Indoor gardening hasn’t grown old for millennial and Gen Z houseplant owners

Maddie Taber, 25, with some of her houseplants in her staff apartment on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland’s campus. Taber moved to Portland for her job as resident director last July. Before the move, she sold her nearly 40 houseplants back in Oregon and has restarted her collection here. “I probably have about 25,” Taber said. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Maddie Taber had never owned a houseplant or had any interest in indoor gardening until she started noticing a surge of social media posts touting the hobby’s health benefits during the first year of the pandemic.

So, in June 2021, while living in Salem, Oregon, she bought two plants: a Monstera Deliciosa and a Golden Pothos. All it took was seeing them grow their first new leaves, and she was hooked.

Over the next two years, Taber accumulated more than 40 houseplants, but she didn’t have a way to transport them when she moved to Maine last summer for a job as resident director at the University of Southern Maine. So she started over. Since then, she has filled her Portland apartment with about 25 new houseplants – and counting.

“My plants truly bring me so much joy and make my space feel so much more peaceful and grounded. I can’t imagine not continuing,” said Taber, 25.

In 2020, over 20 million Americans, the majority under the age of 35, got into gardening for the first time – and many of them have stuck with it.

During the pandemic, grooming and maintaining houseplants provided a sense of structure and responsibility that had been stripped away by the shutdown and helped cushion the mental health of people struggling with being stuck inside – particularly younger generations living in dorms or apartments.

“When everyone went into lockdown, I bought a lot of houseplants,” said Olivia Ellis, a 19-year-old aquaponics aquarium science and aquaculture major at the University of New England in Biddeford. “It gave me something to be happy about and was something to take care of, so it provided motivation.”

Ellis continued with the hobby when her in-person classes resumed and even joined UNE’s Aquaponics Club. The club’s president, Daniel Lucas, 21, had also spent the pandemic engrossed in gardening and took it further by creating an at-home hydroponics system and learning to grow fruits and vegetables in brackish water.

“Plants are something that a lot of younger people have in common and use to connect with each other,” said Emma Hutchings, 18, a club member and marine science major.


According to the National Gardening Association survey, in 2018, 25% of Gen Zers and millennials practiced indoor gardening, compared to 34% of baby boomers. By 2023, while baby boomer participation increased slightly to 37%, the portion of the younger generations caring for houseplants jumped to 34%.

Katie Dubow, president and owner of Garden Media Group, a public relations firm specializing in the home and garden industry, said indoor gardening reached an all-time high in 2021 at an estimated 38.1 million U.S. households.

“The average age of houseplant buyers is 51.8, although younger consumers are strongly represented and the fastest growing category,” she said. “One in three people under 40 call themselves a ‘Plant Parent.’”

This trend was not short-lived; over 80% of those new pandemic gardeners have continued with the hobby, she said.

Empty jars and terrariums occupy shelves at Terrarium, a Portland-based plant shop and cafe. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Millennials were responsible for 31% of houseplant sales in 2021,” Dubow said, with tropicals and succulents showing the biggest rise in popularity. “According to Google Trends, for a brief period in 2020, plants were more popular than shoes!”

A substantial part of the increased interest among Gen Z and millennials is attributed to social media platforms TikTok and Instagram.

“There are hundreds of thousands of influencers out there touting the benefits of plants, both indoor and outdoor. The plant communities were born online,” Dubow said.

Krystal Duran, a 33-year-old social media influencer, went viral on TikTok in 2022 after posting a video about watering cacti that’s gotten nearly 50 million views. It kickstarted her career in the gardening industry, and she now teaches people how to care for plants through her business, Plants with Krystal.

Since that video, Duran’s TikTok page has honed in on houseplants and proper garden care, with some of her posts accumulating millions of views.

Duran has just over 1 million followers, with 25- to 34-year-olds making up the primary age demographic, followed by ages 18-24.


As online popularity skyrocketed, so did spending in garden centers. Sales of houseplants and accessories increased by $7 million from 2019 to 2021.

Melissa Madigan, a grower at Skillins Greenhouses for the last 17 years, noticed the influx of younger customers during the pandemic.

“People were more aware of airborne germs because of COVID, and younger people seemed to better understand that plants are good air cleaners,” she said.

Madigan said that, during the pandemic, Skillins had to drastically increase how often it restocked houseplants, reordering products multiple times, even during the winter.

And even though the pandemic has died down, “people are still buying lots of plants,” she said.

New gardening businesses have opened across Maine too, and national chains have responded with new products.

Lowe’s stores started offering exclusive plant-product brands like LiveTrends and Urban Jungle, which are “modern” and “easy to care for plant options to help millennials take their plant-parent skills to the next level,” the company said.

Anna Sinnott, co-owner of Terrarium, offers tips on how to build a terrarium to Cecelia Stewart, right, of Gorham and Ioana Hulbert of Westbrook. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

For millennial Portland resident Anna Sinnott, being around plants during the pandemic lockdown birthed a business idea.

“I was stuck at home for days on end with our 9-month-old daughter. So, I’d take her to go walk around the nearby greenhouse,” Sinnott said.

She went there so often that she was worried the owners would think she was “weird,” she said. But it made her realize, there might be an opportunity.

“I wanted to create a place where people could come get that same wonderful feeling of being around plants but also have a coffee or a beer and a snack – just somewhere to congregate in person,” she said.

She and her husband, Rob Sinnott, opened plant shop and cafe Terrarium in the Old Port in 2022.

Lauren Kimbell, 36, owner of Mainley Succulents in Orono, was also able to capitalize on the trend.

A longtime plant enthusiast, Kimbell opened her shop in 2019. When COVID shut everything down in 2020, she had to scramble to make sure it survived.

The fear of losing everything she worked for pushed Kimbell to adapt her shop to an online format. After learning to create a website and market herself through social media, Kimbell doubled her business online.

“COVID helped my business more than it hurt it,” she said.

Cecelia Stewart, left, of Gorham and Ioana Hulbert of Westbrook build terrariums at Terrarium in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Like the Sinnotts, Kimbell wanted her store to nurture a safe and welcoming community. Since the shop’s reopening, Mainley Succulents has “turned into more than I ever thought it would,” Kimbell said. “It’s a community, a safe space. People are healing through taking care of plants. They’re not just trendy; plants are really helping people.”

Bangor resident Anna Barrows, 41, is the moderator of the Buy Nothing Plants: Penobscot County, a Facebook group that launched in 2021. Although she’s long appreciated having plants, she’s more recently learned the benefits of being in a community based around them.

“I started caring for houseplants with my mom when I was 6 or 7. Growing up, I was fascinated by it, and I’ve always had many plants,” she said. “Before COVID, I had approximately 70 houseplants. Now, I have about 225.”

Barrows, who is “not a super social person,” used her Facebook group and other online communities to foster “many relationships with other plant lovers.” That’s led to plant swaps and other community activities. On Halloween, she hosted a local plant trunk-or-treat.

“Living a plant lifestyle means you will always have a community of good people, no matter where you live. That’s something people were craving before the pandemic, certainly during and after,” said Dubow of Garden Media Group. “Plants bring us together online, but also in real life, and the ability to swap ideas, inspiration and actual plants is something I don’t see us leaving.”

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