Folks on lockdown are buying up plants to decorate their pads — in part because those with black thumbs are around 24/7 to care for them and in part because they are soothing during stressful times.
Since New Jersey’s stay-at-home order took effect on March 21, stage manager Zach Schiffman has purchased 18 plants via Amazon Prime. “I was skeptical about mail-order plants, but once I got a perfect plant from a farm in Florida, I decided to order others,” says Schiffman, 33, of Fort Lee, NJ.
Also the owner of a photo-booth company called Studio Z, Schiffman adds that caring for his plants has given him something to focus on other than Lego and video games while furloughed. He has set up Bluetooth-enabled plant monitors, also purchased from Amazon, that alert him via a notification on his phone when a plant needs food or water.
Even experts like model Summer Rayne Oakes, who famously filled her Williamsburg apartment with what now total 1,100 plants, are adding to their urban jungles. The 35-year-old author of “How To Make A Plant Love You,” who also shares tips and videos for houseplant care with her 106,000 Instagram followers, splurged on a giant fern for her reading nook.
Oakes relies on garden centers like Crest Hardware in Williamsburg, an essential business that also offers delivery. “Customers come in to purchase cleaning supplies, but then pick up a plant,” says second-generation owner Joseph Franquinha. Chinatown’s Dandy Farmer Bonsai closed its brick-and-mortar doors but is offering free shipping through April. Co-founder Matthew Puntigam noticed “an increase in the sale of garden tools … Since people can’t be outdoors, they want nature inside.”
Houseplants’ rise in popularity, especially among millennials, is well-documented. “Even before the coronavirus sent us inside for most of the day, people were buying houseplants and office plants, at record rates,” says Rebecca Bullene of design firm Greenery Unlimited, who lives in Greenpoint with her husband, dog and 50-plus plants. Still, the pandemic boosted plant-purchasing.
“Since mid-March, we’ve seen a tremendous spike in online sales, especially for blooming plants. We can hardly keep up with fulfillment,” says The Sill founder Eliza Blank. “People need something to tend to, to nurture, to pull away from the computer.”
While Park Slope resident Jacqueline Schmidt juggles her stationery business Screech Owl Design and her kids’ remote learning, she’s found comfort in seven new plants from online retailers including The Sill.
“I have a slice of life in what otherwise would feel like four walls,” says Schmidt, 43. “I look around and literally feel like spring has bloomed indoors.”