‘Plant parenthood’ trend blooming during pandemic

The “plant parenthood” trend has been blooming during the pandemic. Dilshad Burman with why people are going green in a big way and the resultant boom for online plant businesses.

By Dilshad Burman

As we near the one-year mark since the first COVID-19 lockdown was declared in Ontario, it’s safe to say most of us, who do not have jobs classified as essential, have spent the better part of the past year indoors, staring at our computers, televisions, phones or blank walls.

Since we cannot go outdoors as freely as we’d like, many have chosen to bring the outside in, by adding houseplants to their homes — sometimes by the dozens.

Psychology professor Steve Joordens says it’s likely in search of relief from the stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic.

“We want to feel some sort of empowerment, we don’t want to feel victimized by everything that’s happening and having something that we’re nurturing and helping makes us feel like we’re doing something good,” he said.

Joordens adds since the routines we are used to have been shattered due to COVID-19, taking care of a living thing like a plant or pet may help provide structure to one’s day. The responsibility involved in keeping a plant alive also helps take focus away from generalized anxious thoughts and toward a specific goal or project.

Online plant stores doing b(l)ooming business

With more people turning to “plant parenthood,” plant stores have seen an uptick in business, specifically those selling online.

“We do feel there is a higher demand for plants as a whole,” says Dun Huang, co-founder of Jomo Studio.

Huang explains that the business, co-founded with Graham Bull, started out as a workshop space in May 2019, teaching people how to make concrete planters and plant succulents. Both Huang and Bull have backgrounds in tech as a web designer and product manager respectively.

As participants frequently inquired about the plants in their studio, they began to branch out into selling houseplants as well and by the end of 2019, they had begun selling online. Once the pandemic hit, they had no choice but to pivot almost entirely to online sales, leveraging their tech experience and established online presence.

“Because we can’t do workshops, obviously, the plants are the only other side of the business we have, so we have to put all our effort into it,” said Huang. “And we did see a lot of growth over the past year.”

Huang feels the reason for the recent boom in their plant business is directly related to people being stuck inside during the pandemic.

“People cannot get out of their home, they want to get closer to the nature,” he said. “So for us it’s like a side-effect of [the pandemic].”

David King, co-founder of Promise Supply along with Duncan McCall, agrees, saying that people don’t realize how much plants are a part of our daily lives and the value they add to our everyday activities.

“I think that there’s a lot of these very mundane spaces that have amazing jungles,” said King, citing the bamboo garden at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus and the plants placed all across the Eaton Centre as examples.

“I think it’s one of those things where you have them around and when you’re out in the world … you get that dash of greenery … that you didn’t really know you were getting,” he said. “And all of that stuff, I think, really does contribute to small amounts of happiness — seeing green and blue tells you that you’re in a safe space, so you calm down.”

Promise Supply’s physical locations carry products from a number of local small businesses and King says the plant side of their business also saw a spike as a result of people working from home and being stuck inside during the pandemic.

“One of my favourites is people coming in and saying ‘hey I need a plant for my Zoom background’,” he said.


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King, a former web designer himself, feels another reason online plant stores are flourishing is that they cater to a younger, millennial audience that is already adapted to the online shopping experience.

“Our generation wants to buy stuff in a certain way. We want to be able to get a lot of information about what we’re buying. We care about knowing how to do it before we do it,” he said. “One of my buddies came and picked up a plant for his home from me and he was like ‘yeah I tried going to the garden centre’… and it was this whole experience, but it wasn’t really something that he was used to. He’s used to being able to learn online, read about stuff, get information prior to purchasing.”

Both Jomo Studio and Promise Supply list care tips for every plant they sell online and offer lifetime support, making it easier for buyers to make an informed decision on whether a particular plant will suit their space and lifestyle.

Huang adds that going the extra mile in this manner also helps those who may be hesitant to purchase plants online.

“A lot of people do not trust buying online because they cannot touch the plant before they make the purchase. So we actually spend a lot of effort [to determine] how can we make it comfortable and easy for people to feel confident and happy about it?” he said.

While both say it is likely that online plant sales will decline as in-person shopping slowly returns, King feels it’s not a trend that will simply wilt entirely.

“I think the pandemic, in my opinion, is just accelerating trends that already exist — the shift to delivery, the shift to ghost kitchens and UberEats — a lot of these things were happening before the pandemic and we’ve seen them really accelerate because of [it],” he said. “I think that [the pandemic has] brought more people into this idea of buying things that are going to live and grow with them. And I think that trend will be good for every plant business.”

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