When Julia Rago’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018, she found herself suddenly spending more time at home.
But she didn’t find her room a comforting space. So Rago went looking for home decor tips online and landed on a 30-minute plant tour video.
“It was this older woman … and she was just walking around her home; it was really beautifully decorated, and there were hundreds of huge plants all around ... I watched the entire video and I was so entranced by her knowledge and how the plants looked.”
Rago was hooked.
By 2019, she had started an Instagram account — “@Torontoplant.girl” — to chronicle her journey. And in 2020, she launched a plant styling and consulting business to help others start their own collection or tend to their current plants’ needs.
There’s huge demand for plant content these days and Instagram plant influencers like Rago are generating more of it every day for their houseplant-hungry followers.
And while it’s been heating up for years, the pandemic set this trend ablaze.
Consumers eager for plants and plant content
Michael Leach, the owner of Dynasty Plants in Toronto, had been planning to roll out an e-commerce site in the summer of 2020. But he sped up that timeline because of COVID.
“When we posted our initial stock online … several weeks’ worth of product sold out in a couple of hours,” says Leach. “And that happened for about a month straight.”
He was initially surprised, but it made sense to him in the context of COVID: “I think it was something really easy for people to latch onto to reinvigorate their work and living spaces.”
While traffic has since levelled off, Leach’s business has grown, having added a second location through the pandemic. And he’s also seen a number of other plant shops pop up in his neighbourhood; they all seem to be doing steady business as well.
“This sort-of ‘thirst’ for plants is still quite high,” says Leach.
What’s behind the push for plants?
But Leach doesn’t think you can attribute the plant boom entirely to COVID.
“When you look at trends in fashion over the last few years … this would play into it,” says Leach. “There's definitely been a huge shift to homewares.”
He points to Zara, H&M and Urban Outfitters, popular retailers that, over the past decade, have built their home goods offerings into successful branches of their business.
Moneris, the financial technology company specializing in payment processing, released a report in mid-2021 reflecting on Canadian spending habits in the first year of the pandemic. Household, or home goods, was the category that saw the most volume growth in 2020 over the year before.
And plants are an important part of that trend.
“That's where younger people are spending their money these days,” says Leach. “There's been a big shift … people want stuff for their homes rather than stuff to put on their bodies.”
Some owners are profiting off of their plants
Like with fashion, Rago says there’s a subset of plant owners who view their “plant babies” — especially the uncommon and valuable ones — as investments.
Some savvy enthusiasts will buy highly sought-after plants like Monsteras and sell clippings for hundreds of dollars.
Rago herself has a Monstera Thai Constellation that she bought in 2019 for about $100.
“I see it as an investment,” says Rago. “As long as I'm taking care of them properly, I don't see the harm in spending a couple hundred dollars on one plant ... I'll have it for years. And if I want to make money off of that plant, I can.”
She likens the trend to investing in gold.
“If you purchased some of those uncommon plants a couple years ago, they probably performed better than some stocks or even gold,” says Rago.
It’s wild to think about, but as Rago has seen, some rare clippings go for as much as $1,000. Meanwhile, gold’s value sagged through 2021, ending the year with its biggest drop since 2015.
But profiting off her plants isn’t Rago’s goal. Her “plant babies” have offered her something positive to focus on these last few years, and helped her through her dad’s sickness and his death, along with all the other ups and downs of life.
And she’s heard from her followers — some of whom have suffered through tragedies like miscarriages and the death of family members — that they feel the same.
“There's definitely more of an emotional or spiritual side to plants,” she says. “It's very healing and therapeutic to have plants and to take care of them.”
For Rago, that type of return makes all she’s invested in her plants worth it.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.