If someone opens Instagram accounts of home decor professionals or influencers, it is hard not to spot the picture-perfect plant in a millennial home. Houseplants have always formed an essential component of home decor and interior design. While plants constitute the other half of life on Earth, a little house plant can simply add life to an interior, quite literally.
The millennial culture, constituting the generation born between 1981 and 1996, has embraced the houseplant much like avocado toast brunches or binge-watching television. It is evident through social media, decor magazines and the emergence of a universal cafe aesthetic in the last decade that houseplants have dominated the decor landscape more than ever.
Houseplants are now everywhere. Hospitals. Day-care centres. Offices. Cafes. And, of course, homes. The data on this trend suggests this has had some major economic consequences with 1.7 billion US dollars added to house plant sales in the US over the last three years. This is particularly interesting as houseplants that are popular cost as much as 200 US dollars or more.
The Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree is one of the most well-known of such exclusive plants and it is notoriously expensive. Its photogenic large leaves grace several magazines, TV shows and Instagram feeds. Its popularity has made this plant native to West Africa find its way to homes in New York and New Delhi alike.
One of the primary reasons for this development can be attributed to what Sanford Health calls the “wellness generation” effect; millennials as a generation invest more in their health and well being than the generations before. Houseplants have health benefits. They purify the indoor air quality. Popular plants such as the snake plant and the spider plant are known to reduce air toxins. Photosynthesis increases oxygenation. Matthew Boyle wrote for Bloomberg: “With many millennials delaying parenthood, plants have become the new pets, fulfilling a desire to connect to nature and the blossoming ‘wellness’ movement.
For a group that embraces experiences and travel, moreover, plants give Gen-Yers something to care for that won’t die – or soil the rug – when they’re not around.” Plants thus affect our behavioural patterns while impacting our spatial dynamic: the sensitivity and care needed to be provided to a plant are essential to the human psyche.
It is a living being and having a connection to a natural being improves one’s well being by establishing a deep rooted relationship. The aforementioned Fiddle Leaf Fig is not easy to take care of. While several houseplants are labelled as no-care sturdy beings, this plant is temperamental and needs to be watered and pruned in a timely fashion. Such a relationship allows people to take care of plants like children of theirs, a much needed healthy bond in an increasingly isolated world.
Millennials are known to follow trends—with an affinity to jump onto the bandwagons of Twitter hashtags, Instagram trends and Pinterest boards, they have welcomed the houseplant into their homes. The nature of houseplants is that they add a necessary pop to any photograph. The old bamboo shoots in glass bowls are not the most photogenic and hence are no longer in trend. However, the peace lily or the monstera is, because they photograph very well.
Humans have evolved seeing more shades of green than any other colour, and seeing more green in an increasingly less green world is rather appreciated. Instagrammers and influencers have built entire businesses based around houseplants and teaching people how to care for them. This healthy trend has seen an increase in nursery plantations, florist shops and garden stores, both online and offline. However there is a curious side to this trend other than the healthy nurturing, the cost, the business and the aesthetic perception in interiors, it is the obsession with the photography of these plants.
Plants are beautiful. But the factor that makes them desirable more than anything else is their photographic quality. The millennials have a curious tendency to recreate moments from other feeds or photos they see. Everyone wants the perfect beach photo, the red carpet moment, the handheld travel moment, the photo of the wall designed by Sugarhouse Studios and much more. The plants fall around this same category.
People want to recreate the perfect monstera, the rubber tree, the snake plant and the fiddle leaf fig. It is this recreation phenomenon that has led to some plants becoming Internet stars almost. The previously mentioned Fiddle Leaf Fig tree is nothing less than the Eiffel tower on Instagram. Everyone wants one in their home to photograph it, regardless of its price, it’s care or its nature.
Perhaps it is the health benefits. Perhaps the desire to find a companion that is mute and beautiful. Perhaps it is a social media fad. But, plants are here to stay. The good old bamboo shoots in glass bowls might have been replaced by ficus lyrata, but this healthy trend is one thing millennials got right.