This Is Why Certain Plants Become So Trendy

From cacti to Fiddle Leaf Figs.

Courtesy of The Sill.

Did you have a moment in the last few years where you looked around your home and thought, “Oh my gosh, do I need a Fiddle Leaf Fig in this room?” Why is that? And how is it that certain plants become so trendy?

We spoke to professionals in both the design and plant fields to find out how and why some greenery suddenly seems to be en vogue.

So how does a plant come into fashion? It’s all about the ‘gram. Much like anything else, social media, and Instagram in particular, has been a huge influence on the houseplants that come into style. Designers and magazines start posting beautiful images of homes decorated with certain plants, and consumers bite. Joyce Mast, “Plant Mom” at plant delivery site Bloomscape, calls them “plant-fluencers.” They are how the fiddle leaf obsession began.

Christina Stembel, founder of flower delivery site Farmgirl Flowers explains, “Fiddle Leaf Figs are probably the best widely-known example. Years back you started seeing them pop up in design magazines and in styled shoots set against clean white-painted walls and then it felt like no one looked back. They’re everywhere now.”

“The Fiddle Leaf Fig in 2012 and 2013 was popular on Pinterest,” says Erin Marino, director of brand marketing at The Sill. "People were sharing pictures from Elle Decor of these gorgeous spaces with giant fiddle leaf fig trees and everyone was like ‘Oh I’ve seen that at Home Depot. I wonder if I can bring that into my space."

Trendy Houseplants Explained
Photographed by Maria Del Rio.

So who are these so-called plant-fluencers? They’re florists and interior designers, founder of East End Home Co., Kathryn Hunt shares. “We’re sort of creating trends and then they go to market.” And they change so often because “designers are bored easily,” she explains.

Danielle Blundell, lifestyle director at Rachael Ray Every Day, sees the same pattern. “Professional florists will do floral installations for brand activations, weddings, parties, festivals, and even celebrity gifting suites. People end up sharing these photos like crazy on social media, and then you start seeing big stores like HomeGoods, Terrain, Target, and even Trader Joe’s offering stems and bunches in these Instagrammable varieties,” she says.

Houseplants have always been in style. Bringing a little bit of life into the home appeals to any person of any age, but as with most things, millennials are a new type of consumer. This generation of plant buyers is looking for something that’s going to thrive in an apartment and survive on pretty minimal care.

The Sill was created in 2012 with a goal of “modernizing” the garden center to cater to a fashion-forward, trendy generation of plant buyers. Marino hypothesizes that having plant babies is perfect for a generation that is big on travel, living in apartments, and delaying family life a bit longer than their parents did.

Trendy Houseplants Explained
Photographed by Tessa Neustadt.

“Millennials are craving that thing that is therapeutic to care for, but not as intense as getting a cat or dog. It still allows a full work schedule and travel, but it’s nice to see something growing in your space and to flex those motherly or fatherly muscles,” she said.

Unlike outdoor gardens, when you’re dealing with houseplants you don’t need to worry about what’s native to your area. There are ways to create your plant’s native climate at home if they need help thriving. Stembel suggests bringing a tropical plant into the bathroom while you shower to mimic the heat and humidity of their natural habitat.

In fact, experts find that people tend to gravitate toward houseplants they can’t find in their own backyard. “You’re interested in what you can’t find outside your door. In L.A., cacti are growing outside on the sidewalk,” Marino says. “It’s funny because we're working with West coast suppliers to produce East coast plants and vice versa.”

“I think part of the novelty of houseplants is that you are incorporating something into your interior that comes from another region — something akin to taking in artwork from a different culture,” explains Heibel. “When I travel in places that are hot and dry, I don't see as many cacti used indoors. In the tropics, you won't see too many monsteras grown indoors.”

Trendy Houseplants Explained
Photographed by Nicki Sebastian.

So what are the new "it" house plants? Dried florals and botanicals are making their way to Instagram feeds everywhere. Talk about easy to care for — you don’t even need to worry about keeping these ones alive.

Tara Heibel, founder of Sprout Home, a garden center based in Brooklyn and Chicago, and Hunt are both seeing dried flower bouquets and arrangements becoming popular. Blundell is also seeing a lot of pampas grass.

“Pampas grass, though it’s not a houseplant per se, is definitely on this trajectory,” shares the interior designer. “I feel like everyone saw it at Mandy Moore’s wedding, freaked out about how striking it was, and now it’s popping up everywhere. People will absolutely be putting pampas grass in vases on their dining tables, nightstands, and entry consoles soon if they’re not already.”

Heibel added terrariums and terrarium-building classes with all dried materials are big with customers, and in Chicago, they’re “experimenting” with “aquatic terrariums”– so look out for that!

Another popular plant is the Pilea Peperomioides. This is an easy-care plant that likes lots of light and can sit on the same window sill as your cactus or succulent, Marino shares. ”It’s super cute,” she explains. “They call it the ‘friendship plant’ because it gives off little plant babies.”

Trendy Houseplants Explained
Courtesy of The Sill.

A slightly larger option is the Calathea. This is a genus that includes lots of leafy green and red plants. Marino said it’s becoming popular not just for its attractiveness, but because it’s non-toxic to pets. That means you don’t need to worry about leaving your cat or dog alone with these plants.

Both Mast and Marino are also seeing the Maranta Leuconeura, or the “prayer plant” becoming popular. These plants are cool because they actually move throughout the day. “You can see time lapse videos on Youtube,” Marino said. “People nerd out on that. They love it.”

You also can't forget about the trendy Snake Plant and Rubber Plant. These thick-leafed greens are easy to care for and affordable. Enough said.

So what plants are on their way out? We started this conversation with the Fiddle Leaf Fig, but it seems its time in the sun (or in on your Instagram feed) may be coming to an end. Why is that? Experts agree it’s mostly because they are so hard to care for.

“I never really think a plant is out, but the fiddle is semi out just because unless you have the most stable indoor environment — not like an NYC apartment where you can’t control temperature — they just die,” Marino says. “And they are expensive. People are just tired of trekking these big plants into a space and having them die.”

Stembel agrees. “I feel like Fiddle Leaf Figs may be hitting the end of their run. You still see them, but I feel like their very long 15 minutes is nearing its end,” she explains. “But it’s true for fashion and even truer for the floral world: Everything that is old is new again at some point, so I’m sure they won’t be ‘out’ for long.”

Similar to fiddle leafs, palms are fading because they require too much care and are susceptible to pests, Marino said.

From a design perspective, Hunt said they have just been overused. “Palms were used to the max and we’re going to see them phase out,” she shares. Even in fabric prints, Hunt is seeing small botanical prints take the place of the bold palm-frond prints that have been big in upholstery and wallpaper.

Trendy Houseplants Explained
Photographed by Anna Powell Teeter.

Of course, a few trendy greens from the past few years are still going strong. “For plants, one thing that we cannot seem to get away from is succulents. They’re like the skinny jeans of the plant world — they literally will not go away,” Stembel notes. She is still seeing them sell in small pots and even arranged into flower bouquets.

Hunt also thinks they’re going anywhere anytime soon. But Mast is seeing cacti rise in popularity over succulents like aloe and jade plants.

You can also still count on picking up a Pothos. The classic leafy green is very low maintenance and people have fun creating DIY hooks for the plant to climb up. It’s also a great one to trail down from a hanging planter.

While trends come and go, picking the perfect green is still a matter of choosing one that you love. Just be conscious of what can thrive in your space and find something that can bring joy to your home.