When surrounded by greenery outdoors, perhaps the next most natural thing for us to do is to bring fresh foliage into our homes as well. In a time of confinement, there was a societal need to brighten up our personal spaces and the indoor plant market boomed with plant sales over lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic by going up 200%.
With so many people struggling to find motivation or something to stimulate the mind indoor plants became a means of escapism, a wider branch than simply a means of decoration. As Demi Newlove, a plant influencer with almost 500 followers on Instagram, found “it kind of just brought the outside in a bit. And it gives you something to focus on, it was exciting like seeing new leaves come up and it was just something to look forward to.”
Indoor gardening has become more popular with millennials due to many not having the opportunity to grow plants outside. 15% of city dwellers live in places with no gardens or outside spaces at all, meaning they rely on houseplants to bring some greenery into their lives, and Demi whole heartedly agrees with this. While gazing lovingly at her plants scattered in the corner of her open plan Leeds apartment, she smiles and adds: “the one thing that everyone says when you’re stressed, is you need to get outdoors, but some people some days won’t even be able to get that far. So, bringing that outdoor experience inside, I think is the nice part of it.”
She pushes her long dark hair back and explains that her plant collection began in lockdown due to the need for distraction and a reminder of the countryside, as the average person spends over 85% of their time indoors. Demi wistfully recounts how her hour of freedom would take her to the supermarket at the end of her road, where she would spend all of her time staring in awe at the variations of flora before her. Her first plant was a Monstera Albo bought from the local supermarket and her collection “went from there really” as she “started coming home with a different one every day, and it just got ridiculous.”
This therapeutic nature of houseplants is evidenced by recent studies finding that plants have improved mental health for many people with 87.7% of people saying it helped relieve stress and anxiety. Demi not only uses her page to document her plants but also to connect with the neurodivergent community. She cradles her warm cup of tea and pointedly says that “one of the biggest things with ADHD specifically is constantly seeking dopamine hits” revealing for her that “getting a plant cutting, constantly gives back, so it’s a constant source of dopamine”, making plants a true source of happiness, not only for her, but for her dedicated followers too. And she’s not alone, with 6 million people taking up gardening last year, 83% of them were Millennials, showing the resurgence of popularity in indoor gardening.
Many people have taken to Instagram to share their indoor plant collections, with some boasting rare houseplants and others simply documenting growth with their foliage friends. Another plant enthusiast and influencer is Seren White. A 26-year-old Bristol based engineer who began posting back in October 2021 to document her 139 plants, under her creatively handled page Plants not Pot. The site has become a place where many users bond with likeminded plant parents and share their home horticulture journeys.
While plant influencers put a lot of time into their collections both Demi and Seren assure beginners not to be put off, as their mental health has improved significantly through developing such a relaxing hobby. Demi confesses: “you have to have time for it. But I kind of liked that aspect of it because with my ADHD I struggled to sit down or relax or do anything that sort of good for me mental health wise.” One of the main messages behind her page is simply “you win some you lose some” as she believes it’s sad when some die, but you can easily buy a new one to replace it. While Seren jokingly admits that she’s killed many succulents and sees tending to plants as a time you can relax and simply focus upon one thing “I’ve got all these things depending on me, but that’s nice and it’d be boring if all plants thrived straight away.”
She quietly agrees that plants have also helped her mental health, saying: “I find solace on looking at my succulents, I love it and it’s like an escapism because at that moment you’re looking at something you care for.” Seren smiles and pushes up her glasses, gesturing to the abundance of plants in her well-lit living room “in that moment you’re appreciating the fact they live because of you, and you don’t have to think about anything else.”
Studies have shown this to be true, as houseplants are said to improve mood and air quality, with many consumers seeking out more ways to improve their wellbeing. Having plants around your home and workplace can boost creativity and help your memory, and this deep-rooted connection with plants has been studied as a form of horticultural therapy for decades, even coining the term ‘biophilia’ suggesting the innate relationship humans desire to have with other living things. Seren laughs as she holds up her leafy begonia lucerne, “it’s so rewarding, I don’t think we’d feel like such successful plant parents if it was easy, I’m just really pleased I have plants in my life.” affirming the fulfilment of nurturing something living can have an impact upon everyday life.
Maybe there’s a shelf with nothing on in a sunny spot where you can place a thriving houseplant to try and ease your mind. The relaxing aspect of plants is certainly something to consider, even if you only have the space for a singular cactus and not 140 busy leaved houseplants.