House plants blossom into big business for startups

Americans spent a record $52.3B on lawn and garden retail sales in 2019

When Abbey Jackloski moved in with her boyfriend four years ago, they started growing a family — of pothos and monstera plants.

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“I always loved plants, my mom had a huge rose garden in the yard growing up, but I never thought I could take care of indoor plants myself, or let alone keep them alive,” Jackloski, 28, told FOX Business of taking up a hobby in horticulture after reading the myriad health benefits of having pants.

Abby Jackloski considers herself a plant parent. (Photo by Julen Emedan)

Now, she has about 15 in her apartment in Los Angeles she buys from Facebook Marketplace or local farmer's markets. The West Coast-based millennial, who works in production, says she spends between $15 and $100, depending on the size of the plant and pot she buys, and an additional $40 a month for the upkeep.

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“I do consider myself a plant parent,” Jackloski said, adding that it’s given her and her boyfriend of more than five years a renewed sense of responsibility, and breathes life into their living space. “It makes me feel a bit closer with nature taking care of them … I’d be so upset if they died.”

More young couples are investing in plants. 

Welcome to plant parenthood, the growing trend of buying and caring for plants that have bloomed throughout social media with millions of house plant photos from succulents to spider plants tagged with hashtags like #PlantsofInstagram and #HouseofPlantlovers. Growing greenery has become increasingly popular among young consumers who are buying homes and getting married later in life.

Americans spent a record $52.3 billion on lawn and garden retail sales in 2019, according to the 2019 National Gardening Survey. And 25 percent of those were 18 to 34-year-olds buying plants at a higher rate than any other generation in the last six years. And as millennials delay big life events like getting married, having kids and buying homes, plants can often spruce up a small space and give people a sense of purpose and accountability when tasked with keeping a living, growing thing alive.

"Plants and flowers are a way to bring beauty and comfort into our homes no matter the size of your living space," Jill Brooke, Editorial Director at FlowerPowerDaily.com, said. "They enhance the environment and therefore, it's an ideal inclusion in smaller spaces, which are trending with millennials."

A slew of direct-to-consumer plant startups have sprouted over the years as a result. The Sill, a startup that sells potted plants online and in retail stores in addition to offering weekly workshops, raised $5 million in Series A funding last August and it has amassed more than 630 followers on Instagram. And direct-to-consumer plant retailer Bloomscape raised $7.5 million in Series A funding this year. The Detroit-based company sold more than 100,000 plants since it launched more than a year ago. Flower delivery services have also been revamped. UrbanStems delivers potted plants and bouquets sourced from sustainable farms with arrangements starting at $35.

Restaurants have also planted green walls for a more inviting dining and shopping experience. Devocion, a Manhattan-based café specializing in Colombian coffee, has an entire wall canvased in greenery at its Downtown Brooklyn location. And Chicago restaurant BellyQ has two plant wall installations. Real estate developers have also capitalized on the lively interior design trend in home lobbies and office spaces. Homeowners can expect to pay around $500, including plumbing for a 6-square-foot wall panel with plants, Crain's reported.

“There’s a lot of increased anxiety and fear about the future, but one of the things we have control over is how we decorate our homes, and flowers are a way to bring beauty and comfort into our homes," 

- Jill Brooke, Editorial Director at FlowerPowerDaily.com 

And retailers have expanded their inventory to sell more plant accessories. Nordstrom has wall mount planters, self-watering pots and the department store sells live plants like succulents and aloe on its website. Urban Outfitters, meanwhile, has more than 160 plant-related products including faux hanging vine garland, a book of house plants and hanging planters.

While indoor plants are trending in home lively home decor, they're also good for mental and physical health. A number of studies have shown that indoor plants can boost mood, reduce stress, fatigue, and common colds and clean the indoor air by absorbing toxins and producing oxygen.

Indeed, research suggests that those who live around nature feel happier than those that don't because it exudes a sense of peacefulness and calm.