Bricks, floral foam and volcanic rock all made excellent growing media for plants that thrive without soil
Recently, while flicking through an almost 20-year-old copy of the Royal Horticultural Society’s The Garden magazine, I was struck by an idea that seemed to open up all sorts of exciting possibilities. The cover was graced not by the typical glossy image of a stately home garden, but by a grainy photo sent in from a member. Having carefully observed how a range of begonias grow in the wild on rocks and cliffs, Mr Durlabh Singh Puri, the owner of a radio repair-cum-photography shop in India who just happened to be a passionate plantsman, had been ingeniously experimenting with growing these popular houseplants on bricks. Yes, regular house bricks, and to striking effect. Thankfully he was kind enough to share his brilliant idea.
The potential superiority of porous surfaces to potted growing media is exciting. This could be a game-changer for lithophytic species (plants adapted to grow on rocks), such as African violets, sinningias, slipper orchids and many ficus, whose twin demands of constant moisture and airflow at the roots make them a real challenge in traditional pot culture. After a year of experimentation, inspired by Mr Singh Puri’s early work with bricks, I have found three other materials that will also do the job well.