Urban Planters was founded in 1965 as Bradford grounds maintenance firm Urban Landscapes, but moved to indoor landscaping in the 1970s and became a franchising business in 1989.
It now has 125 employees in 31 UK franchise territories, plus one in Madrid, and turned over almost £2.5m in sales this year. Franchise director Alan Page said France, the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia are all strong options for future growth, starting by looking for established businesses that could benefit from a rebranding.
Urban Planters also plans to increase its share of the UK market, which turns over £80m-£100m annually. "Confidence in buying has come back to the market and people are spending again with regards to indoor plant displays, green walls and green roofs," said Page. Christmas trees and decorations are also big business from October onwards, from hotel foyers and hairdressers to clients such as Manchester United FC, he added.
"When I got into the business it was all about a collection of plants with different leaf colours, texture and form in a composite plant display. But in the last 15 years it's become very stark - a single plant in a pot with nothing underneath. Bigger displays are just a single species of plant."
While dracaenas and ficus species remain popular, many customers now ask for green walls. While people used to rent or buy plant displays for aesthetic impact, health benefits are now top of the agenda. "They are more aware of air quality," said Page. "We often get asked what would be most effective to improve humidity or scrub the air."
Top 10 - Urban Planters lists the best indoor plants for air filtering
1. Spathiphyllum 'Mauna loa'
2. Chrysanthemum morifolium
3. Dracaena marginata
4. Sanseveria trifasciata 'Laurentii'
5. Hedera helix
6. Epipremnum aureum
7. Anthurium andreanum
8. Rhapis excelsa
9. Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'
10. Ficus benjamina