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How COVID-19 created a houseplant craze

Plants augment mental wellness, help small business and unite green-loving Nova Scotians

4 min read
caption Sarah Wilson poses with her bird of paradise plant on Thursday.
Will McLernon

The pandemic has turned Sarah Wilson into a proud plant mom to over 100 green babies.

Wilson had just a couple of plants prior to the pandemic. During the first lockdown in April 2020, she started paying more attention to them and plants continuously popped up on her Instagram.

Wilson decided she wanted to add a little more greenery to her life. Next thing she knew, an entire room in her Dartmouth home was dedicated to her ever-growing plant collection.

caption Sarah Wilson sits in her plant room on Thursday.
Will McLernon

“I like to call it a plantdemic,” Wilson said.

Why plants?

There were hundreds of trends circulating through the numerous COVID-19 lockdowns, but plant care seems to have taken root.

Greenhouse Management’s 2020 state of the industry report says that in 2015 only 36 per cent of growers were confident the greenhouse industry would grow. By the end of 2020, a ‘whopping’ 67 per cent were confident. The report says the massive increase can be attributed to the growing interest in indoor foliage plants and the emergence of plant parents.

caption Sarah Wilson smiles as she mists her plants on Thursday.
Will McLernon

A 2015 study says that indoor plants can reduce psychological stress, improve mood states and enhance cognitive health.

Wilson says obsessing over her plant babies helped boost her mood during the pandemic.

“Spending time with my plants always makes me feel connected to nature,” Wilson said. “It’s really fun to see how some of them can grow from a tiny seedling into something huge.”

Wilson’s plant care routine

Growing hundreds of plants is no easy task. Wilson spends hours every week nurturing them, so they stay healthy and continue to grow. Whether it’s a massive monstera or a stubby succulent, she says she cares for them all equally.

When Wilson enters her plant sanctuary, a smile of joy lights up her face. She starts by thoroughly investigating each individual plant to ensure no pesky pests are hopping around and checks if any of the lush leaves need to be watered. She then turns on her humidifier and spreads mist around her little nature haven.

caption Sarah Wilson examines a plant for pests.
Will McLernon

“It gives you that internal nurturing feeling,” Wilson said. “Just going through them and admiring them is a really beautiful feeling.”

Plant parents helping a small business

Wilson bought some of her first exotic plants at Audrey’s Little Plant Shop in Dartmouth. Owner Audrey Flanders says she is grateful for the pandemic plant craze because it helped keep her shop alive when many other small businesses were struggling.

“At the beginning of the pandemic I didn’t know if we were going to be OK,” Flanders said. “I just feel fortunate that plants were one of those products people could have at home.”

caption Audrey Flanders stands over her plants on display at Audrey’s Little Plant Shop on Wednesday.
Will McLernon

Flanders says her team loves connecting with their customers and teaching them proper plant care. The staff had to adapt to creating informative social media posts and online delivery, but having those services paid off.

“Our social media presence allowed for new people and different age groups to look more into our plants,” Flanders said.

Flanders says prior to the first COVID-19 lockdown, most of her customers were 20 to 40. She says the obsession spread during the pandemic, and now her customers range from teenagers to grandparents.

Nova Scotia plant community

Heather Moore filled her room with a large collection of exotic plants during Nova Scotia’s third lockdown. She spends hours scouring through resell sites, watching plant TikToks for inspiration and has even imported tropical plants from countries as far as Indonesia.

Moore anticipates she’ll be moving away from Halifax next June. She says she’ll try to take some plants with her because she’s grown a connection with them.

caption Sarah Wilson waters one of her plants on Thursday.
Will McLernon

“Luckily there’s a really knowledgeable community of Nova Scotian plant lovers,” Moore said. “I’d like to sell them to someone with experience because especially with bigger plants you don’t want them to die after they’ve lived for such a long time.”

Moore has made hundreds of dollars reselling plants in numerous Facebook groups.

Moore and Wilson connected over one of these groups. There are many Nova Scotia houseplant Facebook groups, ranging from dozens to thousands of members.

Wilson says she cherishes the relationships she’s made talking with other plant parents about new planting techniques and sharing past plant experiences, especially since social interaction was so limited during the pandemic.

“It’s been really nice to watch these friendships blossom,” Wilson said. “We haven’t really had the chance to hang out yet, but the constant plant banter is great.”

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About the author

Will McLernon

Will McLernon is a journalist with The Signal. He is currently finishing up his Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree with a minor in International...

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