money plants to Mexican parlour palms, I am one of many Londoners whose flat is stuffed with strange-looking visitors from foreign lands.
According to research from the US Environment Protection Agency, indoor air can be 10 times more polluted than air outside. On average we now spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and studies have shown house plants are brilliant solar-powered air purifiers.
Tropical house plants are best at removing toxins from the air because they have high rates of photosynthesis (this is so they can survive in the half-light of the rainforest). Around their roots they have microbes that degrade organic waste and detoxify the poisons that are taken in by their leaves.
It might be freezing outside but houseplants continue to grow in the warmth of indoors. In a bid to increase my already sizeable houseplant collection (and get alpine-clean air) I’m making winter cuttings from new growth. It’s very simple and will give you a daily botanical fix when everything in the garden/on the balcony is dead.
Generally cuttings need to be between 10 and 15cm long. Find a young shoot, cut just below where a leaf appears from the stem and remove all the leaves apart from a couple at the top (this means the cutting has to focus its energy in producing roots). You will see the root sprouting in around three to four weeks. When the root is more than 2cm long you can stick it in a pot. Keep it well-watered. Plants propagate in slightly different ways so check online to find out exactly what yours needs.
If you don’t have a houseplant yet then message me and I will give you a cutting. Tweet me pictures of your cuttings with #rewildinglondon.
In 1989 Nasa carried out a study into how to mop up toxins collecting in enclosed space stations. Plants came out top. Read this summary of which plants are good if you’re going to buy a plant yourself.