Opinion: Do you love plants more than people? Say hello to 'plantfluencers'

(Photo: Victoria Bee/ Getty Images)

Written by Niki Bruce

Move over fashionistas, the newest hot influencer is focused not on expensive bags, but on actual living objects. Yes, the latest social media stars are ‘plantfluencers’.

In a move towards more sustainable living, with hashtags like #slowfashion #slowliving #slowfood and #greenliving, plants are the latest items to attract the gaze of stylish individuals and social media savvy Millennials.

Even The New York Times dedicated a long read to the development of plant-growing, horticulture and the mash-up of lifestyle, fine-dining and plants that’s taking over the coolest parts of the global style capital.

It all started with the trending of particular types of photographic plants like succulents and cacti on the accounts of social media influencers around the world; then when the lifestyle influencers began to buy apartments and decorate them, indoor plants took off.

One of Singapore’s most stylish individuals and hot, up-and-coming ‘plantfluencer’, Albert Pang, has already been featured in Female magazine, and is definitely dedicated to creating a “dream garden, one plant at a time” as his Instagram account, @_albertpang_ states.

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“I didn’t create an Instagram account dedicated to plants, rather, I stopped posting about other things ever since I picked up an interest in plant styling and photography,” explains Mr Pang, a director at Mercury Marketing & Communications.

Mr Pang says that his love of plants came from watching his parents in their garden as a child. “I learned about the satisfaction of watching something that you’ve planted grow and flourish, and how plants can transform a space,” he explains.

“My [recent] fascination with plants started when I decided to add greenery to my home. It began with a few potted plants to fitting more than 100 plants in my two bedroom apartment today,” says Mr Pang. “Having a lush garden, to me, is more than just decoration. It gives me a sense of calm and wellbeing.” 

Although Mr Pang has a love for just about all plants, his favourites are those that have interesting foliage, that are striking without needing showy flowers. “My top favorites are caladium, begonia, and alocasia,” says Mr Pang.

“I choose the plants based on specific spots in my home, and how they will fit in with the home decor aesthetics. For example, I pick hanging vines and trailing plants for my bathroom to create a green oasis look. For the balcony, I go for big leafy plants of varying heights for that lush, visual impact.”

Mr Pang is not alone in his love of house plants; there are a number of Singapore based plantfluencers with burgeoning accounts.

Jen Ng, from @theleafychronicles, features large ‘leafy’ plants like caladiums and monstera standleyana; while Marvin from @rockinmarvin, is dedicated to smaller plants like the Prayer Plant, a type of maranta leuconeura, and Air Plants or tillandsia.

For Ms Ng, who shares her love of plants with her husband, posting to Instagram is a way to meet other plant lovers.

“Hashtags make it easy for me to identify plants, and I get my inspiration on the plants I want to have from photos posted [to Instagram]. Through chatting to plant folks on Instagram, I have also learned tips on how to look after certain plants and where to buy plants on my wishlist,” she explains.

“Eventually, I created a separate account because I did not want to spam my friends with ‘plant talk’, and a plant Instagram account is a fantastic way to make friends with other plant people in Singapore and around the world!”

Ms Ng’s favourite plants are Philodendrons: “Some of them have funny shapes like the philodendron bipennifolium aurea, or colour splashes like the philodendron pink princess.

“Other than that, I love begonia maculata for their polka dot patterns, rhaphidophora tetrasperma for its adorable leaves, caladium bicolor florida clown for the colorful speckles. I also can never resist variegated syngoniums and monsteras – currently I have four variegated monsteras and counting!”

When choosing new plants to add to her collection, Ms Ng says she looks for ones that have “interesting leaf shapes, colours and patterns that I currently don’t have”.

“I am a sucker for most plants with variegated leaves! Space is also a consideration – as much as I love plants, I also value the space we have [at home] and I want to make sure the plants don’t clutter my living space as well,” Ms Ng explains.

“My husband and I love being in the outdoors surrounded by greenery – we cycle a lot, enjoy taking walks and I love the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Our new home in Telok Kurau is right by a park, and one of the reasons we fell in love with the neighborhood! Our penthouse has lots of floor to ceiling windows, bay windows and a roof terrace so plants became an obvious choice for us to bring the outdoors in and creating a relaxing place to come home to,” says Ms Ng.

Ms Ng says she got her love of plants from her parents – just like Mr Pang did. “My parents are always showing me their okras and tomatoes, but I never got into it because it seemed like a granny hobby,” Ms Ng explains. “My love for plants happened gradually, and the more time I spend with plants, the more intrigued I am! I guess that makes me a millennial-grandma now.”

Most Popular Plants on Social Media 

Monstera deliciosa, calathea, marimo balls, fiddle leaf figs … These were the most popular plants on social media in 2018; they’re all relatively easy to grow (apart from the figs) and definitely graphic and photo-friendly.

For 2019, it is the size of the plants that’s going to matter. ‘Go big, or go home’ … more mature trees, including Chinese New Year favourite the cumquat, will be much more popular. If you don’t have one large plant, go for stacked shelves of lots of plants to get the #indoorforest look going in your home.

Where To Shop For Plants in Singapore

You don’t even have to leave your home to get your hands on some stylish indoor greenery these days.

There are a number of Singapore online stores like Noah Garden Centre that offer indoor plants to buy online. Of course you can always head to Singapore’s favourite place to buy plants – Far East Flora at 590 Queensway – to pick your new green friends in real life.

However, if you’re looking for a style experience to go with your plant shopping, you need to check out Tumbleweed Plants at 33 Tembeling Road, or at Providore Downtown in OUE Downtown Gallery. You can also shop all sorts of on-trend planters, pots, plant stands and even hip gardening tools at Tumbleweed Plants, and, yes, they also have an online shop and home delivery.

If you need something to put your plants in, Singapore ceramist account @serialkilner produces pots specifically for these stylish plants; and for help on how to care for your new plant babies (yes, it’s a thing), check out @pnp_plantae.

How To Become a Plantfluencer

If you are interested in starting your own plantfluencer account, there are some great tips on how to photograph plants to be found online.

As for how much time it takes to be a stylish ‘plantfluencer’, Mr Pang says that waiting for the right light to take photos is the most time consuming part of it all: “It depends on the level of sunlight. If I don’t get the right amount of light, it can take up to more than an hour, waiting for the sun. Early daylight is less harsh and more flattering for the plants.”

Ms Ng, on the other hand, says it only takes her about five minutes to take a great photo. “I find a good spot with lots of natural light, make some light edits and I am done,” says Ms Ng.

“I don’t believe in spending silly amount of effort or time to edit what is already beautiful. Certain plants get photographed a lot more often – and some others have been killed by me before they even made it to my Instagram account!”

Don’t be scared to show off your love of plants, according to Ms Ng, the Instagram plant community is super friendly. 

“Everyone’s super helpful and friendly – I’ve had someone from Austria help me diagnose what’s going on with my plant,” says Ms Ng.

“Through my plant instagram account, I have met up with friends to go plant-shopping with in Singapore. When I visited Sydney and Manila, I crowdsource plant friends for quirky plant shops or nurseries to visit.

“My husband makes fun of me and my nerdy plant account account but it has brought so much joy to my life!”