Wave of Houseplant Obsession
Prior to the pandemic making huge waves in our daily lives in early 2020, the green industry was riding the wave of houseplant obsession. Notably influenced by Instagrammers, this trend has “non-horticulturists” and younger adult gardeners transforming indoor spaces into living room jungles full of lush tropical foliage that look romantic, relaxing, and cool. Young adult gardeners growing tried-and-true houseplants began also rabidly collecting and spending top dollar for new, rare, and unusual varieties.
#PlantsMakePeopleHappy and Today’s Gardening Trends
But it goes beyond houseplant hunting or interior decorating with plants – it’s a way of life grounded in nature. Online houseplant retailer The Sill has “Plants Make People Happy” as its simple but relatable catchphrase and hashtag. The phrase has become a part of the vernacular when gardeners talk about their motivations for plant collecting and growing.
In an April 2021 statement on LinkedIn, The Sill’s co-founder and CEO Eliza Blank presented the evolution of their original mission to “Bringing Life to People and People to Life.” The new slogan grounds their plant products with an idyllic way of life where consumers gain the restorative benefits of the people-plant connection and biophilic design “to mitigate the modern condition.”
As we have grieved the loss of loved ones and daily life activities we once took for granted, many people, driven by biophilic desires and more available free time, have turned to gardening and nature for respite and leisure activities. Garden Media Group notes, in their 2021 Garden Trends Report: The Great Reset, that more than half of Americans have spent two additional hours outdoors each day than they did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and there are 16 million new gardeners since early 2020.
Finding seeds, potting soil, and other gardening supplies were challenging for me in 2020, and I’m finding a similar situation with some of my favorite seeds again in 2021. Green industry trendwatchers, such as Garden Media Group and National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture NICH, note that the demand for houseplants, as well as other gardening trends including edible gardening and restorative home gardens, will continue to grow for quite some time.
In early 2019, I read a blog post entitled Weltschmerz: It’s What Is Making You Houseplant Crazy. My initial thoughts were “Weltsch…what? Supercalifragi…what?”
Author and horticulturist Leslie F. Halleck, MS, CPH, presents the case for the houseplant “supertrend” being a result of the general weariness of modern life. In the wake of political divide, climate change, long work hours, and other daily stressors unique to our lives, people have been experiencing overwhelm and exhaustion.
Then, add the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor into the weariness people are facing today. This experience is defined in the word…weltschmerz. (Link for “weltschmerz:” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weltschmerz)
Halleck shares the following definitions of weltschmerz:
“A German word that translates literally to world-pain, or more generally as world weariness. The word was coined by German author Jean Paul to describe his ‘feelings of dissatisfaction that the real world could never satisfy the demands of the mind.’ Frederick C. Beiser defines Weltschmerz as ‘a mood of weariness or sadness about life arising from the acute awareness of evil and suffering.’” Frederick C. Beiser defines Weltschmerz
She also suggests that the houseplants prominently featured in Instagram posts of younger gardeners are illustrating how the world weary are using plants as an “emotional balm” to counteract their stresses.
Understanding “the why behind the buy” is a reminder that practitioners are also in a position to serve as facilitators of the people-plant relationship through HT/TH programming and provide opportunities for people to engage in horticultural activities for wellness.
So what does weltschmerz mean for horticultural therapy practitioners? It means that practitioners are well positioned to provide meaningful garden-based services for people experiencing weltschmerz and dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic and their resulting mental health challenges. Practitioners understand many of the underlying motivations driving new and avid gardeners to their houseplants and edible gardens. They are well versed in the research supporting the intervention of horticultural and plant-based activities for people facing different challenges.
Additionally, it is important to note that practitioners may be experiencing their own cases of weltschmerz and should seek out individualized help, under the care and guidance of mental health professionals, as appropriate.
As experienced and trained professionals, practitioners are adaptable, creative, and adept at designing HT/TH programming that implement specific horticultural activities to target desired wellness outcomes, notably illustrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. For private practitioners looking for new revenue streams, expand your audience by offering virtual or in-person horticulturally oriented workshops, presentations, or garden consultations that promote overall health and wellbeing. Consider partnering with allied professionals to promote participation in therapeutic horticultural activities and provide targeted resources and services within the community.
If you aren’t in tune with these trends and how people are engaging with them, you might be missing out on some opportunities!