Millennials Are Getting Houseplants Instead of Having Kids

Brittany M. Hughes | September 7, 2017
Font Size

Puppies. Avocado toast. Instagram followers. These are things things Millennials are using to fill existential holes left by expensive but near-useless college degrees, unstable finances, childlessness and a general disdain for marriage.

Now, you can add one more item to the list of emotional thirst-quenchers: houseplants.

The Washington Post ran an entire exposé on the subject, explaining that “Millennials are filling their homes — and the void in their hearts — with houseplants.”

The article details the story of Hilton Carter, who spends four hours every Sunday morning grooming the some-180 houseplants he keeps inside his Baltimore apartment. But this total obsession with flora isn’t just because Carter likes plants, or enjoys the whole Jungle Book ambience. Apparently, English ivy gives him a sense of personal fulfillment that he can’t find anywhere else.

In fact, Carter goes so far as to tell the Washington Post “it hurts” when one of his plants gets sick or dies.

“There’s a lot of expletives flying, all day,” Carter says of his weekend labor. “It’s just, ‘What is happening to you?! You were fine for the last year in this spot!’ It hurts.”

But Carter’s not the only one. The Washington Post found a handful of other Millennials who say houseplants have become an “obsession,” satisfying their need to care for something as previous generations used to care for, say, a child. In fact, that’s exactly what 31-year-old Joseph Wanek told WaPo:

“They’re each your own little baby,” says Joseph Wanek, 31, who lives in a midcentury house in Iowa with his partner, Nick Sellers, and at least 45 plants.

Annie Dornan-Smith, a 22-year-old graphic artist living in London, said the same thing:

“They’re not particularly expensive, and it’s another way to have something to look after,” she muses.

WaPo even found a houseplant expert named Tovah Martin, who explained the ‘houseplant revival of 2017” “has a lot to do with people hunkering down.”

“A houseplant is therapeutic,” he said. “It gives you something to nurture.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that ficus trees are replacing deep and meaningful human relationships among younger generations. After all, today's teens are so glued to their virtual existences, they can't even be bothered to go outside, much less get a driver's license.

And it's true, our divorce rate is declining – but largely because fewer and fewer young people are getting married in the first place, preferring instead of simply shack up with a partner for as long as it’s convenient. About half of Millennials say they see sex as a way to “test” for a connection with a potential partner, rather than an intimate expression of a commitment that’s already been made. The left-leaning Salon even recently celebrated that marriage has officially become “obsolete.” 

Financially broke and forever floating between uncommitted partners, more young adults are now choosing to have pets rather than kids. The fertility rate in the United States sits at a record low, while sending a heartfelt “Happy Mother’s Day” to a childless friend because she recently adopted a Shih Tzu is no longer seen as bizarre.

And if – God forbid – you’re one of those rare women who chooses to both have children and stay home to care for them, you might as well go ahead and brand yourself the neighborhood freak. PROGRESS!

So sure, Millennials, you go right ahead with your childless, marriage-less, commitment-free existence. I’m sure that lucky bamboo will make up for it.