‘People are getting very fussy about their plants and a lot of them don’t like the ordinary, run-of-the-mill ones; they’re quite competitive in their choices.”
hat’s according to Sam Smyth, owner of Urban Plant Life on Cork Street in Dublin, as he tries to explain the blossoming interest in exotic house plants, particularly among millennials.
On Instagram, hashtags like #plantsofinstagram and #plantsmakepeoplehappy have massive followings.
Singletons on dating apps frequently use plants in their profile picture to silently convey the message that they’re sensible, mature adults who are capable of nurturing a living thing and, therefore, a healthy relationship.
Plant lovers are also digging deep when it comes to spending the cash on the thriving business in indoor vegetation.
They will spend up to €300 on coveted species such as a large variegated Monstera deliciosa – or Swiss cheese plant – and go on to sell the leaves of the plant to fellow enthusiasts.
Some Facebook groups, like Dublin Plant Swap, have more than 5,000 members and strict rules including “do not ask for cuttings uninvited”.
Mr Smyth, who’s been in the plant business for over 30 years, said that while the business in office plants wilted entirely during lockdown, this new trend has been a huge boon for gardening centres.
“It could be due to people being stuck at home with nowhere to go; they may as well make their environment more pleasant,” he told the Irish Independent.
“People are possibly more environmentally conscious, with the green movement led by Greta Thunberg. They’re more conscious of pollution and they want to make themselves more comfortable and research has shown that plants help to purify the air.”
The therapeutic effects of keeping plants is well known, and the joy of watching a plant thriving under your careful attention is immense. He said that succulents have become more popular, particularly among younger women.
“They’re easy to look after and they can look good and thrive on neglect. You can go away on holidays and they’ll be fine as long as the light is good,” he said.
Many people working from home are using them for their Zoom backgrounds to hide a dodgy DIY job or to make their homes look more appealing to their eagle-eyed colleagues.
“Plants have always been used for camouflage as they cover a multitude.
“We do a lot of work for the movie companies, for all the films shot in Ireland and also TV commercials,” he said.
People have been spending huge amounts of time making their home spaces more appealing during lockdown, particularly the outdoor areas – which mirrors the growing trend for indoor adornments.
Woodies gardening expert Brian Burke said that he has “never seen such an upsurge in gardening” and he has never been so busy. He feels that those fake Zoom backgrounds look “terrible” and the addition of a healthy house plant makes a huge difference.
“It follows that if you’re going to devote a lot of time and energy and money to beautifying your outdoor space, why wouldn’t you apply the same philosophy to the inside of your house?” he said.
“If you’re repainting a room or doing a feature wall with textured wallpaper, it stands to reason you’re going to go the next step and beautify it with a horticultural adornment.
“A lot of this stuff is very much on trend. Look at Instagram, a lot of people are showcasing what they’re doing at home at the moment.”
According to Mr Burke, “foliage has presence” and there’s a big move now for palms and plants that have an architectural element to them.
When it comes to their top sellers, Woodies cites plants like Sansevieria, Aloe Vera, Howea Forsteriana, Yucca, Echeveria and Chlorophytum.
But he advises people not to over-water them as many like free-draining conditions.