Social media root of millennial plant craze

Human Interest

Plant vendors say some of their biggest customers are millennials

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — They need food, water and love. We bring them into our homes and even give them names—no, we’re not talking about cats or dogs. We’re talking about plants.

Houseplants have become more than just a trend. Social media is giving rise to a whole new generation of green thumbs, which is having a real impact on growing local businesses.

It’s a trend local shop owners like Jenelle Olson have seen growing for years now. For the past 7 years, Olson and her partner have tended to all sorts of plants and pots tucked away in a small boutique on NW Burnside. Hammer and Vine started as a passion project, but has now grown into a flourishing business.

“We had a booth at the Saturday Market, then this space became available and here we are 7 years later,” said Olson.

Houseplants are a decor staple these days.  Classically popular vines like pothos and philodendron are quickly finding homes with new and younger fans. The architectural Sansevieria trifasciata, better known as a Snake Plant, Viper’s Bowstring Hemp, or even Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, can be seen perched on window sills or shelves of trendy apartment designs. And the very recognizable Ficus lyrata, or Fiddle Leaf Fig, is tucked into almost every corner of today’s interior design magazines, though it’s taken flak in recent years for being a bit too trendy.

“Everything just looks better with a plant in the photo,” Olson explains, “So it’s become a huge thing!”

So what’s given rise to this seemingly sudden fad?  Younger shop owners like Tylor Rogers said social media plays a huge role. 

“Everyone is embracing this plant craze,” Rogers explained, noting a new generation of houseplant fans is cultivating a very different kind of garden shop. “I wanted to take a unique approach, trying to utilize both the plant and design world is definitely where I wanted to take it.”

Rogers recently opened Arium Botanicals after building a huge following on his Instagram account “@urlocalplantboy.” With hashtags like “#MonsteraMonday,” “#PlantBaby” and “#PlantsOfInstagram,” the amount of views and “likes” racks up. His tens of thousands of followers fawn over beautifully photographed plants in his home, and new arrivals in his shop. 

“Social media is great in a way that we’re able to portray what we’re excited about,” said Rogers. “We get visitors now from Australia, Japan — you name it. People have come in and said ‘I’ve traveled just to see this space!’ and that is mind-blowing to me.”

And he’s not alone. Picture-perfect posts of so-called plant babies build an online community, one that branches out into articles about proper plant care, scrolling feeds of stylish pots, and how-to videos on propagation.

“Things have changed, people just know a lot more about plants because of the online community.  So when they come in, a lot of times they have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for,” Olson said. “We sell a lot larger variety of things now, but I think the main thing is people just come in with a greater knowledge.”

Plant vendors say some of their biggest customers are millennials.

“Twenty to 35-year-olds, a lot of people who’ve just moved into a new space and want it to feel like home,” said Olson.

Young adults who are facing rising housing prices and even delaying marriage and kids for careers are one of the fastest-growing groups of gardeners, according to the National Gardening Association.

“People are living in apartments or smaller spaces, and with that, there’s almost this disconnect from nature,” said Rogers. “You can have plants if you just want to beautify your home, but you can also have plants that will cause that curiosity when you have visitors come.”

One thing is for sure—plant fans are dropping lots of green on their lush love affair, paying a pretty penny for rare varietals and cool colors. That’s good news for a local economy, branching out in a city that loves local businesses.

“I don’t know if we could be as successful somewhere else,” Olson said. “I think people really go out of their way to shop small around here, so it’s pretty special.”

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