Houseplants have undergone something of an image transformation over the past 20 to 30 years. Back in the 20th century, cultivating houseplants was seen as an activity for people of a certain age, a hobby that children could certainly pursue with their grandparents, but would then banish from consideration, at least for 50 years or so until they had grandchildren of their own.
Then sometime around the turn of the millennium, things started to change. It’s hard to say whether it was part of a growing awakening to the natural world and a wish to connect with it or a simple change of fashion that is unfathomable to explain. But suddenly, younger generations were starting to take an interest in houseplants.
This was no mere passing fad. Over recent years, there have been almost as many videos shared on Tik Tok and YouTube about looking after houseplants as there have been about cats knocking them over. Here, we take a look at the latest houseplant statistics in terms of who is buying them and why, as well as the most popular houseplants and the most commonly reported problems with their care.
The oldest millennials are now nudging 40, while Generation Z are entering the workforce and setting up home on their own. The Gen-Z cohort is as enthusiastic about houseplants as the millennial generation. But the motivations behind their enthusiasm run a little deeper than you might think.
Yes, today’s 20-somethings are eco-conscious and understand the benefits of houseplants in terms of stress reduction and improved indoor air quality. But houseplants also satisfy their nurturing instincts. Younger generations are delaying parenthood longer and longer, but seven out of 10 millennials describe themselves as “plant parents.”
In the past, they might have instead opted for a cat or dog, but with economic conditions forcing so many to rent, that is not always an option. Forget fur babies, today it is all about the plant babies.
Young houseplant owners take their responsibilities seriously, from asking family and friends to “plant sit” if they are away from home to experiencing feeling of anxiety over getting the light and watering just right.
That might make it sound as if plant parenthood is more hassle than it’s worth, but survey data suggests otherwise. Most people with children or indeed pets will tell you that the positives outweigh the negatives, and it seems that millennial plant parents feel the same. More than four out of five say they feel their mental and physical health has improved since taking on the responsibility of plant parenthood.
One of the economic realities of being born in the 1980s and 90s is that unless you’re lucky enough to have an ancestral house in the country, you’re likely to be spending the early 2020s in a home where space is at a premium.
Horticulturalist Thomas O’Rourke says this is reflected in the top trending houseplants. Thomas noted that older and more “traditional” plant enthusiasts have more diverse choices as they typically have more space, both indoors and out. But the under-40s constitute a significant part of the market, and even Gen-Z, with their first time buyer woes and crippling student debt still have an annual spending power of $143 billion.
In other words, what’s trending among millennials and Generation Z is what’s trending in the industry. Thomas identified a handful of the most popular houseplants among millennial buyers.
|Plant name||Also known as||Why they love it|
|Pilea Peperomioides||Chinese Money Plant||It looks lush and leafy, but is actually a succulent, so is hardy and simple to look after. It is also great for sharing, as it will propagate well from cuttings.|
|Monstera Deliciosa||Swiss Cheese Plant||The “delicious monster” is an Instagram sensation and the plant everyone wants. The leaves are huge, making it impractical for small spaces but who cares?|
|Ceropegia Woodii||String of Hearts||Far more practical for apartment living, this is a plant that looks fabulous draped over a bookshelf or hanging in a basket. Pink varieties are irresistible.|
|Ficus Lyrata||Fiddle Leaf Fig||Millenials went crazy for this taste of the tropics when they were holed up indoors in 2020. It can grow to 2 metres but requires minimal care and is happy in a shady corner.|
|Succulents||Succulents have always been popular with younger plant buyers as they are so easy to care for and have exotic and interesting features.|
There is more variety in the top trending plants than you might expect. Succulents are an old favorite and a perfect choice for plant parents of a nervous disposition due to their almost indestructible nature.
The Swiss Cheese Plant and Fiddle Leaf Fig have become ubiquitous across instagram and are favorites among “plantfluencers.” The former is somewhat surprising, as it is less than ideal for the typical city apartment, but it is a classic case of the heart sometimes overruling the head and if it ends up taking over the apartment, that’s all part of the fun.
The Fiddle Leaf Fig was one lockdown craze that few could have predicted, but millennials ordered them online in their droves and those who nurtured them are beginning to see their plant baby becoming a plant adolescent. They grow about a foot per year and after three years or so, they start to look decidedly ornamental. Ultimately, they can grow as tall as six to seven feet.
Keeping houseplants is a pastime that is enjoyed across the US. There is no significant difference from north to south or east to west in terms of the popularity of “plant parenthood.” However, there are some interesting variations when it comes to which houseplants are popular from one state to the next. The team at All About Gardening ran some search data analytics to find out which plants are most popular in which state.
The first thing that the data illustrates is that Thomas O’Rourke’s “finger in the air” run down on the top trending houseplants across the US is absolutely borne out by the data. The five plant variations that he mentioned all feature in the state-by-state analysis.
That still leaves plenty of states, including some of the most populous including Florida and Texas that have very specific preferences when it comes to houseplants.
The Sunshine State went out on a limb - and a prayer. The most popular houseplant here is maranta leuconeura, better known as the Prayer Plant. It is so called due to its diurnal rhythm, whereby the leaves lie flat during the day and then rise and curl into an erect position in the evening - as if they have fot up in time to pray for evening vespers. They are easy to grow from cuttings - much easier than growing from seed in fact - so are great for sharing with friends, which seems to be the trend that is still going around in Florida.
Texas, along with its neighbors Arizona and Colorado gave a thumbs-up for the Calatheas. These gorgeous houseplants arre famed for their large leaves and beautiful summer flowers, which can come in a variety of colors. They favor low indirect light and high humidity, so if you have a spare space in the bathroom that might benefit from a houseplant, this could be just what you are after.
Finally, we cannot let this state by state review go by without sparing a word for the people of South Dakota. The favorite houseplant there is none other than Devil’s Ivy. So called because of its almost indestructible nature, it is, perhaps, the ideal plant for those who are not naturally green-fingered. The plant can grrow more than six feet high if you give it something to cling on to, but don’t expect any flowers from this on. If it does happen to flower, take a photograph quickly - the last one reported to do so in cultivation was in 1964!
Cultivating houseplants is more popular today than it has ever been, especially among younger generations. The millennial obsession with houseplants seems set to continue with Generation Z.
But having said that, caring for plants is a pastime that is rewarding for every generation. In fact, Generation X, who are now in their 40s and and 50s, spend more on houseplants than younger millennials and older baby boomers.
In short, you are never too young or too old to be a plant parent - and if you prefer to nurture your plants without babying them, they will be fine with that, too.