Why everyone’s talking about biophilia
The humble house plant is having a moment. But is taking care of our fiddle leaf figs really about taking care of ourselves?
Are you a Plant Parent? You’ll know if your Google history is more about the meaning of a brown leaf than the meaning of life, and a wild Saturday out involves the tropical section of the garden centre.
The UK’s fresh flower and houseplant market is worth more than the British music industry, fuelled increasingly by Millennials. The Royal Horticultural Society found that 80% of 16– to 24–year–olds now own a houseplant, while London’s hottest recent gig wasn’t an up-and-coming electronica artist but the Houseplant Festival.
So why are we all going gaga for green? Floral designer Jonathan Moseley believes plant ownership brings a unique responsibility to care and nurture, something that’s hard to come by in tech-driven times where we jump soullessly from screen to screen.
“You feel dutiful towards a plant’s growth and development: plants perform to the care and attention they are given, creating a sense of trust and loyalty”, he describes.
Choosing the perfect pot for your plant becomes akin to picking the right outfit for an occasion. And in the Valencia-filtered world of Instagram, it’s only fair that our green leaves are off-set with a fabulous base colour.
A gardening-trends report by Wyevale Garden Centres seconds this notion that, being denied traditional markers of young adulthood – property ownership, say, or even pets due to strict landlords – young people are turning to plants to express their urge to nest. Of course, it helps that plants are relatively cheap, don’t require a garden, are easy to shift between rental flats, and look extremely good on Instagram.
But the benefit of plants goes beyond mere aesthetics. It’s down to ‘biophilia’ – the idea that humans are genetically connected to nature. Biophilia might sound creepy, but it’s the reason why everywhere from your Pilates studio to your dentist has a peace lily in it. “Having flowers or houseplants in a room reduces anxiety and stress levels, they improve focus and productivity, and they help to purify the air by capturing pollutants – although research suggests you need lots in a room to make a big difference,” explains Moseley. “Houseplants can even reduce fatigue and headaches, and help us to remain more positive.” Author Richard Louv suggested that not seeing your greens could actually cause Nature Deficit Disorder, a low-mood condition similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
As for which plant to go for? The least kill-able (that all-important plant category) include the ZZ plant (the tongue-twisting Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) – a glossy-leafed plant with a very high tolerance for neglect; spiky snake plants (Sansevieria); devil’s ivy (angelic to grow); aloe vera; and cacti, naturally.
But evidence is also growing that plants don’t need to be real to provide perks. Providing the fake is a good one – meaning the plant looks really, really, um, real, like our faux palm for example – the same therapeutic, mood-boosting benefits could be coming your way. Minus the remorse of another one not making it.