Photo essay: getting lost in Dubai's plant souq

Find 800-year-old trees at this out-of-town cluster of nurseries

If sustained periods at home have taught us anything in the past two years, it's that almost any room can be brightened up with the addition of foliage. And for those in pursuit of greenery, the plant souq in Dubai's Al Warsan district should cater to most needs.

A collection of dozens of nurseries — including Black Tulip Flowers and Green Trend Landscape — located between the E44 and E611 motorways, it is a place where hours can be wiled away browsing the seemingly endless array of indoor and outdoor plants.

The humble houseplant has carried the weight of the world on its shoulders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As people faced prolonged periods of time at home, they sought to bring the outdoors in, turning to plants to bring life into their domestic spaces.

A 2021 study published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening journal links indoor plants to positive emotional well-being during the early days of the pandemic.

“The majority of the respondents (73.7 per cent) agreed that having vegetation at home positively contributed to their mood during the Covid-19 confinement period, while only 3.5 per cent disagreed,” the study reported.

“This seems to be reinforced by the frequency of self-reported positive (calmness, optimism and cheerfulness) and negative (stress, sadness, fearfulness and depression) emotions during the Covid-19 crisis among those with many (more than seven plants), some (three to seven plants) and no or very few (fewer than three) indoor plants at home.”

For the green-fingered shopper, there are countless high-maintenance options available at the plant souq, including the notoriously fussy, but incredibly beautiful, orchids (seen below) and bonsai trees.

Meanwhile, for those with a history of killing off greenery that passes their threshold, there are plenty of low-maintenance plants to consider.

Rubber plants, or Ficus elastica, are abundantly available and have a reputation as one of the best houseplants for cleaning or purifying the air.

You'll also find cacti, peace lilies, fiddle leaf fig trees and bird of paradise trees, also known as Strelitzia nicolai (seen below).

Although not native to the UAE, cacti have a reputation for being robust and hardy plants that can survive, if not thrive, in arid desert climes.

The cactus selection (seen below) at the plant souq is extensive, with price options ranging from Dh100 to Dh25,000 and some growing as tall as 2.5 metres.

Horticultural audience diversity was also prevalent during the early days of the pandemic, when Gen Z content creators were going viral on TikTok with videos about houseplant maintenance.

“We saw a lot of younger consumers come into the market because of the pandemic and because they were having to stay home,” Benjamin Campbell, associate professor at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said of a study compiled for the University of Georgia.

“Plants have been shown to help with a lot of different things related to people's psyche. Gardening not only gave people something to do, but it also gave them a little bit more happiness.”

For those with their hopes pinned on outdoor plants, there are even more options available at the plant souq. Browse aisles of Citrus japonica (kumquat, seen above) and hibiscus plants; crepe myrtle, Heptapleurum actinophyllum and olive trees; and countless varieties of palms (seen below).

Olive trees (seen below) available at the plant souq cost anything from Dh150 to Dh200,000 and are shipped in from Europe, primarily Italy and Spain. Some of the trees available to buy are 800 years old.

Updated: May 06, 2022, 6:01 PM