Houseplants: the beauty and benefits of having green friends

HOUSEPLANTS ARE GOOD FOR MENTAL WELLBEING, JUST ASK MY CHEESE PLANT

By Megan Rees

My first houseplant was a pocket-sized IKEA cactus, gifted to me about two years ago by a childhood friend. Cacti being a particularly resilient plant, it managed to survive complete abandonment on my windowsill for about a year before my obsession with houseplants actually started to develop.

To use John Green’s words, my love for plants happened “slowly, and then all at once”. I started the March lockdown in 2020 with about six houseplants in my bedroom and I now have twenty five. My collection is only growing, with the crowning jewel being my beloved IKEA cacti, still going strong after a turbulent two years.

But it’s not just me.

Collectively, both millennials and Gen Z worldwide seem to be taking an interest in houseplants like never before. It’s now somewhat rare to come across someone who hasn’t purchased, or at least thought about purchasing a little green friend (living or plastic) as part of their interior décor. But what’s behind this somewhat recent surge in houseplant sales?

With thousands of UK shops selling online and offering home delivery, buying plants is easier than ever. Sites like Bloombox Club even offer plant subscription boxes for set prices each month.

Especially during lockdown where we’ve found ourselves not only itching to renovate our homes, but where some of us are cooped up within tiny apartments in urban areas, these indoor jungles are a way to bring nature inside; a splash of fresh air to rooms that have started to feel stifled and stale.

But are houseplants just another trend or are they here to stay?

Instagram, the aesthetic Aphrodite

Instagram is undeniably one of the driving forces behind aesthetic trends, alongside platforms like Pinterest and Etsy.

With a search of #plants producing 38.6 million results globally and #plantsofinstagram bringing up 8.5 million at the time of writing, it’s near impossible to avoid being drawn in by these leafy urban jungles popping up on our feeds. A click on one plant post ensures they’ll be all over your explore page for the next week, thanks to Algorithms and the classic, the phones are listening.

So, are we buying plants to make our pictures more ‘Instagrammable’? Are plants just a trend fueled by popular accounts and interior design trends?

Accounts dedicated to plants (whether interior décor or plant care tips) are thriving, with accounts like @urbanjungleblog currently at 1.1 million followers, and @thejungalow at 1.4 million.

But as well as this, accounts dedicated to plants are a place where ‘plant parents’ can come together to exchange pictures and care tips, to celebrate new growth and be inspired by new interior design trends. Owning houseplants on Instagram makes you part of a wider community, where you’re welcomed regardless of what you look like or how many followers you have. A real sense of belonging.

Health benefits of houseplants

Mental health being one of the principle concerns of our generation, it’s easy to see why our calming green friends are so popular.

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest having plants in the room can improve our mental health and decrease stress levels. Healthline lists a reduction in stress levels, sharper attention, and a boost in productivity as potential benefits. This 2019 study finds evidence that looking at plants for just three minutes significantly decreases both psychological and physiological stress.

As well as stress-reducing and mood-boosting qualities, mini-jungles are a way for us to reconnect with nature from the comfort of our own homes at a time where many of us are stuck indoors indefinitely.

Caring for plants is an escape from bright screens, deadlines and modern life, connecting us with something tangible, living, and growing. They remind us to slow down, to breathe.

The beauty of growth

Maybe looking after plants teaches us about looking after ourselves.

There’s something heart-warming about watering something and watching it grow. Each new leaf almost feels like a personal accomplishment. You prune it, water it, feed it, and you’re rewarded with real, tangible growth.

I often find myself celebrating new leaves, sending pictures to friends and posting them on my Instagram Story, like a proud mother on the first day of the school year. It’s something to be celebrated.

Maybe this applies to our own lives more than we realise. By looking after ourselves bit-by-bit, we slowly start to grow and develop as people. It’s in this sense that plants can teach us the value of patience. No matter how closely you watch your Swiss Cheese plant, or stare at your Hoya, you’ll never physically be able to watch a leaf grow.

There are no instant results, nothing happens overnight; leaves grow when you aren’t looking, when you least expect them; one day, they just appear.

I think that’s how we develop as people too. We grow silently, almost unnoticeably. And just because we often can’t physically watch ourselves growing, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

So, are houseplants just another trend that will have come and gone within the next five years? Maybe. But personally, I know my urban jungle can only keep on growing.