Houseplant trend spreads into Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa residents talk about how growing houseplants changes lives for the better.

By Jennifer Johns
News Reporter

Ali Martin holding her favorite plant in her bedroom.

As a first-year graduate student in social work at the University of Alabama, Ali Martin sees people’s hardships every day. A change in mood or a change in the weather can make Martin feel low. One way Martin combats negative feelings is through growing houseplants.

Martin started growing plants in 2017 when her boss at the time gave her a small pot with a planted leaf from their own plant. Martin said that’s when a love for caring for plants began.

“I feel refreshed, clean and happy,” Martin said. “Houseplants add what I need to keep my mood up.”

Growing houseplants has become a booming trend in the last few years, especially with millennials.

A study by the American Psychological Association found millennials report the highest levels of stress compared to other generations. In a technologically driven society, people spend most of their time indoors, but houseplants force people to slow down and pay attention to the plant’s care.

“Plants need water, sun and rest,” Martin said. “If I’m going to grow, I need those too, and I try to be mindful of that.”

Martin said mental health has become more acceptable to talk about, and houseplants have been seen as a self-care strategy.

The Journal of Physiological Anthropology released a study in 2015 that found houseplant care can reduce physiological and psychological stress through a natural decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure. The study stated that houseplants also promote a soothing comfort.

That comfort can be for anyone, according to Kim Gilliam, an employee of Brown’s Greenhouses in Holt.

Gilliam said Alzheimer’s patients are brought to the greenhouses to look around and lift their spirits. Gilliam said children also come to learn and explore all the plants there.

Daniel and Margaret Brown opened Brown’s Greenhouses in 1984 after Daniel retired early to start this dream. The dream was briefly halted when the 2011 tornado destroyed most of their greenhouses and family home.

Margaret said about 500 people came out in support to help rebuild their business. She said the volunteers included doctors, firefighters and others who had been coming to Brown’s.

For Martin, the positive impact of plants is not just physical or emotional, but also spiritual. Martin said Christianity has many references of spiritual growth paralleling plant growth in the Bible.

“Every plant has different needs, and so do people,” Martin said. “My Lord knows each plant like he knows each one of us.”

Martin said those who want to start growing plants in their homes should start small. Starting with one that is relatively easy, she said, and having outside help from others is very beneficial. Martin said even if one plant dies, don’t give up.