Sustainable living: are your house plants environmentally friendly?

If you're aiming for sustainable living, you might want to reconsider how you shop for house plants. Here's what to bear in mind

Sustainable living: House plants
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If sustainable living is you goal for this year, you might be surprised to discover that you'll need to factor in your house plants. House plants cheer up our homes and (some claim) purify the air around us. But what many of us don't know is that there are sustainability issues surrounding the growing, import and packaging of house plants.  

A recent article by the BBC revealed that air miles, peat content in the soil, and non-recyclable plastic pots can all make house plants not so eco-friendly. It is important to stress that the plant experts quoted advise not to panic too much about the relatively small carbon footprint of your house plants. However, there are purchasing decisions you can make to ensure that your house plants are as sustainable as possible. 

1. Grow your houseplants from seed

This is by far the most sustainable approach to houseplants, since not only will you be reducing the air miles of your houseplants, but you also won't need to use the plastic pots the vast majority of houseplants come sold in. First, purchase some biodegradable growing pots, then, select your seeds. Cacti, succulents, and bonsai trees can be grown from seeds, but will take a while. It's also relatively easy to grow pelargoniums from seed, and they will grow relatively quickly. 

2. Buy hydroponic house plants

Hydroponic peace lily from Thompson & Morgan

(Image credit: Amazon)

It sounds like a weird science experiment, but it turns out that some house plants do quite well when grown hydroponically – that is, bare roots submerged in water. 

Peace lilies in particular can be grown this way. Not only are you doing away with a plastic pot, but you're also definitely not using any peat – because you're not using any compost. 

3. Avoid buying seasonal house plants

Yes, theoretically, it is possible to care for a Poinsettia so that it lasts longer than three weeks, but, in practice, they are often grown and sold in a way that makes trying to keep them alive long-term very difficult. The same goes for indoor roses – there is no such thing as an indoor rose, really, and even if you buy/receive one that seems healthy and blooming, it will die pretty quickly if not given outdoor access.

Some plants can make the transition to happy perennials if you replant them in your garden once they've finished blooming indoors – hydrangeas or hyacinths, for instance. But mostly, we'd avoid buying anything potted that's blooming when it shouldn't or isn't normally an indoor plant.

If do like flowering indoor plants, check out our buyer's guide to fragrant house plants that will bloom indoors every year. 

4. Subscribe to a plastic-free plant delivery service

Want lovely plants now without having to wait for them to grow from seed? There is a solution: the growing number of plastic-free plant delivery services. Get plants delivered to your door without any plastic packaging through websites such as Lazy Flora (don't worry, the film the plants come wrapped in is compostable). Until recently, plant delivery services were only available for outdoor plants, so this is a welcome addition to sustainble plant shopping.