What is it about indoor leafy foliage that has so captivated young adults?
Martha Stewart once said that millennials "don’t have the initiative to go grow a tomato plant on the terrace." I suspect she'd say otherwise now, with the meteoric rise of the humble house plant. In the past few years, urban nurseries have seen sales skyrocket as young people come in to stock up on verdant foliage to fill their living spaces.
Why are young people so obsessed with greenery all of sudden (also named Pantone's color of the year in 2017)? How did they go from being tomato-inept to representing the largest chunk of newly minted gardeners? Five out of the six million Americans who took up gardening in 2015 fell into the 18-34 age bracket, according to the 2016 National Gardening Report. There are a few suspected reasons.
Most basically, money. Many millennials can't afford to buy homes, and so are stuck living in rental apartments with no access to outdoor yard space; hence, the inclination to transform indoor space into a plant forest. Also, house plants are a relatively cheap form of home decor. They make every space look more inviting.
Plants are low risk. For young people who do not yet have children or pets or mortgages to pay, a house plant is a nice intro to responsibility. It needs you, but not too badly. You can still go away, and if it happens to die, it can be replaced. As Jazmine Hughes wrote for the New York Times,
"A plant, then, is fertile ground to act out the trial and error inherent to emerging adulthood, a low-risk investment in discovering the type of person you are: It feels safe and permissible to try out authority and ownership on a being that it’s legal to kill. In return, plants politely and quietly let you know when you’re doing something wrong: a drooping leaf, a yellowing stem, a smattering of bugs."
Social media is also driving the plant frenzy. Pictures of literally picture-perfect plants in simple white containers, filling the corners of sunny, airy apartments, have an instinctive appeal to young people. Whether they're trying to recreate it themselves, or just love the infusion of plant-induced happiness in an otherwise dismal online world, Instagram accounts featuring house plants boast hundreds of thousands of followers, such as The Horticult, The Jungalow, and Urban Jungle Blog.
Another factor is the growth in wellness culture, and the idea that the things surrounding us in our homes affect our physical health and mental wellbeing. House plants are known to cleanse the air, remove pollutants, even promote sleep. Studies have shown them to improve focus and work productivity, to boost healing, and to deter illness. Read more: 5 health benefits of house plants
All in all, it's not a bad obsession for millennials to have. House plants are neutral, apolitical, and downright peaceful, and we all need more of that in our lives.