In my experience it’s succulents and cacti that win the popularity contest as great low-maintenance easy care options, followed by hanging plants of any description. If it trails it’s trendy.
Speaking as a millennial, I can recognise a number of reasons why houseplants have struck a chord with so many of my generation, and if you were born between the early Eighties to mid-Nineties you might associate with some of these.
Let’s acknowledge some of the practical motivations first...
An increasing proportion of this generation are studying longer, starting families later, and many don’t have the job security and steady income to enable a step onto the property ladder. This means that a good amount of time is spent in rented accommodation that needs to feel like home.
Without the ability to make any major alterations to these spaces the appeal of plants becomes palpable - creating a cosy, homely vibe in a way that isn’t going to get you into trouble with your landlord.
A few plants dotted around can make a massive difference to the atmosphere of your interior and do not cost the earth. And if you do buy your first home, you can bet your friends will be bringing around a plant as a housewarming gift.
Another major factor to acknowledge is the impact of social media on indoor plant popularity; in case you didn’t know, plants are very cool online. There is a vibrant internet houseplant community, and as a ‘houseplant blogger’ for two years and counting, I have noticed a boom in engagement over this time. Platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are brimming with photos of plant styled interiors and people are eager to share a little slice of their own ‘houseplant curations’, plant purchases, or visits to green spaces.
This common interest connects plant lovers worldwide, where we are able to open up a dialogue, sharing plant care tips and tricks, plant experiments, our own plant successes (and failures!) and wish-list plants.
It’s actually true that even just looking at images of green spaces and plants can make you feel good; remember that next time you find yourself looking at plants on your social media feed!
This upturn in popularity of indoor plants also signals a resurgent desire for a re-connection with nature in an increasingly environmentally aware society. On a wider scale, being in green spaces and around plants is scientifically proven to actually make us feel better, lifting our moods and slowing our heart-rate down. Practices such as forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) are becoming increasingly popular, as is community gardening and allotment growing. I started photographing my plants on a bit of a whim a few years ago as a creative outlet whilst studying. Coincidentally, this was also when my plant collection started growing in a big way; the pattern seemed to be that the more stressed I got, the more plants that seemed to creep into my apartment. And I know I’m not the only one with this experience; perhaps that is what is causing many students to develop a plant collection too. It was at this point that I realised that plants really did help me to feel calm; caring for them allowed me to find some tranquility in my hectic work schedule.
As American biologist E.O. Wilson recognised in the 1980’s, as humans we have an innate biological drive to connect with nature; and so was born an area of research called biophillia which is currently enjoying a surge in popularity in correlation with the increasing popularity of plants.
For those of us that have little or no outside space, we are choosing to bring the outside in. Our increasingly urban lives might well have prompted this need for ‘plantify-ing’ where we live or work, and the point to make here is that there are plants to suit all tastes and requirements.
As well-regarded British plantswoman Beth Chatto’s adage goes; ’Right plant, right place.’
If you have a bright windowsill, plant a succulent window box or arrange a few cacti. A dimly-lit room could become home to some snake plants and If you like to cook, why not grow some herbs in your kitchen? The options to create your very own urban jungle can easiy align with your budget and space.
Plants can clean the air in the spaces in which we dwell with their purification and toxin-reducing superpowers. Research such as the NASA clean air study brought these benefits into sharp focus when trialling how to clean the air in their space stations.
Moreover, the promotion of wellbeing, of mindfulness and ‘slow living’ is increasingly prevalent not only amongst millennials but on a much broader scale too.
More and more people are discovering the enjoyment and calm that caring for plants can bring. Growing plants is a practice of patience, which is something we can all appreciate, the responsibility of nurturing a plant (and keeping it alive!) can be a very personal experience that is incredibly rewarding.
So why are plants trending at this particular moment? Perhaps it’s because plants help generate the intimate atmosphere of our living spaces, they express our personality, whilst enabling relaxation and contemplation. They help us to rediscover a slower pace of life in a speeded up, always ‘on’, and increasingly technological world.
Our busy lives mean that we don’t always have time to escape to the countryside to feel engaged with the natural world, sometimes we can just sit in our cosy-space at home and relax with a book, surrounded by our favourite houseplants.
Photo Credits: Dr Laura Jenkins, www.HousePlantHouse.com1