Millennials are really into Plants; here’s why

On Thursday, while making my way home, I stopped into a small florist and plant shop. I emerged 20 minutes later carrying 4 succulents and one Pothos plant. Already waiting for me at home were three succulents and my second orchid of the year.

I am becoming a plant lady. And I have no shame about it. I have spent my few free moments reading up on the latest on the best plants for my place, which plants live in the best light, and exactly how much I should be watering. I like my new hobby of caring for these little green beings, that, in addition to my cate, Phoebe, make my house feel like a home.

And I am not alone, the LA Times, the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Huff Post. “Millennials were responsible for 31 percent of houseplant sales in 2016,” according to business adviser for the gardening industry, Ian Baldwin.

But it goes beyond just aesthetics. Writer Jess Melia says there is “A need for us millennials to feel as if we’re caring for something other than ourselves in a time where making major life choices have to come later and later.” After all, Millennials came of age around the 2008 housing crisis, most of us are crippled with student loans, only to be released to a job market that was not ready for us. A lot of us work multiple jobs or are underpaid in our current career paths. Many of us rent, for going home ownership for a time of better finances. And a lot of us are not married to boot.

In our transient lives where it feels like so much of our lives are unstable, we have chosen to express our desire to care for things we can mostly control, like pets, and plants. “Like many of my friends and people I follow on Instagram, I’ve taken to a pet and plants — perhaps as a way to nurture my maternal instincts.” says Melia.

But the love of plants may be costing us millennials more than many would think. “The desire among millennials to upstage and embarrass each other in their bid for social status has not stopped at the borders of the green kingdom.”, says Joe Queenan of the WSJ. “How many times have online photos of ivy with brown edges led to the kind of mass shaming that finds its targets watering their plants with tears?”

And the social effects may not stop there. According to Queenan, many of us millennial plant parents are forgoing home trips to see our parents, not because we do not love our parents, but because the plants are “less annoying”. One millennial who spoke to the surly Queenan said “As soon as I set foot in their house, my parents give me a hard time about dating a tone-deaf sitar player and not doing anything about my hair. Now that I have 135 houseplants, I have a perfect excuse not to go home. You can’t ask your friends or neighbors to stop by every three days to water 135 plants. Anyway, I don’t have any friends.”

While I see my family and friends pretty regularly, I do see the point in Queenan’s well-written rant combined with Melia’s more accurate piece. Millennials like plants because plants liven up our spaces, clean our apartment’s air, make our apartments feel more like a home, and give us something to bond. What also must be noted is that there are plenty of Millennials who own homes, who are married, who do have a kid (maybe even two!) who do not care for any plants of their own. There are millennials who also have none of the things I have mentioned who are also repulsed by the idea of plant ownership.

For those of us who do have plants we care for, I think it is all about balance. We need a balance of healthy social habits and healthy home habits. Not overdoing it in any area. If that means not owning picky, difficult, or high maintenance plants so you can travel to see your mom or go out of town for a week, I think that is more than fair.

Although my own plant collecting hasn’t gone as smooth as I would have liked. 1 of my succulents rotted (overwatering), 2 just died on me (too much sun), my first orchid I kept from February until June (but I overwatered and it died), and my mint plant wilted (not enough water). I still have a lot to learn. But I am hoping to keep the current 10 plants I have alive, and (for now) holding off of any new plant purchases.

This post was originally shared on The Reclaimed blog.