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Why do we like plants more than we used to?

Where and why do people buy plants?

It is estimated that around two thirds of adults living in the UK pay a visit to a garden centre to buy plants, every year. For the majority, this is viewed as a pleasurable and relaxing outing. It might also involve a stop-off at the on-site café, if there is one. Therefore, a garden centre visit is a generally a leisure or lifestyle choice. Those wanting to buy plants in large numbers for specific purposes will normally purchase directly from the grower or trade nursery. But now, more than 70 per cent of the population prefer to shop online. It saves them the physical travel to a retail outlet. But does this shopping habit encompass plants too?

shopping, buying plants from garden centre Just one more plant...

To view or not to view?

The majority of garden lovers would prefer to see a plant before they buy, and this is entirely understandable. Indeed, many plant purchases are impulse buys. Visitors to public gardens or garden centres for example, will often seek out a plant they have admired and make a purchase. On the way to the checkout they will probably see a few more plants they can’t resist!

Crocosmia garden perennials with orange flowers The cheery flowers of Crocosmia are hard to ignore

Shopping on-line in order to buy plants removes some of this impulse. It can provide a more purposeful journey, with people generally knowing what they want before they look. Arguably, however, it is far less enjoyable! It can provide a feast for the eyes and imagination, but not the enjoyment of coffee and cake!

Frank the flowerpot man in front of a computer Shopping online has its benefits and drawbacks

It’s not difficult to see why many garden centre outlets are struggling to return good profits. This is a relatively new digital shopping arena. But there are certain benefits of on-line shopping. It is highly appropriate, in particular, for elderly and disabled people who are looking to buy plants. Those without transport or with impaired mobility can now enjoy access to a huge range of plants. Shopping online also saves a significant amount of time. A few clicks during a lunch break, for example, is all it takes.

online shopping computer purchases Shopping online can be done in just a few clicks.

It also means that self-employed individuals who have dabbled in propagation are able to sell off their surplus plants. They don't even need to set up a stall in the front garden.

Why do we like to buy plants?

By and large, shopping for plants feeds our creative imagination. Plants titivate our ‘happy gene’. It seems that the homes and gardens sector of the consumer marketplace is one of the fastest growing. Sales are increasing year on year by more than 10 per cent. In this stressful age of rushing, it seems that we need plants more today than we did yesterday. There is no sign that this trend will slow. In fact, market research suggests that spending on anything to do with leisure at home is projected to rise more than 30 per cent over the next five years.

garden centre A trip to the garden centre is a pleasurable leisure activity

The Insta-appeal

Part of the appeal is photographic, or visual gratification. Even looking at an oasis of green beauty can make us feel good. This is part of a growing awareness that plants can make people happy. Instagram and other photo-based social media platforms are inspiring people to create snap-happy, idyllic scenes of plant harmony.

Instagram picture with house plant The perfect picture needs a pot and a plant

Biophilia means a love of nature and the term was coined by American biologist Edward O Wilson during the 1980s. He noticed that people living in large towns and cities were losing their connection with the natural world. Their general health and wellbeing was deteriorating, seemingly as a direct result.

Plants ARE good for you

We now realise that plants can provide benefits to home and workplace in more ways than just a visual improvement. They clean the air, reduce static electricity, soak up potentially harmful bacteria and toxins and reduce stress levels. Plants in parks and gardens can create soothing colour harmony, which is good for the soul. They also add grace and style, cool the temperatures on a hot day, provide shade, clean the air, add biodiversity and offer both structure and harmony to even the tiniest of spaces.

Wooden owl with a house plant The wise old owl knows that plants and nature work in harmony with humans

It is said that productivity within an office can increase by up to eight per cent if there are plenty of plants. Creativity is said to rise by up to 13 percent when plants are introduced into the workplace. What’s more, there are fewer people taking sick leave. This represents a significant boost to office morale and efficiency. People suffering from ADHD and autism can also benefit because they tend to 'tune in' to plants. House prices rise if the outlook includes attractive green spaces. There even appears to be less crime in areas where there are more plants. And the ultimate gain, apparently life expectancy can rise when people engage actively with gardens.

house plant in white pot with purple accessories House and office plants bring oodles of benefits.

No wonder we are in love with plants!