We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, so it seems natural to want to bring some of the outdoors in with us. We may read a blog about how Millenials are buying houseplants like crazy to cope with pandemic-induced isolation, but is that true? Who is buying plants?
The Consumer Houseplant Purchasing Report 2021 is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date sources of information regarding how people spend their money and what they feel about houseplants.
Sponsored by the Floral Marketing Fund and conducted by researchers from North Carolina State, the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, and Texas A&M University, it is a tome of almost 300 pages of facts and figures.
Covering subjects such as the average age of new plant purchasers in 2021 vs. 2019, how much people spent, their attitudes about plants, and other identifiers, it is a go-to source to answer questions about the houseplant industry.
We’ll summarize some of it below, as well as other findings, including:
- How many houseplants do we own?
- Frequency of houseplant purchases
- How much time do we spend caring for our plants?
- What category of houseplant is seeing the biggest spending increase?
- What is more important at the point of sale: plant or container?
- How much are we willing to pay?
- Where do we prefer to buy our plants?
- Mental health trends for houseplant purchasers during COVID-19
- Demographics: who is buying houseplants broken down into categories
How Many Houseplants Are in Our Homes?
I wasn’t asked to participate in the FMF survey, and it’s a good thing because I would have likely skewed the data. Perhaps indicative of a large swell of newer plant parents, the most commonly returned answer to the question of how many houseplants do you own was one.
- Just over half of participants reported owning one houseplant.
- 25% of survey respondents own 2-5 houseplants.
- About 12% of those surveyed own more than six houseplants.
Just as intriguing is the percentage of people interested in purchasing a houseplant. Researchers found that over forty percent of respondents were “extremely interested” in buying a houseplant, and over ninety percent expressed some positive level of interest.
Frequency of Houseplant Purchases
Purchasers in 2020 reported varying frequencies of plant purchase. While some were infrequent buyers, others were regulars at the checkout counter. According to the FMF report:
- 47% of purchasers report buying houseplants at least 2-3 times per year.
- About 10% of purchasers responded that they purchase a plant per month.
- 4% of people surveyed confessed to buying a houseplant per week.
How Much Time Do We Spend Caring for Our Plants?
Some might wonder if the amount of time we spent caring and paying attention to our green companions changed during COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns and shut-ins that many experienced.
The exact number of hours was not a data point, but the FMF survey did ask people to subjectively answer if they had spent more time, about the same amount, or less time caring for plants.
Not surprisingly, most respondents did spend more time caring for their houseplants. On average, 31% more time than in previous years.
What Types of Houseplants Are People Buying?
People spend more money on all types of plants, and expenditures increased from 2020 to 2021 in all plant categories. The most commonly purchased houseplant category is flowering houseplants, with a tie for second place going to broad-leaved foliage plants and succulents.
When asked what type of houseplant they purchased in 2020, the responses were:
- 41% purchased a flowering houseplant.
- 35% purchased a succulent, and 35% bought a broad-leaved foliage plant.
- Trailing or vining plants were taken home by 27% of buyers.
- One in four purchased a narrow-leaf foliage plant.
- 24% purchased an indoor palm.
While flowering houseplants were the most frequently purchased category, an astonishing 99% of plant purchasers in 2020 bought at least one broad-leaved foliage plant, with almost half buying two or more.
The award for most money spent per category goes to the indoor palm, followed closely by bromeliads and Tillandsia–all three coming in at over the $100 mark.
However, the FMF study found that buyers surveyed planned to increase their 2021 purchases most in the category of flowering houseplants, followed by broad-leaved foliage plants. Tillandsia was the lowest rise in planned expenditures.
Overall, purchasers are forecast to increase the amount they spend by about 17% in 2021 over their 2020 purchases.
Plant or Container?
When considering the importance of the plant or the container, 25% of people don’t seem to care about the pot at all, choosing based solely on the plant.
A surprising 37% of people surveyed by the FMF give the pot equal importance to the plant.
Characteristics of the pot found as the most important included the pot style, water storage, smart watering capability, color, and shape. Consumers evaluated material and texture as the least important factors.
Smart watering pots for houseplants are becoming more common. Perhaps smart pots are increasing confidence for a new generation of plant parents who are comfortable controlling many aspects of their lives via their smartphones.
Pots are available that are 3D printed and contain a reservoir, pump, moisture sensor, battery, and Wi-Fi connection to push notifications to your phone via an app.
Recently trending houseplant containers include:
- Clear glass shapes
- Fiberglass pots for their light weight and strength
- Containers with rope macramé hangers to use vertical space effectively
Bargains or Too Expensive?
Prices consumers view as a bargain or too expensive vary by the consumer, the type of plant, and its size. Generally, the FMF study found that as houseplant prices exceed about $50, they are viewed as too expensive. Plants under $10 were viewed as too cheap.
When asked to name a bargain price for a small flowering houseplant, the average was about $20, with $37 considered “getting expensive” and $65 to be “too much money.”
People seem to value tall bromeliads and trailing or vining houseplants the highest; short cacti and short air plants came in at the bottom of the scale.
Where Do We Prefer to Buy Our Plants?
To be sure, COVID-19 changed buying patterns for everything, and whether or not previous behavioral patterns return may yet be up in the air.
While most people continue to purchase their houseplants “in-person,” online retailers saw a large upswing in business in 2021. More people are reporting interest in purchasing plants via e-commerce in the future.
The most common venue for purchasing houseplants was a garden center or home improvement store. Thirty percent of those surveyed bought plants from a big-box home improvement store, and 29% from a garden center.
Super discount stores and supermarkets were next on the list. In a four-way tie for about 10% of buyers each: farmers’ markets, online retailers, independent florists, and wholesale stores.
Despite the preference for an in-person buying experience, almost half of plant purchasers have purchased at least one plant online.
The two top reasons for buying online? The ability to shop at any time of the day and the ease of ordering online. Articles on the best places to buy plants online are abundant.
Among the brick-and-mortar locations, the three most important reasons for choosing which vendor to buy plants from were: convenient location, price, and selection.
People Recognize a Mental Health Benefit From Owning Plants
The link between happiness, however it is quantified, and being in the presence of green, live, growing things is becoming more firmly established all the time. Perhaps asking a group of plant buyers if buying plants makes them feel happy is a fait accompli.
Not surprisingly, only two percent of those surveyed disagreed with the statement that houseplants made them happier, with over 70% agreeing or strongly agreeing.
Scientists have been studying the positive effects of indoor plants. They have documented that interaction with indoor plants increases feelings of mental well-being and reduces both physical and mental stress in the body. Tending to plants, it seems, makes us happy and healthy.
All the Demographics
Ok, let’s break it down. Who. How old. Education levels. Relationship status. The researchers who conducted the Consumer Houseplant Purchasing Report 2021 sorted all the data out for us, and there are some interesting factoids.
- 65% of plant purchasers identified as being in a relationship, very similar to results for America as a whole from the Pew Research Center.
- Only 16% of purchasers identified as single, which goes against the common idea that single people are responsible for the new houseplant craze.
- Almost forty percent of plant purchasers identify as male.
- Baby Boomers account for 45% of plant purchasers, Millennials 34%. Those in the middle, the Gen X crowd, only account for 11%.
- Over 60% of houseplant buyers have a college degree, and almost 20% have a professional or doctorate degree.
- 80% of houseplant purchasers do not have a teenager in the household, and almost three-quarters had no children of any age living in the house.
- 26% of houseplant purchasers have a household income of six figures or more.
- 71% of purchasers live in a single-family home, 14% live in apartments.
- Almost 47% of purchasers live in the suburbs.
- People keep both plants and pets. Only 29% of those surveyed reported not having a pet.
The stereotype of the single Millenial female apartment dweller who is collecting plants instead of children appears to be inaccurate.
Well-educated, higher income, older empty-nesters might be a more accurate generalization. Still, the increase in interest appears to be broadly shared in America, somewhat regardless of which category one is pigeon-holed into.
And the uptick in houseplant interest during COVID-19 does not seem to be going away.