Pandemic stress can be relieved by cultivating greenery, which makes people happier and more relaxed
The essayist Jia Tolentino wrote last year about people being in the grip of “houseplant fever”; ads for houseplants called “Ken” or “Pippa” pop up on the internet; a Zoom call isn’t complete without a plant somewhere in evidence; and social media abounds with tips and pictures. It should surprise no one that greenery offers an antidote to pandemic anxiety.
Caring for a living object and creating a tranquil indoor sanctuary can be soothing activities in an uncertain and stressful time. The Royal Horticultural Society reported a 23% rise in plant sales in July compared to 2019. Rare plants are sold on eBay and traded on Facebook. Many come from overseas and might look green in a living room but leave a large ecological footprint. Before the pandemic, in the US, getting paid to style houseplants was becoming a career. We are nowhere near the levels of mania that led to tulip bulb prices soaring and then collapsing in the 17th century. Still, today’s rarity-chasers will pay £4,000 for a four-leaf variegated minima – and such high prices pose a temptation to others: a variegated monstera, a cutting of which might fetch £1,500, was stolen last month in New Zealand.