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It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again: plants are kind of having a moment. 

From plant-mom water bottle stickers to boutique plant shops to plantfluencers, house plants have become an “it” item among millennials and Generation Z. 

It’s not just in the US either. In 2019The Guardian reported that research from the online plant realtor Patch showed that 67% of Londoners had bought a houseplant in the last year. 

What’s going on? 

Keeping plants indoors has gone through cycles of popularity for a long time (think centuries). In ancient times, indoor plants were popular in China and the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II literally made one of the seven ancient Wonders of the World out of what some might consider indoor plants. In the Victorian era, the English got kind of obsessed. In 1970s America, a combination of environmental consciousness and the desire for calming green architectural color palettes led to a surge in houseplant popularity. Houseplant lovers of the ‘70s preferred African Violets to monstera but they were definitely enamored. So, what’s different now? 

Some suggest that millennials love plants as much as they do because plants give millennials something to care for in their concrete jungle urban apartments since they are delaying getting pets, buying houses and having children.

In a video, The New Yorker suggested that millennials’ love of plants may also be fueled by aesthetics and encouraged or perhaps even created by social media. 

But plant and lifestyle YouTuber Harli G balks at this idea. 

In a reaction video to The New Yorker’s video on the topic, Harli G, who has 159K subscribers, said that she feels that most young people interested in house plants aren’t doing it for “Instagram fame.”  

Whether inspired solely by social media or not, the trend has reached some extreme heights. 

A variegated minima sold for NZ$8,000 this fall. Some New Yorkers now make livings as plant stylists, selecting and maintaining just the right combination of indoor plants for a stunning effect in any space. It is not unheard of for millennial plant lovers to have hundreds of plants in their apartments and to spend hours watering and caring for them. 

Another possible reason for all this houseplant love? The pendulum of interior design trends has swung back to color palettes that look great with green such as pale pinks.

When asked directly why they love plants or why they buy plants, some might respond that they are looking to benefit from purified air or that plants are a part of their self-care. 

While it is true that studies have found that keeping plants inside improves job satisfaction and lowers blood pressure, as Jonathan S. Kaplan Ph.D. explains in an article for Psychology Today, it’s important to bear in mind that these studies compare environments without plants to those with plants and cannot be completely sure that these benefits are not due to other factors. Would the addition of sea monkeys have had the same effect as the addition of a houseplant, for example?

NASA scientist Bill Wolverton taught us all that plants will help clean our air. In reality, this study only looked at very specific air pollutants called VOCs or volatile organic compounds. 

In addition, new studies indicate that the number of plants needed to reap air qualifying benefits make it unlikely that the plant-parent of two will experience any of these benefits. 

In short, the current plant craze among those under 35 is not as unprecedented as it may seem. Houseplants have been popular off and on for a long time. But as for what is fueling the current adoration? It is likely due to a host of interrelated factors and there is probably not one definite answer as to why millennials are suddenly so entranced. One thing is for sure though: fiddle leaf fig trees are really freaking cool. 

Carson Leigh Olson is a sophomore at the University of Florida currently studying political science and French (and loving every minute of it). A strong believer in messy desks and chai tea lattes, Carson Leigh can be found at https://carsonleigholson.wixsite.com/carsonleigholson.
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