Urban Jungle – Meaning and Definition
If there is one thing we have all noticed during those dark days of lockdown, it’s that suddenly everyone has become a plant parent. You must have heard tons of stories about people discovering their green thumb, suddenly sprouting edibles on their balconies, and posting planties all over Instagram (like a selfie, but it’s plants 😊). How about you? Would you like to have your own urban jungle in your living room? If so, we have some suggestions for you.
Urban jungle, in its original meaning, refers to the fast-paced and even dangerous urban environment – think cities like New York and Paris, which never sleep. However, the jungle part has migrated into people’s flats and homes, as many have discovered the joy of nourishing a whole family of potted plants.
If you’ve felt the itch to join the hype, you may be right because there are many reasons to keep a plant or two or thousand in your vicinity!
Science-Backed Reasons to Have Your Own Urban Jungle Indoor Plants
I know. We’ve all tried it at some point only to find a shrivelled remnant of a would-be jungle plant. Hey, our lives get busy, and sometimes we forget to water them (or even overwater them until they sadly drown). Despite this, indoor plants have many benefits, especially if you take good care of them! Let’s take a look at what a mini urban jungle can do for you:
- Stress-relief. Life has become mad in recent years. Most of our generation has realised that adulthood is a scam and that we have to work even when we don’t work, all of which contribute to insane levels of stress (and shorter life expectancy). But having plants has been shown to reduce stress levels, so next time you see red, you might as well look at your green babies.
- Fresh air. Every fifth-grader knows about photosynthesis, and having plants in your home will take care of improving your air quality by banishing harmful chemicals like ammonia. Who wouldn’t want a bit more fresh air on this burning planet?
- Better attention span. Believe it or not, having real plants can boost your concentration levels and help you ace your exams. Surround your learning corner with several potted plants to improve your study effectiveness.
- Plants can improve your attitude to work. Having a bit of greenery around you when working can make the whole experience that much pleasanter, according to research conducted in the US and India. Since home-office has become a proven concept, and sometimes you just want to stay at home rather than go to the library, you might as well equip your room with some plants.
- Connection with the natural world. Being in touch with nature can boost your mood and help you ground yourself when you’re feeling out of sorts.
- Plants can improve your sleep. Taking care of plants before bedtime can increase your sleep quality due to the combined effects of stress reduction and fresh air in the room.
- They look pretty. Many interior design aesthetics include plants as they give a lively air to any room.
- Plants can help you learn discipline. You have to take care of your plants. If you’re struggling with concentrating and remembering things, such as watering your new flowers, you can use them as good training for overall responsibility and discipline. Start by getting plants that you like, as you’ll be less likely to let them die, and enrich your collection as you grow more competent and confident.
- Plants can be just like members of the family. Especially if you have temperamental, high-need ones, it can feel like taking care of a family member. You’ll also be immensely proud when they thrive.
Even without science to back it up, having your own urban jungle can enrich your life, especially when you realise how rewarding it is to take care of it. Whether you give your plants as a gift to someone or use them as free (and very patient) therapists, you’ll be glad you’ve ventured into botany.
Some of the Best Urban Jungle House Plants
Where do you even begin with plants? If you’ve never had any, or have (like me) watched your mum take care of the house plants with some bemusement, you might be confused about what kind of plants to get. Here are some suggestions that usually work well for people:
- Chrysanthemums. These are the best air-purifying plants you can get. They have pretty, colourful flowers and are easy to take care of. They do need a lot of sunlight and dry ground, so you’d want to keep them close to the window that gets the most exposure to the sun. Be careful, however, if you have pets or kids – their leaves are poisonous.
- Ficus. There are tons of ficus varieties, and whichever one you choose, you’ll have yourself a quirky little companion. By quirky, I mean quite fiery, as ficus doesn’t like to be moved much and can drop leaves out of protest. I have a Benjamin Ficus (we call him Benny), and he’s one of the most uppity plants ever created by the universe. But I’m happy to say he’s been growing nicely by the balcony door and hasn’t thrown a fit in over two years.
- Snake plant. Don’t worry; you don’t need snakes for it. Although unassuming, the snake plants are friendly and low-maintenance and can tolerate different environments without too much fuss.
- Bamboo palm. Another great choice to help you keep your air clean as it wards off formaldehyde released by furniture. Its bright green colour and cheerful-looking leaves have mood-boosting effects. If you get this one, make sure no spiders lounge around it, as it is not resistant to spider mites.
- English Ivy. For a bit of a challenge, check out the English ivy. It’s a soothing presence in the house, but it prefers certain temperatures (mainly cool and humid), so keep it in bright places, but not directly in front of the sunlight (corners work well).
- Gerbera daisy. No matter how many greens you have, you need some colour in your life too. Gerbera daisies are not toxic and are perfectly happy with indoor lighting during winter months (if that’s not low-maintenance, I don’t know what is), but they do need to be fertilised regularly.
Some other popular choices include Dwarf Azaleas, Wax Begonias, and Peace Lilies. Remember, whatever you do, don’t let your pets or kids chew on your house plants, as most of them have toxic sap in their leaves.
When in Doubt about Urban Jungle Plant Pots
Ditch your doubts and questions because house plants are not THAT dramatic and can settle nicely in any type of pot you have on hand. The most important thing is that you choose a pot that provides enough space for the existing roots of your plant (nobody likes to be squished into small spaces). Most ordinary house plants will make themselves comfortable in bigger pots and grow until they fill the capacity (looking at Benny, who is suspiciously taller and wirier these days), but they won’t overdo it. Nature is a beautiful thing, and while I can’t read plants’ minds, I’m sure they know what they’re doing.
Some common suggestions include hanging pots, which take up less space and can be arranged in ways that would expose your babies to enough sunlight. You can also use woven plant pots for less dramatic plants like begonias and money plants, or even get more creative with multi-plant stands.
Proper Plant Care for Your Green Family
Here comes the hard part: each plant needs something different. While the ones listed above are great for beginners, there are more demanding species that will, out of personal reasons, decide to die unless you provide them with proper care.
But how will you know?
You’ll have to listen carefully to the vendor when you buy your plant. Go directly to a flower shop close to you so that you get the chance to pick the plant (and a pot to boot) you like, or buy proper seeds if you wish to grow it from scratch. Ask about the needs of each new baby and write them down.
Download a plant care app; one of the best on the market is called Planta (available for Android and iOS). The app has a built-in register of various plants and information on how to take care of them. It can send you reminders to water your plants, and you can even keep a journal of their progress with photos and descriptions. It even offers recommendations on what to get next, depending on your skill level.
Wondering About the Hardest Plants to Take Care Of?
We talked about the beginner plants, but if you were wondering which species out there are really out to get you with their needs, here are a few:
- Orchids. These beautiful babies are like actual babies: needy at all times. Prone to fits and intensely stubborn, orchids tend to get the best out of anyone, but they are so beautiful to look at and perfectly rewarding once you get the hang of it.
- Fiddle leaf fig tree. This one wants lots of sunlight. But only at certain angles. Moist soil. But not too watery … yeah, that’s not enough; time to die. It’s a pretty plant, though, so we might forgive it.
- African violets. To keep them alive, you need a whole water-bath setup with relatively moist ground. But, again, not that moist. Keep some gravel and a humidifier around too.
- Lemon tree. Lemons are great for physical health, but they can be a good strain on your mental well-being considering their needs! Since it’s a tropical plant, it requires a warm and humid climate and prefers to be outside. If you live in areas known for inclement weather, your lemon may not be happy.
- Olive trees. Seriously, all the delicious things are pretty hard to keep alive. Make sure your olive tree is getting at least six hours of sunlight and lives in a climate as Mediterranean as you can get it.
Other coveted but high-maintenance plants include Venus Flytrap (although it’s a fascinating creature and catches flies for you), bonsai trees, and avocados (lots of water and lots of space).
Garnishing Your Home with Urban Jungle Plants
To recap, there are multiple benefits to having your personal urban jungle at home, including stress relief, a better attitude to work, and quality sleep. If you’re unsure where to start with your personal collection, I suggest looking at a nice Ficus, bamboo palm, or an English Ivy. Once you’ve conquered the beginner stage, check out some of the more challenging plants like begonias and orchids to truly reap the benefits of plant-growing.
There are no rules as to how you’ll organise your urban jungle. Some people like orderly arrangements; others (like myself) prefer the actual jungle vibe with various plants scattered about. As long as you don’t forget to water them!
Green up your life with your green thumb!