We all love a house plant. But it is extraordinarily difficult to buy a houseplant that hasn’t been grown in peat compost. Garden Organic has spoken with a grower who is on a mission to change that. “I’ve always grown peat-free,” says Harriet of Harriet’s Plants. “I am a passionate grower and have put all my efforts into growing peat-free houseplants for people all over the UK.”
Harriet founded Harriet’s Plants whilst studying plant science at the world-famous Eden Project in Cornwall. She set up a successful pop-up shop selling houseplants and botanical wares in different locations across Cornwall before taking her knowledge and experience back to Staffordshire, where she grew up. “Since setting up my first glasshouse in Lichfield, I am proud to say the business has continued to flourish.”
“I believe it is important that companies take responsibility for their environmental policies, allowing customers to shop in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way,” says Harriet. To do this, Harriet not only grows in peat-free compost, but she puts a huge emphasis on propagating and growing within the business, in order to reduce the carbon emissions and plastic pollution that comes from overseas importing. Any orders are packaged in suitable 100% biodegradable, reusable and compostable packaging.
So why do house plant sellers use peat? Nearly all houseplants are imported from overseas – mainly from the Netherlands. It’s a massive and growing (excuse the pun) market. One retailer announced a 4000% increase in sales during the lockdown in 2020. Prior to Brexit, it was quick and easy for a wholesaler to order and get delivery of hundreds of different varieties. From orchid to peace lily, monstera to maranta, you can get delivery within the week. Peat is convenient for shipping because it is light, and therefore transportation costs are reduced. Few large-scale growers in the Netherlands are willing to change their peat-filled growing habits.
But Harriet has.
“My customers tend to be more aware of sustainability issues. They have done their research, and appreciate the care I put into growing the plants. They might be paying a little bit extra, but I always attach a care card with every plant.
“People say growing in peat-free compost is different. I suppose you would need to adjust to a slightly different watering regime. But to be honest, I have always only ever grown in peat-free and I’ve never had any problems with any of my varieties.
“My dream is for Harriet’s Plants to become 100% self-sustaining with 100% of my stock grown solely from my nursery.” In peat-free compost, of course!