When Hanoi eased its lockdown, Nguyen Thu Anh did not go out to enjoy indoor dining like many of her friends did. Instead, she bought 10 potted plants.
There are a dozen plants like pothos, fern, ivy, and shatavari in her 15-square-meter room.
“My mother said my room is like the Amazon jungle,” the 20-year-old student says.
While her family might be astonished at her collection, it is nothing compared to other plants enthusiasts.
A year after moving to Hanoi’s Ba Dinh District, Dinh Hoang Giang has covered his balcony and rooftop with various kinds of plants. Photo courtesy of Giang
In Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc’s garden has more than 70 kinds of plants.
Dinh Hoang Giang says he has lost count of the number of plants he has in his three-story house in Ba Dinh District though he only moved there a year ago.
The 25-year-old businessman says: “My plants grew very fast. The balcony on my third floor is already filled with pots and so now I put new ones on the roof”.
In HCMC, painter Tran Viet Tu and his wife have covered their 100-square-meter apartment with more than 300 species of plants, and call it a “mini jungle”.
Growing plants at home is now a popular trend among young Vietnamese.
On social media, groups on houseplants have attracted thousands of passionate members.
The owner of a plant shop on Hanoi’s Kim Ma Street says though the city has just eased a two-month lockdown on Sept. 16, sales have doubled from last year.
The houseplant collection of painter Tran Viet Tu and his wife in HCMC. Photo courtesy of Tu
A shop selling pots on Vu Trong Phung Street has even run out of stocks and is waiting for new shipments to arrive.
Nguyen Xuan Huynh, an employee at a plant shop on Dang Van Ngu Street, says most of her customers are people in their 20s.
The store says demand for plants has increased sharply, especially since last year.
Five employees have to take turns replying to messages on Facebook since “there are lots of customers contacting us to buy plants.”
Huynh says: “Hundreds of customers have also sent plants to our shop, asking us to take care of them. But we cannot accept all requests since our shop is not that big”.
Growing plants indoors in fact seems to be popular among young people around the globe.
According to the 2019 National Gardening Survey in the U.S., people spent a record $52.3 billion on lawn and garden retail sales last year and a quarter of that was by people aged 18 to 34, whose spending on plants has grown at a higher rate than any other demographic since 2014.
There are many reasons why young people are hooked on growing plants.
Giang and Ngoc inherited the love from their families. Tu wants to “bring nature into every corner of his life”, which he admits is quite hard to do when living in a city.
Anh says she her obsession with houseplants was fueled by social media where she saw many “cool” photos of people’s indoor vegetation.
Young people are also buying plants for health and wellness reasons.
Scientific studies show that plants help people reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and memory, improve work performance, and spark creativity.
Amid their stressful urban life, these benefits have taken on significance for young Vietnamese.
“Whenever I’m tired, I look at and take care of my plants, helping me feel at peace,” Giang says.
“Some people turn to mediation to calm their mind. I prefer growing indoor plants.”
Ngoc says: “I feel like, when I am taking care of a plant, I am also taking care of myself. Growing them teaches me more about how to improve my mind and mental health”.
Thanks to her plants, she says she finds herself emotionally balanced, patient and more motivated in life.
Minh Ngoc and her collection of over 70 houseplants. Photo courtesy of Ngoc
Tu and his wife say the plants made them feel they were amid nature and relaxed as if on a vacation even when homebound during social distancing.
Anh says though she only recently began growing plants, she has realized they help her feel less lonely.
Nguyen Quan, an interior designer in Nha Trang, says, “Some people spend tens of millions of dong to buy trees but then leave them untended, causing them to die”.
Giang spends 30 minutes to an hour taking care of his plants every day. In summer he even covers his roof to protect his plants from the scorching sun.
Ngoc spends 10-15 minutes before going to work every day to water the plants.
During weekends she makes pots at home and generally putters around in her mini garden.
“I don’t mind spending time caring for my garden because taking care of my plants feels meditative; I can forget everything else and just focus on myself and my plants”.
Asked if growing plants indoors is a mere fad destined to gradually wither away, Huynh says no.
“Young people today have realized that if they don’t know how to preserve and nurture nature, the people who will be affected the most are themselves and their children”.
Tu is considering building a farmhouse near Da Lat.
Ngoc says she “will definitely add more plants for my indoor forest” and Giang wants to continue to take good care of the garden to spread positive energy to everyone around.
Seeing him grow plants, some of his neighbors have done the same to make the alley greener.
Anh wants to make sure all her plants are healthy. In the beginning she would forget to water them, and remember with a start when their leaves start to wither.
Now she checks the plants every day and moves them around so that each receives the sunshine it needs.
“Plants make me happy, so I want to make them feel happy as well” said.