Gothic, weird and neon: The biggest indoor plant trends of 2021

Animation for story about 2021 Houseplant trends
(Ariana Pacino / For the Los Angeles Times)

First-time plant parents love low-maintenance pothos and sansevieria because they are easy, but what about fussy staples like orchids and fiddle-leaf figs? It should come as no surprise that many of the people who bonded with their houseplants while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic are now looking to elevate their plant collections.

That’s just one of the Instagram-ready trends that plantfluencers predict for 2021.

“Many people grew their overall plant collections in 2020, and now I think the experience of caring for all those plants has helped many home in on the plants that are best for their lifestyle, skills and home environment,” said Danae Horst of Folia Collective in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock. “Now there will be a focus on adding new species in those genera.”

Erin Marino, brand director at the Sill, said the plant company experienced increased traffic and sales due to the pandemic. “When we polled one of our plant Facebook groups in the fall of 2020, almost 50 percent of respondents said they were brand new to houseplants this year — while an additional 20 percent said although they weren’t new to plants, their enthusiasm and collection grew significantly in 2020.”

It wasn’t just the Sill. Despite the limitations of curbside pickup and social distancing, independent garden centers experienced increased sales during the pandemic. A spokesman for Costa Farms, one of the largest producers of indoor plants in the United States, said the wholesaler has been selling plants at a pace that’s hard to keep up with. “We are trying our best to figure out how much of the demand we’re seeing will stick and how much will fade as the world starts to go back to normal,” said Justin Hancock.

Thirsty? Lack of light? Need to get rid of gnats? Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about houseplants.

Sept. 1, 2022

Whether neon, architectural, miniature or gothic black, the latest trends, and hottest houseplants, are a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. A look at what to expect in 2021:

Amanda Lim with her plants at a sunny window
Amanda Lim started her plant collection when struggling with depression. “During a season when I was barely taking care of myself, my plants gave me purpose and a reason to get out of bed. It also connected me to a close-knit houseplant community on Instagram, where people all around the world shared their best care tips and their own stories on how plants improved their mental health.”
(Amanda Lim)

1. Plants as therapy

As the pandemic continued and people stayed home, Americans turned to their plants for reassurance.

Marsi Thrift, who owns North Park Nursery with her husband Jeff, said many San Diegans found out about their shop due to quarantine. “We have a lot of new plant parents that have become (interested) because they have a lot of free time on their hands with the shut down and not being able to work. It’s brought a lot of plant therapy and joy to people.”

Bloomscape plant expert Joyce Mast concurs. “Plants make people happy, and more people than ever are realizing that caring for them is bringing them joy,” she said. “Plus, they’re accessible for people of all experience levels and a good addition to homes as we spend more time working from home.”

Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of Potted, a plant store in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, said that at times she feels like a therapist.

“We had one woman come in yesterday who brought her plant in as if it were a child. She was so distraught because the plant kept wilting and not thriving,” Gutierrez said. “We had a therapy session, and she left feeling like less of a failure and armed with a little more knowledge and support. I love seeing how people are connecting with each other regarding their plant problems and successes. Maybe that’s the trend: plants as emotional support decor.”

Kristi Beach, marketing coordinator of Barrels & Branches in Encinitas, said that many San Diegans stop by and walk around the nursery as a temporary escape from stay-at-home orders. In addition to offering plant advice to customers at checkout, Beach also provides support to plant parents via social media. “I’m the person that’s on Instagram at 11 o’clock at night answering plant questions for people.”

Raven ZZ plant
Raven ZZ plant.
(Costa Farms)

2. Going Gothic

Many experts predicted Costa Farms’ Raven ZZ plant would be the hot houseplant of 2020, but it hasn’t been available in California — until now. The slow grower has a striking, gothic look with bright green growth that matures to a rich, purple-black hue.

A spokesman for Costa Farms, which has the exclusive rights to produce and sell the plant, said the rare ZZ, a popular topic on Reddit, will be shipping to California stores that purchase its Trending Tropicals collection. If gothic is not your thing, Costa Farms reports that Scindapsus treubii ‘Moonlight’ is already a popular choice for 2021.

Aglaonema ‘pink splash’ (Chinese Evergreen).
(Annette Gutierrez)

3. The supermodel

Pink is alive and well, especially in high-maintenance plants Gutierrez likes to call “supermodel” plants (gorgeous but difficult): calatheas and Chinese evergreen ‘Pink Valentine.’ “Pink plants, in general, are huge right now,” she said.

“Pink anything ... the more pink (stuff) we stock — even pink pots — moves very well,” said Beach.

Thrift adds that calatheas is sought after by both new and experienced plant owners. “It is so beautiful and so striking. Everybody wants them, but it is a more challenging plant to take care of. It needs more humidity; it might be more sensitive to getting dried out.”

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Sept. 15, 2020

Placing plants in a terrarium
You can pack a terrarium with plenty of different plants without taking a lot of space.
(The Sill)

4. Miniatures

Last year, Bloomscape’s top-selling plant was the mini money tree, which is purported to bring positive energy and good luck to the owner. Look for other miniatures to trend this year, including string-of-pearls, happy bean and petite terrarium plants.

5. Virtual workshops

Because of the pandemic, several plant stores have been forced to host virtual classes and workshops in place of in-person events. Felix Navarro of the Juicy Leaf in Los Angeles hosts regular potting classes on Instagram. Bloomscape’s Rookie Plant Care class often has as many as 70 participants. The Sill’s workshops were extremely popular last year — the store even hosted an astrology night with plant pairings — and served as a “great way to stay connected to our customers,” according to Marino.

During the pandemic, San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas started offering virtual classes, such as succulent wreath and air plant workshops. Participants can pick up the necessary supplies from the garden, then create the project at home with the help of a recorded video.

The micro tomato plant is designed to grow indoors.
The micro tomato plant is designed to grow indoors.

6. Edible plants

Thanks to the allure of growing your own food, edible plants will continue to grow in popularity as people continue to spend time at home, said Mast. Many herbs, including common culinary herbs such as basil and oregano, can be grown on a kitchen windowsill, as long as you have about four to six hours of sunlight. Some hybrids, such as Bloomscape’s micro tomato plant, are designed to be grown indoors in your kitchen or on a sunny windowsill.

Kindahl Hunter Rhodes of Hunter’s Nursery in Lemon Grove said the business is seeing a lot of new indoor and outdoor gardeners, especially with the arrival of spring. “We’ve sold a lot more seeds lately than we have in past years; a lot of people are wanting to start their own (gardens).” She adds that fruit trees, berries and vegetables — specifically greens like kale, shards and lettuce, which are quick to harvest — have been selling well.

Thrift noted that strawberry plants have been hard to keep stocked on the North Park Nursery shelves, and that many locals looking to start their own urban gardens have also been buying up herbs like lavender and chocolate mint.

A stapelia starfish flower in bloom.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

7. Rare plant boom

Rare plants and smaller terrarium species will continue to captivate plant fans, as they allow owners “to have the ‘look’ but keep things manageable sizewise (you can pack a terrarium with plenty of different plants without taking a lot of space),” said Dustin Bulaon, owner of Leaf and Spine in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. “There’s a big trend for high-humidity plants, especially with the aid of the Ikea Milsbo cabinets that people are customizing to create mini greenhouse/terrariums. Expect hoyas to continue to be popular with collectors and the succulent stapeliads, which are prized for their unique flowers.”

“Everyone wants the Philodendron Pink Princess ... that’s one that almost every single person wants in their collection,” said Brian Feretic, an Ocean Beach resident who co-founded the plant swap app Blossm last year. “They’ll sell for — just like a single leaf with good variegation — can be (approximately) $200,” adding that the Monstera Albo Variegata is another expensive purchase trending among plant collectors.

A neon philodendron cordatum with light green new growth
A neon philodendron cordatum
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

8. Neon is in

Neon plants will make a big splash in spring and throughout summer, according to Jaime Curtis of Greenwood Shop in the Valley Village neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“Neon pothos, neon cordatum and Dracaena fragrans ‘Limelight’ as well as the more exotic plants like the philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’ or ‘Florida Ghost’ will be in high demand,” Curtis said.

Thrift notes that neon pathos, neon cordatum and “anything with variegation” usually does well in her shop. “One of our top-sellers would be a lemon lime maranta — that’s super popular ... it’s a vibrant, almost fluorescent pop of color that brightens people’s days, faces, et cetera.”

A Monstera deliciosa cutting takes root in water.
A Monstera deliciosa cutting takes root in water.
(Lisa Boone )

9. Propagation

Plant propagation will be particularly big in the next year as many first-time plant owners perfect their horticultural skills. “I think as people understand their environments better, they will get more into propagating the plants they have and sharing them with friends,” said Curtis. “When we are all vaccinated and can see each other again, I expect a ton of plant swaps and prop parties to happen, and hope to host them here as well!”

Feretic also anticipates more San Diegans will be swapping and sharing cuttings with one another in 2021. “I definitely see propagation as something that will grow because people acquired a lot of plants last year. At this point I’m sure they’re probably addicted and they want to collect more plants but prices are pretty high. The demand is so high that there’s not enough supply ... I think that will just be a constant, kind of linear trend: with people acquiring more plants, people should want to propagate more.”

10. Zoom staging

It used to be that plants set the stage for offices. Now they set the stage for Zoom meetings, classes and video calls that can land you on Twitter accounts like Room Rater. Because our homes have become our offices, several stores, including and the Sill, now offer plants specifically for the home office.

Potted plants include Xerosicyos danguyii, Anthurium ottonis, Peperomia argyreia and Selenicereus anthonyanus.
Potted plants include, from left: Xerosicyos danguyii, Anthurium ottonis, Peperomia argyreia, Selenicereus anthonyanus.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

11. The weirder the better

A big way to make a statement is with plants, and according to Mickey Hargitay of Mickey Hargitay Plants in Hollywood, the weirder the better. “People are now appreciating the unique exposed stems and the curves and bends that are created with age,” he said. “Lush and fresh off the truck is still in high demand, but more and more we are seeing customers looking for something with a little more architectural charm.” Philodendron varieties, anthuriums and the black olive (Bucida buceras) also are popular right now. “These are not an easy plant to care for, and they are pretty expensive, but people are still insisting on taking one home,” Hargitay said. “They have that sparse architectural look to them.”

Pacific staff writer Sara Butler contributed to this story.