While it’s widely acknowledged that gardening exploded during 2020—as much a result of the safety and satisfaction of being outdoors creating beauty (or trying to) as any stay-at-home order—another plant-related trend also burgeoned during the pandemic. People found that bringing plants inside the home was another way of bringing beauty and contentment into their lives at a disturbing time. Here in Buffalo, plant stores are bustling, even expanding. Where once houseplants were consigned to certain sections of the big box stores and garden centers—where they still are—there are now at least four shops that sell nothing but houseplants and related accessories. I talked to the owner of one of them, my friend Johanna Dominguez, who opened her store, Put a Plant On It, in July.
“For the most part the pandemic has helped my business as it has other gardening, landscaping, and plant shops,” Dominguez says. “More people are staying at home, which means more people have more time for plants and want to beautify their spaces. People are finding a lot of stress relief and comfort in being able to keep plants.”
She notes that certain supplies are difficult to get now, including anything in spray bottles and that certain shipments have been delayed, especially those from other countries. Dominguez caters to the houseplant addicts who have been riding the wave of plant collecting since the trend gathered strength over the past few years as well as newbies buying their first monsteras.
She doesn’t find, however, that indoor plant-keeping leads to outdoor gardening. “I do carry product for outdoor gardening,” she says, “but most people are coming in for indoor gardening needs and houseplants. I stocked product that could be used for outdoor gardening—birdhouses, pollinator houses, sculpture—but the folk coming in are mostly focused on indoor gardening.” She adds, “I went the other way around in my plant experience. I started outdoor gardening and did outdoor gardening for years before I got my first houseplant. I can see some people going from houseplants to outdoor gardening, but a lot of these people with houseplants have smaller spaces —apartments rather than houses.”
Dominguez has close to 400 houseplants herself and maintains a diverse urban garden, complete with espaliered trees, a living outdoor wall that gets refreshed each year, many native plants, and a catio.
If reading all this is making you tired, I get it. I look upon winter as a time to rest from the garden and keep busy with my bulb-forcing. When a houseplant dies, I secretly rejoice because it’s one less to take care of, though I am keeping a few dozen alive most of the time. But if garden centers aren’t stepping up their houseplant game by now, they better wise up.
This trend ain’t going away.