peperomioides is the next contender for the hip
houseplant of the moment. Will it steal the crown
from the fiddle leaf ficus?
is my houseplant-buying season.
houseplants is my way of striking back after being made
the brunt of a particularly mean, ugly joke by Chicago
confession: Spring is also my houseplant-buying season
because I routinely kill houseplants in the winter (and
at other times, but mostly in winter.) Whatever my
reasons, come early spring, youíll find me cruising
the aisles of the garden center and scrolling Instagram,
looking for green. And Iím not alone.
fact, houseplants have become so trendy in the
photo-centric universe of social media that plant
stores, always on high alert this time of year to meet
demand on their biggest day of the year, Motherís Day,
are racing to stay ahead of the curve.
start to get requests for one kind of plant," says
Chicago- and Brooklyn-based houseplant guru Tara Heibel,
"and itíll come on like wildfire. Weíll be
wondering what is going on, and itís all because the
plant has been on Instagram, and they make for a lovely
and her staff at Sprout Home have learned to map the
curve: "Weíll see the magazines are catching on
to it, and now itís a craze. Then we are having
trouble getting it from our growers." Not that she
minds. "If anythingís going to be trendy, Iím
glad itís plants. It has been a long time
since the 1970s have houseplants been such a
sought-after part of interior design. As surely as your
motherís macrame and hippy vibes crept back into the
decorating zeitgeist, her dangling, sprawling
houseplants followed. But in the second coming of the
plant craze, not all plants are created equal. Those
that can take a photo, that get hundreds of likes, tend
to take over.
year," says Heibel, "was the year of the
fiddle leaf ficus." The ficus showed up so often in
interior design shots that it got a little overgrown.
Trend verging into clichť territory. Writers on the
interiors blog apartmenttherapy.com debated about which
plant would launch the next craze, alternately
championing the monstera or the rubber plant as the new
fiddle leaf. Neither, says Heibel. Her pick for the next
"it" houseplant is Pilea peperomioides,
sometimes called Chinese money plant.
another trend was emerging ó the houseplant jungle or,
simply, more plants, everywhere. Instagram accounts,
such as @hiltoncarter (the account of Baltimore
filmmaker Hilton Carter), documented rooms overrun with
green. In Carterís photos, plants (including fiddle
leaf ficus, monstera and pilea) spill from walls, crowd
hallways, cluster around furniture. On her Instagram
account and website, Winnipeg, Ontario, interior
designer Cara Anderson enthusiastically espouses the
virtues of plants as decoration and shows off a robust
collection of well-cared-for green friends.
most internet-driven movements, thereís a layer of
intensely superficial appeal to it all. Decorating with
plants feels a little bit like organizing your books by
color, except that it has the implied virtue of good
health (plants provide oxygen and stress relief!) and
eco-consciousness to sanctify it. Iím deeply skeptical
about the color-coded books thing, but Iím guilty of
trying to get plants to tough it out in places like
bookcases, of dropping them where my eye says something
green should go and letting God sort out the details.
those seductive social media photos have tempted me,
more than once, to go looking for a particular plant.
"There have been numerous occasions where someone
comes in with a picture," says Heibel, "and
says ĎI want this.í "
doesnít judge. But she and her staff do remind
customers that plants are, um, alive. "We start
explaining what the plant needs," she says,
"and they donít understand because thatís not
what the picture dictates." This problem,
fortunately, has an easy solution.
work really hard to educate people, because we do have a
lot of new plant parents coming in because of social
media," Heibel says. If thereís a particular
plant youíre dying to call your own, youíll need to
place it where it can get the light it needs. And if
thereís a particular spot you want to fill, youíll
need to match the plant to the atmosphere of that spot.
Canít wait to shoot your #plantshelfie? "There
are some plants that will tolerate (living on a
bookshelf) and others that will not," says Heibel.
"We have to reinforce the education for some
first-time plant owners. Because they are obsessed over
that graphic, that social media frenzy, and they need to
understand that it is a living thing and that it has
certain specific requirements."
Heibel has been pointing people toward a couple of her
favorites for Chicago apartments: hoya plants (theyíve
already made social media inroads because some of them
sport heart-shaped leaves and others have flowers that
look as if theyíre from outer space) and angel-wing
begonias ("the colors on their leaves are just
spectacular," she says). Both plants can tolerate a
little less light, a standard problem for apartment
dwellers, and both like to dry out between waterings.
an urban environment," she says, "I feel like
you should go for something a little less fussy. I have
hoyas I have abused for years, and they bloom for
me." In the end, whatever your urban jungle
fantasies, the right match of place, person and plant is
what we want," says Heibel, "happy plant,
happy plant parent."