Are you ready to “flex plant”? | gardening tips

IIt seems like I’ve reached that awkward age where I’m both old enough to recoil at the new vocabulary of hipster parlance, but still young enough to know that within a week or so I’ll find myself using it. All of the new, often colorful gardening terminology that has accompanied the sudden influx of younger, more diverse voices into horticultural media, largely through platforms such as Instagram, fascinates me. My favorite term is one I learned yesterday from my bearded, tattooed Instagram buddy. @botanicalotter: plant bending.

Adapted from the slang of American rappers of the 90s, “plant-flex” is the horticultural version of the performative display of one’s wealth via the use of status symbols – in this case, the status symbol might look like a variegated monstera. The idea that a humble houseplant can now be likened to a sports car or a big wad of cash might seem surprising, but the single leaf nodes of some must-have species now sell for tens of thousands. books on online auction sites.

Unfortunately, these inflated prices have led to online scammers selling counterfeits and widespread thefts from botanical gardens. They can also leave the rest of us who don’t have the resources (or who frankly want) to play the game of plant bending feeling a bit inadequate.

Of course, having plants as status symbols is nothing new – think of the tulip craze in 17th century Holland or the 19th century British obsession with unusual exotic trees. But what does this latest spike in houseplant prices say about a hobby that was once considered an accessible oasis in the world of gardening, relatively free from the stifling class fixations of the rest of horticulture? As you can probably tell, I have a feeling this new fetishization of certain plants is likely to create the kind of barriers that until recently left an entire generation feeling left out of the industry.

Status symbol: Philodendron ‘Florida Beauty’. Photography: Mokjc/Shutterstock

However, there is another perspective. Ever since I started working in horticulture 20 years ago, we have complained about how little we are paid and that no one values ​​our skills. So it seems a bit rich to start getting angry as some of us finally get some kind of recognition. Do these high prices actually encourage commercial growers to adopt rare plants into the mainstream, making them available on the mass market within years (sometimes just months) of their first launch online? The actions of a few big spenders could help broaden the overall market, which could ultimately benefit regular gardeners.

A few years ago, there were only about ten species of indoor plants to choose from, as big-box garden centers continually reduced their ranges to replace them with orthopedic shoe racks and meerkat shaped solar lights.

I guess the same arguments apply to industries like fashion, art, and tech, and the truth is probably somewhere in between. But for now, I find it exciting that I’m not the only one fascinated by houseplants after all – even though I am now one of the oldest.

Follow Jack on Twitter @Botanygeek

Terri S. Tomasini