From the popularity of the sleek online ship-to-you startup the Sill to the Instagrammable plant craze to Costco’s $20 succulent gardens,AOL reports that one-third of houseplants in the United States are sold to Millennials. (That stat came from Ian Baldwin, a business adviser for the gardening industry.)The reason? They’re waiting longer to buy houses out of financial necessity, which often leaves them packed into smaller urban dwellings without gardens. They’re putting off marriage and delaying or forgoing children. This leaves plants as the only things they can nuture – and make them feel like adults.
“’I found myself gravitating toward plants,’ says Tommy Engström, who is 30 and works at a marketing agency,” said in a 2018 L.A. Times article. “’Everyone made fun of me because I was sleeping on an air mattress and buying plants. But having living things to care for soothed me.’”
A 2017 Washington Post story headline said that Millennials were filling “their homes – and the void in their hearts – with houseplants.” The article went on to say that plants made great Instagram bait – filling other types of voids, like the need for attention.
Writer Jess Melia says there is “a need for us millennials to feel as if we’re caring for something other than ourselves in a time where making major life choices have to come later and later.” In a world where everything feels transient, why not take comfort in something with roots?
“Are millennials so cunning, so diabolical that they would use houseplants as an excuse to avoid visiting their parents?
“’Absolutely,” says one West Coast millennial whose parents live in tony, twee Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. ‘As soon as I set foot in their house, my parents give me a hard time about dating a tone-deaf sitar player and not doing anything about my hair. Now that I have 135 houseplants, I have a perfect excuse not to go home. You can’t ask your friends or neighbors to stop by every three days to water 135 plants. Anyway, I don’t have any friends.’”
Surely Queenan is being satirical. Nobody would ever have 135 plants. Except… Instagram personality Summer Rayne Oakes, who keeps 700 in her New York City apartment.
Personality quizzes aren’t just a fun way to procrastinate when you’re on deadline for a big project. (Note to my editors: I never do this.) In reality, they can actually give you some pretty valuable insight into living your best life, from your ideal career path to your biggest relationship dealbreakers to the kinds of plants that are best suited for you.That last one may sound kinda trivial, I know. But your personality is actually a really key thing to consider when choosing a leafy green friend to share your space. “Personality type definitely plays a part in what kind plant parent someone is,” says Joyce Mast, resident “plant mom” at online houseplant shop Bloomscape. “Be honest with yourself about how much time you can and want to devote to caring for your plants.” Think of it like getting a pet. For instance, if you’re a clean freak, you probably wouldn’t get a long-haired dog—and, similarly, you probably shouldn’t get a plant that’s going to shed its leaves everywhere.
Luckily, says Mast, there’s a perfect plant out there for everyone, no matter what your individual quirks are. I asked her to recommend a few varieties for each of the four personality archetypes that scientists have recently claimed we all fit into. The first thing you’ll want to do is take this quiz to find out where you land on the spectrums of extraversion, openness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. Then, armed with your “Big 5” traits, read on to meet your perfect soil-mate. (Sorry, had to.)
Highly extroverted, open-minded, agreeable, and conscientious; not very neurotic
Role models are happy-go-lucky people with a creative streak, who are curious and love to try new things. In short, they’re not the type to want the same ol’ philodendron that everyone else has. “I’d recommend a plant that matches the role model’s colorful and exuberant personality,” says Mast. “However, this personality type is a social butterfly, so plants that are easy to care for are ideal to make room for all those nights out.”
A role model’s perfect kinds of plants:
Mast loves stromanthe triostar for a role model because it’s “large, colorful, and low-maintenance—guaranteed to be a conversation starter at the next cocktail party.”
Okay, so monsterasmay not be so exotic anymore, but Mast feels like role models would still dig ’em for their larger-than-life vibes. “These dramatic, and fast-growing plants will be the envy of everyone,” she says.
Highly neurotic, extroverted, agreeable, and conscientious; not very open
Average personality types are similar to role models in many ways, except that they’re not quite as drawn to unusual things. They’re also the most neurotic of all the types, which means they’re extra prone to stress. Essentially, says Mast, they should look for a plant that won’t add to their agita. “Plants that maintain their green and that don’t drop leaves are best for this traditional personality type, so the plant life stays enjoyable and doesn’t become a source of anxiety,” she explains.
An average type’s perfect kinds of plants:
Parlor palms are a good choice for average types because they’re super adaptable. “This plant always looks lush, and will make even the most neurotic person feel like an amazing plant parent,” Mast says.
Conscientious average types aren’t the kind to forget about watering their plants. That’s why Mast recommends the bird’s nest fern. “It has lovely, showy foliage and this personality type will enjoy misting it regularly,” she says.
For timeless good looks, hedgehog aloe is a classic pick that’ll thrive without much effort, says Mast. (Just make sure to put it in a sunny spot.)
Highly extroverted; below average in openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism
No shame whatsoever if you fall under this category—it just means that you know exactly what you want and your plants need to live by your rules. So if you want to put one in a certain corner, that’s where it’s going to go, no matter how much light it gets. “For self-centered people, we recommend tried-and-true plants that are highly adaptable to different conditions and will thrive anywhere this personality type wants to put them,” says Mast.
A self-centered type’s perfect kinds of plants:
Spider plants get top marks for self-centered types because they’re “adaptable, easy to care for, and a timeless classic,” says Mast.
For a plant that’ll adapt to pretty much any light condition and requires very little care, Mast recommends going for a strikingly cool sansevieria, or snake plant.
Philodendron Brasil is another mellow option that doesn’t need a ton of attention from a self-centered owner—and its trailing vines are “exceptionally Instagrammable,” says Mast.
Low in extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness; slightly more conscientious than average
If you’re a textbook introvert who prides yourself on being responsible, you can take on a slightly more hard-to-care-for plant. And you might even enjoy it, according to Mast. “Plants that require a bit more care, but are also fast growing will help the reserved person feel accomplished and rewarded,” she says.
A reserved type’s perfect kinds of plants:
Red prayer plants aren’t hard to care for, but they need to be misted on the reg—so they need an owner who spends a decent amount of time at home. But don’t worry, it’ll be worth the effort. “This fast-growing plant will be a constant source of happiness as it thrives,” Mast says.
The fiddle leaf fig is another plant that demands lots of love. Not only does it require very specific light conditions, but it also needs loads of misting and watering. Yet according to Mast, “when it’s happy, its large glossy leaves and new growth really make the extra care worthwhile.” Hey, reserved types clock a lot of hygge nights at home—may as well make them a little lusher.
“The bird of paradise loves to be misted, and its large leaves need to be dusted and wiped down regularly,” says Mast. The reward: You’ll feel like you’re on a South African vacay (where this plant is from), every day.
This winter has been particularly rough for my indoor jungle. My prized monstera, once thriving and cheerful, is now droopy and depressed. With limited sunlight throughout the day, even through South-facing windows of my apartment, I can only do so much to give my plants what they need. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out that you can fake it with a DIY grow light. Easier to construct than I expected, a grow light will mimic the sun, bathing my plants in all the brightness they deserve.Grow lights can be expensive, not to mention ugly. While I want my plants to be healthy, I’m averse to the idea of dropping hundreds of dollars on an eyesore. But Adam Besheer, co-owner of the botanic design company Greenery NYC, has a genius solution. You’ll find his indoor vertical gardens and green walls throughout New York City—all of which depend on grow lights to stay healthy.
“Plants require certain wavelengths of light to grow, and different wavelengths cause different grow patterns. Too much can burn them, but too little and they starve to death,” he tells me. “Grow lights still aren’t as good as sunlight—they still aren’t able to cover the breadth of wavelengths emitted by a burning mass of hydrogen we can’t really conceive the size of. But they’re a great substitute.”
How to build a DIY grow light
When creating your own grow light, there are a few things to consider, such as the aesthetics and the kind of light it will emit. According to Besheer, you can DIY a version that will actually complement your home with something as affordable as a lamp you already own or one from Ikea. (A lamp that hangs over the plants provides plenty of direct light.) You just need to screw in a suitable light bulb, available for about $15 on Amazon, and voilà—it’s done.
“The important thing for a standard grow light is that it’s labelled as a grow light. The brightness you need to keep plants alive isn’t something normal light bulbs are manufactured for,” he says. “LED screw-in bulbs have just become widely available that have a relative intensity that’s good for plants, but to really know, you’ll need to measure the light yourself.”
How to know if your plants are getting enough light
To make sure your plant is getting the exact amount of light it needs, you can measure it using a light meter (which runs for around $20 on Amazon), or you can use the Light Meter app on your phone, which Besheer says gets pretty close to what the actual meter reads. The result will be shown in “foot candles” (or FC), and different plants require different ranges.
On the Greenery NYC website, you can group plants by light requirement: Low-light options like snake plants and pothos require 25 to 75 FC, medium-light plants like monsteras and dracaenas require 75 to 150 FC, and high-light plants like fiddle leaf figs and haworthias require 150+ FC. As for how long they should spend basking in the LED light’s glow every day, Besheer’s go-to is between 10 to 12 hours.
With a little help from a DIY grow light, your indoor plants will be thriving once more. Honestly, I might grab my happy light and sit right there next to ’em.