II have spent years attending long horticultural trade body board meetings as they desperately try to solve the puzzle of how to encourage the next generation to garden. So the sudden blossoming of interest in houseplants in the current 20’s and 30’s, with sales said to have risen as much as 500% in recent years, and the hashtag #plantsofinstagram racking up millions of posts, it’s exciting for me.
However, what is really fascinating is that this is not the result of a brilliant industry campaign, but rather a movement built from the ground up. So what is driving this new phenomenon, and by understanding it, we can help not only secure the future of the horticultural industry that I love, but gardeners of any age as well?
If you believe in gardening media, the main drivers behind the boom are the lack of garden ownership among young people, forcing them to turn to large interiors; and the charm of platforms like Instagram to show off trendy interiors in the jungle. As a millennial owner of getting 500 houseplants, I can’t help but feel like this is a terrible oversimplification, and looking at the boom through the lens of conventional gardening, we overlook some of the deeper motivations.
For starters, the median age for homeownership has risen for years. I’m calling in my 40s and since I was in college, most of my friends had resigned themselves to the idea that they would probably never own their own home. While not having a garden limits one’s horticultural ambitions to the living room, it doesn’t explain why these ambitions exist in the first place or why they have suddenly taken off.
Similarly, it is clear from youth posts that there is more to this newfound fascination than chasing the latest interior fashions. Looking at the leading hashtags – #plantshakepeoplehappy, #plant, Y #plant – reveals that motivation is largely the emotional reward of growing plants, rather than just showing them off.
In an increasingly virtual world, growing plants offers a rare opportunity to see something real. The more uncertain, even terrifying, the world around us may seem, the more enriching indoor gardens can satisfy the innate human need for control and provide a sense of security.
Look at the headlights in motion and you will find something more amazing too. The top three accounts are run by people of color, of immigrant or working-class backgrounds and none with the interior equivalent of a sprawling yard or stately home.
The important thing about recognizing these motivations is that it opens gardening to all ages, showing that, for many, it is about the joy of the process, not the great “reveal” of the final product. For many, gardening is more about therapy, nature, and experimentation than seeking status. In fact, ironically, it is this that has prevented many from experiencing its wonder. Thank goodness things are changing!
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism