Another day, another aesthetic that has cemented itself in the soil of our generation. That’s right, we’re talking about the ‘plant mom’ trend that has taken over millennials and gen Zers alike. A term affectionately used by all genders online (some prefer plant parent), the plant mom has been around for a while, with its grip on younger generations strengthening into a full blown lifestyle. To help us unpack how the aesthetic has blossomed into popularity, SCREENSHOT spoke to Beth Martin—known as @couldbebeth on TikTok—an expert florist from Wild Things Flowers in Mayfair, London.
To put it simply, the plant mom is a person who is seen to care for plants with the same affection as they would a child—perhaps yet another ‘cat lady’ epithet of femininity that is being reclaimed as a powerful pushback against the pressure to have children. For Martin, the idea of the plant mom goes beyond just the simple ownership of having many plants and becomes an entangled part of your entire lifestyle. “You can have a lot of plants and not be a ‘plant mom’,” she told SCREENSHOT, “but I feel like the term really refers to a person’s whole aesthetic rather than just having the odd succulent here and there.”
The aesthetic is swathed in greenery, windows bathing rooms in sunlight, airy netted curtains flowing in the breeze coming in from outside and as many vases of bouquets you can fit in a room. With a rustic, warm and vintage feel, the plant mom mirrors the light, airiness of her home’s interior—imperfect watering cans, leather- bound notebooks, cottagecore attire and ‘art hoe’- like qualities can be seen in the aesthetic. The expert florist further elucidated that it felt a term best suited for younger millennials and gen Z groups who have made an interaction with nature more than just a hobby but rather, a part of their identity.
With nearly 900 million views on TikTok, it’s safe to say that the aesthetic is showing no signs of slowing down among the young. Across all corners of the internet you’ll find plant moms flitting about their room, spritzing, pruning and cleaning their green-leafed babies. Teaching their followers how to form ‘blooming tables’ (growing plants within a glass table), make plant holders, tackle pest control, propagate or germinate seeds, effectively garden and even create their own terrariums from scratch.
So, what could be causing this latest greenery obsession? Martin effectively illustrates to us that our love of nature is instinctual—it is inseparable from humanity. “I think people always have and always will have an affiliation with nature. It’s something that’s instinctual for us. It’s an interest that stretches across generations and across cultures and will always have a place in our lives,” she stated. Perhaps motivated by a yearning for the planet to be saved and a realisation that we are the happiest around our green friends has forged a continued pathway to a strengthened individual relationship with nature—a core connection Indigenous groups around the world have been trying to tell the West for decades, if not centuries.
This growth in the West could be further attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin suggested—a traumatic time in which we may have needed any little thing to keep us going. “During the pandemic, specifically lockdowns, so many of us turned to caring for plants because we couldn’t really do much else. Caring for something and having responsibility gave so many of us a sense of purpose, albeit very small, during a time where there wasn’t anything else to do. If I could water my plants and watch them grow, then maybe in a few months I might too,” she shared.
When it comes to the movement’s online growth—pun intended—the possibilities are endless. For the florist, who frequently shares her career journey on TikTok, the rise of the plant mom on social media may be as simple as the appealingly easy, soft and stylish aesthetic is in itself. However, she argues it may be just another mode of curating how you wish to be seen on the internet. “I think maybe people like the idea that other people see them caring for something.”
Martin continued, “To care for plants kind of says ‘look how well I take care of these’, ‘I’m a kind and nurturing person and hey, maybe I can take care of you too’. Or maybe that’s a stretch, but when it comes to social media you can’t really ignore how an aesthetic dictates how people perceive you.”
Among the swelling doomism (which we should not give into by the way) surrounding climate change, a popular stance among our generation is not wanting children. From the Don’t Look Up-like climate scientists emotionally telling us “we’re headed for a fucking catastrophe,” and microplastics being found in newborn babies, it’s no wonder why people are opting out of human parenting. And this refusal isn’t just isolated to the environmental crisis either as research has shown almost half of gen Z don’t want kids for a vast array of reasons. Though the climate was noted as the most popular one, others included financial concerns (just take a look at the swelling energy prices), the stress of responsibility, impact on your body and wanting more time for oneself.
Interested to see if there was a connection between the decline in desire for real babies and the rise in plant parenting, I put the notion to Martin. “This is interesting because, to me, owning plants is not really comparable to having kids [as] there’s such a huge disparity between the level of responsibility. But, I will say that having children is becoming less and less attractive to people my age,” she said. The bouquet expert went on to say that not wanting children does not detract from how caring the generation is—in fact, our affection towards nature is ever clear of that. “Maybe becoming a plant mom satisfies our need to be needed, but without the whole family to contend with.”
If you’re interested in developing that green thumb, then don’t rush into it, Martin told SCREENSHOT. “Start with a small number and learn to take care of them really well before going too mad and buying the whole nursery. You’ll want to get the hang of it before turning your home into a jungle!” She suggests educating yourself on the name of your plants, learning how to identify them and adds that if you’re ever stuck, the internet has all the answers you need for plant care nowadays.
“There’s so much information out there if you know where to look! And mostly just enjoy yourself, there’s not really any rules, just pay attention to what each plant needs and give it a go,” the florist continued. That’s not to say there won’t be hurdles—you’ll probably have to deal with the loss of a few green babies here and there but not to worry, the wonderful Martin has great parting words of advice for you:
“Negatives of being a plant mum is trying not to internalise the dread when something inevitably dies. You can’t get it right every time, especially at the start. Just because a plant dies doesn’t mean you’re awful at caring for them, it just means you’re learning! You don’t have to be amazing at something straight away to still have a positive take away from it.”
Like many, being on the hunt for a specific aesthetic or epithet of fashion is a task I know all too well. For a while, the things I had been drawn to weren’t particularly part of public fashion discourse. ‘What should I type into Google to get this shirt?’ is often where many of us find ourselves, unable to physically manifest the outfit we’ve fabricated in our heads. It wasn’t until TikTok came around that the quirky niche I had unconsciously been searching for revealed its name. Say hello to whimsigothic.
When it comes to the whimsigothic aesthetic, a name coined by Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute (CARI) co-founder and discoverer Evan Collins, the interior of your home is just as vital as the exterior of your style—with the moody interior design side of the style simultaneously presenting a muted, dark grunge-ness while still managing to exhibit a bright, visceral, inviting warmness. This balance comes from its foundational celestial imagery—the illuminating light of the sun in contrast to the mystical blueness of the night.
The core motifs involved include coloured, extraggavent walls—no boring ol’ white over here—luxe mediaeval elements, stained-glass windows, embellished velvet or chiffon drapery, dark woods, sun catchers, candles, stars, napoleon blues and purples, and earthy tones. Oh, and what whimsigothic home would be complete without a plant room or apothecary (for those green witches out there)?
Among the overarching imagery comes this aptly described (of which the style may get its name) ‘whimsical witch’. Overlapping with clear elements of the mystical magic of soft rock glamour, whimsigothic iconography exists in the legends of the 70s decade—most namely in, who many would agree, the OG whimsigoth queen herself, Steve Nicks. Her uniquely distinct signature style sets her apart in fashion history. i-D’s in-depth timeline of the Rumours pen woman’s aesthetic only further elucidates and cements her within whimsigothic; the mentions of velvet, lace, chiffon used in bell-bottomed, bell-sleeved, flowing outfits—embellished with the core tropes of celestial witchery, of course—and topped with extravagant hats are what make Nicks the clear blueprint. We’re all trying to be gold dust women, aren’t we?
It is the aforementioned elements that, once combined, embody the whimsigoth. At its core, the style has a light, effortless, softness to it in the layering of various fabrics. The canopies built on the figured form with a plethora of sheer fabrics—lace, silk, tulle, chiffon, muslin or netting—aids to amplify this feeling of airiness. This undeniably mystical flow forges the wearer to skate ethereally across the room, or in Nicks’ case, across the stage.
This lightness (and eccentric explosion of colours) often exists harmoniously with an, at times, rooted darkness in the aesthetic. The contrast of opaque material in velvet and forms of silk, create a moody earthiness which can be seen in the style’s colour palette: moody green, that recurring napoleon blue, deep purple, maroon or burgundy and home-y, rich patterns. Not to mention the ever-present glitzy glamorous drama in sequin and sparkle—the imperfect, ‘thrown together’ look is truly a theatrical display of magician chic.
Despite the obvious references to the 70s—of which its roots are undeniable—that is not when the titled aesthetic was born. The personal comfort found in it comes from a direct tie to not only my childhood but perhaps your own too. While it borrows from the hippie, ‘spiritualistic’ energies of the 70s, whimsigothic—in all it encompasses—was a core expression of the 90s from which much of the dark, moody ‘witchiness’ derives. The aesthetic came at the intersection of the apex of the 90s’ 70s revival—that’s a mouthful, huh? To put it, perhaps too simply, it’s a nice mix of both.
In a time of Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Craft, Casper and of course, anything by Tim Burton, the 90s (redefining the 70s in its own way, much like gen Z with Y2K) was undoubtedly the decade of the witch. It is from this era that the previously described moodiness of the interior design style is truly embodied and comes to life. It’s the corsets, bicep bracelets, ornate statement rings, strappy shirts, celestial symbols, hair clips and iconic lilac walls of the 90s (to name but a few) that differentiate it from its earlier form.
Think attic rooms and Persian rugs, the apothecary table obsession or the whimsigothic ‘it’ girls: Christina Ricci, the Charmed sisters, Phoebe Buffay, Buffy, Helena Bonham Carter and of course, Lisa Bonet. A more modern example of a whimsigothic person can be found in Florence Welch. In fact, let me paint you a picture: you’re in the 90s and you’re a whimsigothic main character who goes back to their purple, warm apartment. You pour yourself a glass of red wine into Monica Geller-like ornate blue wine glasses, spilling some on your velvet sage dress. You stick on a mixtape with bôa’s ‘Duvet’ or Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’—or maybe you have some Alanis Morissette playing followed by some tATu. Your black cat is curled up in a corner while you do a tarot reading. Life is good.