It’s probably easier to score drugs in New York than it is to get your hands on a good rare house plant. When I say “rare,” I mean anything other than a fiddle leaf fig tree, whose over-exposure in photography and interiors has been well noted for some time. I’ve been guilty myself of pushing the fiddle leaf fig in the past, for production shoots and interior projects. I get it—they have a beautiful, organic shape, a leathery leaf texture, and they remain addictive to buyers in the house plant market. But what if there was a different kind of plant out there for you to consider?
In recent months, I’ve been actively changing things up in the interior botany department for my clients, and I often find myself at the 28th Street flower market between 6th and 7th Ave. I search in and out of the shops and I wait for a unique tree or plant to roll off the trucks. I go early in the wee hours and I go later before most of the plant places close up at 3pm. I go multiple times during the week sometimes and even ask the dealers to show me what else they have in the off-site grow houses. But it takes time and patience to find a meandering, distinct specimen that speaks to me and my clients for just the right spot.
It is certainly clear that supply is still meeting demand for the fiddle leaf fig, aka Ficus lyrata, originally from West Africa. If you have one already, there is no shame—continue to love and care for it. However, there are other species out there that can help you with your next interior oxygen fix.
Here are some gateway alternatives, hit or miss, straight from 28th Street:
#1 Olea europaea Manzanillo, street name: Manzanillo Olive
*Arbequina Olive is a nice variety as well. The olive tree is one of the earliest known cultivated trees and rich in symbolism.
#2 Kalanchoe beharensis, street name: “Velvet Elephant Ear”
*This is one of my favorites due to its shape and rusted look of the edges. It seems to have its own history.
#3 Dracaena marginata, street name: “Red-Edge or Dragon Tree”
*Every space can likely handle a touch of red.
#4 Euphorbia lactea, street name: “White Ghost Cactus”
#5 Beaucarnea recurvata, street name: “Ponytail Palm”
*Look at this ponytail—sexy.
#6 Podocarpus gracilior, street name: “ Weeping Podocarpus, African Fern Pine or Buddhist Pine”
*The vibrant green bushy tree is back!
#7 Fortunella japonica, street name: “Marumi Kumquat”
*They have white blossoms, which then turns into edible fruit and brings good fortune.
#8 Bucida buceras, street name: “Shady Lady or Black Olive”
*The right kind of shady lady.