Not every plant grandparent has a green thumb, though. When Taylor Levy’s New York City lease expired, she asked her mom a vital question: “I don’t care about my furniture, but what about my plants?” It wasn’t a hard decision to leave Manhattan for Maryland to be with her parents. Her family was in the process of moving to Delray Beach, Florida, and Levy was happy to tag along for quality time and warmer temperatures on the condition that her seven houseplants join her.
Like watching a baby take its first steps, Levy beams with pride when she spots a new leaf. She started her collection three years ago, gaining popular crowd-pleasers like the Pilea and Philodendron. “Caring for a plant almost gives people a purpose in this time when every day seems the same,” explains Levy.
And while her parents made some rookie plant mistakes early on, like bringing them out into the cold Maryland outdoors for fresh air and sun, the couple has been inspired to start their own herb garden thanks to their daughter’s skills.
“Who’s becoming the plant parent is an interesting dynamic. I’ve seen a lot of parents get really inspired by their kid’s plant parenting,” says Alexi Coffey, co-founder of Steward, an app that uses technology to map out the best spaces for house plants and provides a concierge service to its users.
Coffey and her husband, Brendan, had the idea for Steward when they began to analyze how plant placement and environmental conditions impact plant care. Their New York City-based company has an international pool of users who look to the app for advice on lighting, plant care, styling suggestions, and, yes, moving tips.
Throughout the pandemic, Coffey has seen noticeable spikes of Steward users in areas with COVID-19 surges as well as users planning moves, dressing up their Zoom backgrounds, and “plant mapping,” a way for users to upload photos and map out the prime spots for their plants, in new homes.
“I think when someone unlocks their ability to grow and they realize they could be successful, they just relate to themselves in such a different way,” says Coffey.
Kaylie Mills, a firm believer in the power of plant care, packed her car with her 41 plants for a move from Scottsdale to Surprise, Arizona. She set one ground rule for her parents: Don’t touch the plants.
“They’ve had plants and they’ve killed everything,” she says. “I know they water them sometimes,” she adds. (Mills has since taught her parents to use a moisture meter.)
To Mills, and everyone I spoke to, plants are a form of self-care. “You can tell where my mental state is by how my plants are doing,” she says, “If I’m not taking care of something that I care so much about, maybe I need to check back in with myself.”
The connection between house plants and mental health is a theme on Christopher Griffin’s Instagram. You might know them as the @plantkween, a plant influencer with upwards of 200 houseplants stacked along the shelves and windows of their Brooklyn apartment. An educator at New York University and the instructor of a Skillshare course, “Plants at Home: Uplift Your Spirit and Your Space,” Griffin uses their Instagram as a platform to teach their 281,000+ followers plant tips while showing the importance of representation and joy as a Black, queer, non-binary, femme influencer.
“To be able to create my own little green oasis indoors has been a blessing in so many different ways,” they say. Griffin says they have spent this year documenting how they were dealing with “everything that was happening in the world” through plants, while simultaneously engaging in “healing and creative expression.”