You might have noticed that apartments tend to look pretty green nowadays—the houseplant has become a staple item in the urban home.
Whether placed in a pot in the living room, hanging them from the ceiling in the bedroom or growing in a bathtub—there seems to be no space that can’t be converted into an “urban jungle.” Cacti, succulents and palm plants especially have become convenient companions for the stylish city-dweller. But what actually drives us to create little green spaces in our homes? Is it only a trend or do we try to compensate for something? We talked to Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff who run Urban Jungle Bloggers, an online community of plant enthusiasts to find some answers.
How many plants can be found in your homes?
Igor: I live in Munich, in a small rooftop apartment in the city center. Due to my tiny, 32 sq meter apartment I can’t really go big on plants even though I would like to. However, I still have around 50 plants of all sizes in my home. A little urban jungle so to say.
Judith: I live near Paris in a former industrial building from the 1960s. I stopped counting my plants at 150, but we have lots of space (550m2) so there are never enough plants! Only our three plant-eating cats keep me from getting more plants.
“Due to my lifestyle I have no time for a real pet, so my plants are fantastic roommates.”
What was your motivation to bring plants to your homes and to start the Urban Jungle Bloggers network?
Igor: I’ve always lived with plants—I admit, not to the scale I do today, but from my childhood on I was surrounded by plants. First it was my mother’s huge houseplants, then I had my little Dracaena plant named ‘Fish’ in my student dorm all through my studies and now my urban jungle has grown into a little lush garden of its own. I love the immediate connection to nature even at home—and that’s a given when you have something growing and thriving at home. I also consider my plants as a sort of pet. Due to my lifestyle I have no time for a real pet, so my plants are fantastic roommates.
Judith: Plants have always been part of my life too. I recently saw photos of our family home in the ’80s and it was a jungle in there! Plants on the table, on stools, on chairs, in the window sills and lots of macramé hangers too. As a teenager I worked at a garden center, so something must have rubbed off. When visiting the Jardin Exotique of Monaco I knew this was what I wanted at home. I brought home some cuttings (not from the botanical garden though!) and they grew bigger and bigger and I never looked back.
Igor: Regarding our Urban Jungle Bloggers community it was first and foremost our mutual passion and love for plants and living with plants. At the very beginning it was a mere blog project between us but it soon caught the attention of our readers and followers and they also wanted to join in. We sensed that there is a certain green movement going on and felt that a community platform would be a great way to unite those people who feel as passionate about plants as we do. That was the sparking moment of the Urban Jungle Bloggers community in 2013. Ever since, the community has grown into a global network of plant enthusiasts stretching from all over Europe, to the United States, Brazil, Singapore, and as far as New Zealand.
Speaking of plant enthusiasts: In Berlin for example, people go crazy for cacti and succulents. When did it became so popular to have them at home?
Judith: Today we can see a plethora of fantastic interiors, shops, creative homes that are brimming with plants, notably with cacti and succulents, but also with lush tropicals. Social media is also packed with green images on Instagram and Pinterest. However, we believe that plants should not be bought and added as trendy fashion items and discarded once you don’t like them anymore or even worse killing them. Plants should be an integral part of the home, making it not only nicer but also a better and healthier place to live. So we are absolutely supporting considerate and reflective plant shopping!
Why is the urge for green spaces at home such an urban phenomenon?
Igor: We think that plants help us reconnect to nature and this is a very urban desire. With the fast-paced and digitalized lifestyle in cities, this desire has grown. We do not have the time to go out and about into nature whenever we want but we still want to feel and be surrounded by nature. The easiest way to incorporate this feeling in our daily lives is by adding houseplants and creating our own little urban jungle, a green refuge from the concrete and our buzzing smartphones. Plants also help us pursue a healthier and better lifestyle we believe. With plants we learn to be patient again, growth is not achieved within minutes like our social media updates, but it is a fruit of ongoing care and love. Also we feel that the urban population has become more aware of a healthier lifestyle in general—thinking of outdoor activities, sports, healthier food. Plants come as a natural addition to this lifestyle.
“A passion for plants and living with plants is not the mere expression of a lifestyle or a certain personality.”
What have you learned about the people you feature on Urban Jungle Bloggers?
Judith: We have learned that a passion for plants and living with plants is not the mere expression of a lifestyle or a certain personality. It is as varied as we are, it is individual, it is unique in many ways. Plants also go with any kind of interior style—from minimalistic, monochrome homes to colourful interiors and eclectic bohemian homes. And every plant brings its own story—stories of success and failure, growth and stagnation, blooming and pests. And we see that people like to take care of their plants—they don’t give up that easily and get rid of a struggling plant. Instead people connect and exchange their plant know-how and help each other. That is a wonderful effect of the community.
What kind of plants would you suggest to start an urban jungle with?
Igor: We have dedicated an entire chapter in our Urban Jungle book on how to start your own urban jungle. You can start small, don’t go for the entire jungle look at once. Just as with a home you don’t want a one-stop-shopping urban jungle. Your plant collection should grow over time and be enriched with personal pieces—gifts, souvenirs, little cuttings that you grew into healthy plants. Look for plants that resonate with your lifestyle and fit into your daily life routine—don’t go for plants that you won’t have the time to care for. Make your own urban jungle as personal as possible. Just like your entire home.
Thank you, Igor and Judith for your input on this topic. Find out more about their great green projects in their book “Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants”, on their website or follow them into green homes on Instagram.