Business is blooming.
Millennials dig plants – as the wild tangle of fiddle-leaf figs and succulents that have sprouted all over Instagram has shown. And they’re willing to spend some green to create the most Pinterest-worthy plantscapes in their homes and offices.
Natasha Sligh, 24, from Brooklyn just dropped $80 on a 4-inch rubber tree, a couple of colorful calatheas (a.k.a. prayer plants) and a philodendron, among other guilty-pleasure greenery. Her urban jungle of 13 plants includes a Monstera Deliciosa — a statement piece with its fan-shaped slitted leaves — a rubber tree and a succulent terrarium.
“I’ve tried to make them more like pets and less like plants. They have names,” she said, such as Bruce, her favorite fiddle-leaf fig tree. “I’ve stuck some googly eyes on their pots. I like having something to take care of.”
D.C.-area resident Maxine Mitchell, 29, picked up her gateway shrub – the Dieffenbachia “Camille” – five months ago to spruce up her pad. She’s already grown to 15 plant babies, including five neon pothos vines, a rubber plant, a spider plant and a monstera.
“Originally, I wanted another way to decorate, but it’s also really nice having another living thing in my apartment,” she told Moneyish. “I don’t have any pets, and I live here by myself, so it’s nice to water them, and talk to them, and see how they’re doing.”
Plus, she’s found that watering, pruning and checking for pests is an exercise in mindfulness. “It forces you to put your phone down and be present,” she said.
Sling agreed. “It’s nice I have a little routine where I spend part of my Sunday mornings each week doing all the watering and fertilizing and rotating,” she said. “I put a record on and just focus.”
These and other budding greenthumbs are at the root of the DIY yard and gardening industry hitting $36.9 billion, according to the 2017 National Garden Survey, which found that of the 6 million Americans who got into gardening in 2016, 5 million were between the ages of 18-to-34.
Eliza Blank founded The Sill as an online plant delivery service six years ago. She’s since sprouted two brick-and-mortar stores and added potting demonstrations and gardening workshops.
“People need to get into plants now more than ever,” she told Moneyish. “This is a tough time. And plants are something that you can nurture and have a mutually beneficial relationship with outside of the day-to-day grind. There’s comfort in that.”
And we haven’t even hit peak plants yet. Indoor Garden Design director Ian Drummond told Horticulture Week that this year will be the “year of the houseplant,” with IKEA rolling out a new range of plants in August.
Amazon recently rebranded its “Patio, Lawn & Garden” section into the Amazon Plants Store, curating bonsai, bamboo and succulent collections.
And Paint Nite branched out from its happy hour painting parties to terrarium-making workshops with Plant Nite, where guests spend a few hours sipping drinks while planting succulents, air plants and herbs in glass bowls, which they decorate with colored pebbles, amethyst crystals or tiny unicorn and dinosaur figures for $45 to $75. Plant Nite has grown from its original Boston garden party to 32 states and Canada over the past three years.
Daryl Beyers, the gardening coordinator for NYBG’s Adult Education, noticed houseplants growing on Americans again when the Recession first hit in 2007.
“Gas prices spiked, and we saw people starting to think more about ecology and the living planet,” he said. “I used to teach gardening courses 15 to 20 years ago where I would start to talk about composting their garbage, and everyone would freak out. Now, composting is cool.”
Brian Parker, a Senior Merchant for Live Goods at Home Depot, told Moneyish that shoppers are snapping up yucca cane and the ubiquitous fiddle-leaf figs and succulents because they can handle low light, and they’re relatively easy to care for.
“Pinterest is driving a lot of it. They go on, see other people’s success with their plants, and come in saying, ‘We saw this on Pinterest,’” he said.
There’s a few more reasons why so many Millennials getting their hands dirty. “Growing up, they probably did a lot of outdoor activities with their parents, and the sad fact is now we’re on our phones or computers 24/7, and everyone is pressed for time,” Parker said. “So the only way to grasp a piece of that outdoors is to bring it inside their house, which is their restful area.”
And it’s only as expensive as you make it. While you can drop $250 on the fiddle-leaf fig, which was last year’s Instagram darling, already-potted succulents start at $4 or $5 apiece at Lowe’s, or sets of three is under $15 at Home Depot, or you can find bushier plants like pothos vines and spider plants for under $20 a pot. And for the most part, they just require free tap water.
Plus, greens are good for you. Research shows that touching and smelling plants reduces stress. Both NASA and the American Lung Association credit plants for filtering common indoor toxins like formaldehyde, asbestos and carbon monoxide, particularly peace lilies, spider plants and English ivy. And a University of Exeter study also found that employees with plants in their workplaces were 40% more productive and creative.
Michigan student Jordan Woodman, 22, told Moneyish that tending her indoor garden for the past few years, including an aloe plant, a jade plant, an orchid and some herbs, has been a huge morale booster, especially in winter.
“I know that I have these little things that depend on me for life, and that helps inspire me to take care of myself as well,” she said. “So when I wake up, the first thing I do is check my plants and make sure their temperature, soil and sunlight are okay for the day.”
Plus, it’s a safe substitution for a pet. “You’re not a bad person if your houseplant dies,” laughed Beyers. “You compost it. It’s no big deal. And then you buy another plant.”
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