In the concrete jungle that is Dhaka, any sight of greenery is a respite for the senses. While household gardening continues to be a popular hobby among residents of the city, office spaces and banks are nowadays often seen adorned with plants, both indoor and outdoor kinds.
Like any living being, plants need to be taken care of regularly, and that can be quite tricky for a business establishment, as it may not be feasible for many to have a full-time gardener.
However, where there is demand, there is supply – especially in a city of 20 million where more people are coming in every day in search of livelihood. Nursery owners of the capital have long been providing rental service of plants, opening up a business avenue for themselves while taking a load off corporate offices, banks, and restaurants who want to spruce up their place without having to worry about upkeep.
“People can purchase plants from us, or they can choose the rental service. The benefit of the rental offer is that we take care of the plants ourselves,” said Md Jahangir, 45, owner of Swandeep Nursery in Gulshan, one of the many nurseries that rent out trees to offices and households.
According to him, nursery owners provide both indoor and outdoor plant rental services. Indoor plants are sold in pots, while outdoor plants are usually bigger and mostly planted on clients’ building premises or ground.
The charge for the rental service varies from nursery to nursery, with per pot usually costing Tk 50 to 150 per month.
“A client must rent at least 30 pots, or else I cannot afford the service,” said Golam Rabanni, Sonar Bangla nursery owner at Kalabagan.
Once the plants are rented, a gardener from the nursery goes to the place twice a week to look after the plants — watering, razing weeds, spraying insecticides, trimming leaves and branches, and keeping the soil fertile.
If the plants are damaged within the contract period – which can be for months or years – they change the plant and provide a new one.
“Outdoor and indoor trees both require special care. For example, you cannot keep indoor plants exposed to too much sunlight, or they will die,” said Sikder Ali, 60, owner of MS Ali & Arobi Pot Plant Nursery at Gulshan-2.
“I have plants priced at Tk 20 to 1 Lakh. Based on the order, I supply them. However, nursery owners are wary of supplying expensive plants, as there are business risks associated,” said Sikder, who has been in the trade for over 20 years.
According to nursery owners, the rental business goes on round the year, with flower plants high in demand particularly in winter. Boston fern, money plant, palms, silver queen, desina and furcaria are the most commonly-rented ones. Banks, corporate offices and restaurants are the main clients of the service, they said.
Khokon Chandra Das, owner of “Bhooter Mela” restaurant in Malibagh, has been availing the service since 2015 and now has more than 100 plants decorating his restaurant for a monthly charge of Tk 5,000.
“It’s a very convenient arrangement, as nursery owners take care of your plants every week and you get a new one if plants get damaged. Besides, the plants stay fresh and create a soothing environment for the restaurant,” Khokon told this correspondent.
With time, the business is also evolving. Some entrepreneurs – like Green Garden Agricultural Company – are now renting out plants via online platforms, among other services.
Raisul Islam, who founded the company in 1993, says, “The rental service idea came to the country in the 1990s, when office buildings started to flourish. Two or three companies used to rent out plants during that time. Being a garden enthusiast, I also started the initiative during that time,”
Within a decade, the rental idea became popular among the office buildings and some households started to take the service as well, said Raisul, also the president of Dhaka City Nursery Owners’ Association.
According to him, there are more than 100 companies and nurseries in Dhaka that provide the rental services. Besides, Chattogram, Khulna and Rajshahi also have some nurseries that provide such facilities.
The idea of plant rental service is also common abroad, he added.