Houseplant Popularity Has Bloomed During The Pandemic

First-time plant buyers are up; seasoned plant parents have expanded their collections.

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Woman arranging plants at home
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When the pandemic started, a lot of people didn’t want to shelter in place alone. So they bought plants. It’s not quite the same commitment as getting a roommate or adopting a pet, but it does require dedication.

In a recent survey of 990 people who had purchased houseplants since March 2020, 12% were first-time plant buyers. People had various reasons for buying greenery since the pandemic. Some people did it because now they had more time on their hands; others said garden stores were some of the few places open.

The majority (65%) said they bought indoor plants to beautify their home. More than half (57%) said they purchased plants to grow their own food [see: 7 Houseplants You Can Eat] or because they wanted to distract themselves (54%) from what was going on in the world. Others (49%) bought plants as an excuse to get more outdoor time during the pandemic.

Whatever the reason for going green, there seemed to be some positive payoffs.

More than a quarter of people who responded to the poll said that gardening helped ease their stress to a great extent over the past several months and 43% said their stress dropped by a moderate amount.

Those who admitted talking to their plants apparently reaped the most benefits. People who chatted with their greenery were reportedly 3.5 times more likely to say their stress had dropped to a great extent during the pandemic.

On average, survey respondents said they spent $124.50 on plants since March. The poll was commissioned by Stoneside Blinds and Shades.

The Benefits of Plants

Although no science was involved in this particular poll, there has been plenty of other research about the stress-busting benefits of surrounding yourself in foliage.

A 2019 study published in HortTechnology from the American Society for Horticulture Science suggests that plants can lower stress and anxiety when you're working. For the study, researchers had 63 people who worked at a full-time desk job in Japan take a three-minute break when they felt fatigued. They were able to see and take care of a small desk plant during that time.

After about a month, more than a quarter of the participants had a drop in pulse rate — a good sign of stress response. And their self questionnaires showed their anxiety had decreased too.

“By choosing a favorite plant and taking responsibility for its care, the interactive relationship between the participant and the plant likely prompted a degree of affection,” the researchers wrote. “The indications are that the development of a mild attachment to the plant contributed to a greater level of participant involvement with the plant. This slight but meaningful emotional involvement could maintain interest over time and potentially intensify the restorative benefit of the placing a small plant on a desk.”

There have also been countless studies on the health benefits of houseplants. They’re especially good at cleaning the air, which means better air quality and improved breathing.

So whether you buy plants because you want cleaner air, a prettier space, or you just can’t commit to a dog, there are varied benefits.

And there's good news in case you don't have a green thumb. Researchers in the 2019 study noted that dead plants “did not have a very profound effect on participants’ psychological stress.”