One cannot (yet) refer to the coronavirus pandemic as in the past, this Spring we are indeed still living in it. Throughout Covid, especially in the earlier days, people looked to improve their homes and immediate surroundings where they would be spending so much time. With the drastic change in way of life that limited one to their home, a unique but not unsurprising way of coping sprung up for many: growing plants.
When many people were laid off work, unable to see their loved ones, and dealing with the anxiety of a pandemic, feelings of depression, misery, and isolation were, and certainly to some extents still are prevalent. Having something to care for improved feelings of depression, giving plant owners something to look after, care for, uplift their mood, and during a period of stagnation, watch for growth.
A wide variety of new houseplant enthusiasts took to the stage. Some dipping their toes in the rare plant scene for the first time, some patiently awaiting their new seed sprouts to emerge indoors, and those fortunate enough to have access to an outdoor space could take their hobby outside.
It certainly was not without its hurdles as new plant owners quickly turned to the internet, ‘why is my plant dying?’ ‘how much sunlight should I give x plant?’ ‘what do brown spots on the leaves mean?’
With additional time to spend online, plant enthusiasts bonded on social media and internet forums finding a newfound community and sense of connection. This also increased belongingness and for some, it provided a platform to showcase their plant hobby, talent, and affinity to grow on the internet.
That’s why there’s now the rise in plant influencers, an unexpected niche where people buy copious amounts of plants – been there – but create the most beautiful oases and share their lush new environment with their followers and internet community. For some, they buy rare and expensive plants that many of us would not dare to buy (as we would kill them almost instantly) and showcase their unusual properties.
The colours are unique and stunning, some variegated varieties (leaves with different colours, often with splotches or spots), or ‘albino’ or albo plants with smooth seemingly effortless white leaves. For the plant influencer and plant hobbyist alike, many purchased humidifiers during the pandemic to create an environment more favorable to many popular plants.
Beyond humidifiers, soils, fertilisers, and new pots could rack up the plant bill for those invested hobbyists and growing plants could become a sneakily expensive hobby. To buy large and rare plants the numbers can easily get into the $100s, and for some enthusiasts and influencers it is not far-fetched at all to spend into the $1000s. But it is not without its mental and emotional benefits.
One plant influencer, Christian Esguerra shared a similar sentiment: ‘My plants have kept me sane. I get up and have a purpose right away: I need to water, prune and propagate. I think it also allows people to reach a community online.’ His Instagram and YouTube handle @CrazyPlantGuy, have seen success to the tune of more than 350,000 followers across both accounts. For him and many others it cultivated a sense of belongingness, sparked interest, creativity, and questions, and brought to life a sense of excitement during a tough and necessary time.
His more than 150 plants offer him that sense of fulfillment, purpose, and joy and it is not hard to see how that could take up a good chunk time otherwise scheduled for ‘quarantine moping’.
While we are not all cut out to be plant influencers, we can reach for the benefits that plants can provide to our home. While plants not only improve the look of the space, which is great for well-being and contentment in your home, plants also offer purer air quality, increased satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and mental clarity.
Kendall Platt, the founder of Adventures with Flowers, shares some tips: ‘The most effective way to reap the mental and emotional benefits of plants – especially if you don’t have a lot of time – is by focusing on your senses as you garden.
‘As you add compost to your pots engage your sense of smell, what does the smell remind you of? As you dig, notice the sound of the trowel blade cutting through the soil. Can you hear the blade contacting with any stones or other inclusions?’What might they be.
‘Notice where in your body you feel your muscles working. Whilet sowing seeds, really look at them. Are they all the same? What are their surfaces like?
‘If growing edibles such as tomatoes, once they are ready to harvest, choose the one you are most drawn to from the plant. Close your eyes and smell it. Does the smell transport you anywhere? Finally, pop the tomato into your mouth, still with your eyes closed and allow the flavour to explode in your mouth.
‘This allows your mind to calm, you to feel the sensations in your body and get into the flow state much quicker where you can achieve a sense of clarity. Stress, worry and self-doubt fade into the background and you feel good in the moment with a lasting sense of happiness and fulfillment.’
Those who were alone, felt isolated, and stressed found that plants offered a way to ground them, and reinstated a routine that offered a sense of peace and satisfaction. Some plants are simple and easy to care for such as snake plants and pothos and are a great starting point to reaping the mental and emotional benefits of houseplants. For many, growing plants was and continues to be a way to cope, a form of beauty, and a tangible sense of satisfaction to see new leaves appear that were the product of their effort and care.
Ariel Back is a Boston-based writer and researcher with a background in psychology and cognition.