Healthy indoor plants are a ridiculous modern status symbol

I'm not one to make grand sweeping statements, (I am. Actually, I do it all the time, boldly and without further thought), but here comes one I believe to be true: indoor plants are ruining our lives.

In the last few years they have become the unofficial status symbol for the semi-successful: the more plants you have, the happier you are, the better your life is. Sure, none of us can afford property, but if your rented living room looks like Jumanji, you must be doing something right.

I've watched on in awe as friends effortlessly list the Latin names for their plants, their egos swelling with every 'Sansevieria trifasciata.'

Get your green card

As with any movement that rapidly gains widespread popularity, I'm instinctively cautious - no one wants to be the last person still rocking a Kabbalah bracelet. But I've also grown tired of being left out of debates about whether or not philodendrons will flourish in full sun.

And so two weeks ago, I found myself at a local indoor plant store. Side note: living in the inner city of Sydney there are more indoor plant stores than necessary. I was able to choose between three nearby, eventually opting for the closest. I can more easily access a hibiscus than a hospital.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly shop attendant who asked me what I was after.

"An indoor plant," I replied, he smiled. Minutes later I was holding a Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata).

Fiddly little thing

While he prepared my Fiddle, the attendant rattled off what seemed like a long and conflicting list of instructions.

"Give it a little light, but not too much."


"Keep it close to a window, but not by the window."

"Water your fiddle leaf, but don't over water it. The leaves will turn brown if it's too dry; they will also turn brown if it's too wet."

And then the kicker.

"While they can be tricky, they're so rewarding if given the proper care."

You and me both, fiddle leaf.

The bad seed

Once the plant was in its new home, I sent a photo to my friends. Everyone was so supportive, and it felt nice. This was going to be the start of a new me, I was a plant person now, and I wondered what else might change. Would I open a bottle of wine and not feel the need to finish it? Perhaps I'd visit art galleries for more than the gift store.

Three days later I felt the first betrayal underfoot — the crunch of a brown leaf that had separated from the plant.

I couldn't bring myself to ask my pals for help, having just gained their approval my fiddle leaf failure was an immediate source of shame. Instead, I researched online and spent the next week testing every possible theory: moving the plant with the sun, closing the windows at night, wiping down the leaves every hour. Nothing worked.

Meanwhile, my internet research only served to confirm my theory that the plant-demic was unstoppable. I read about university courses  dedicated to indoor planting, stumbled across Melbourne's Jungle Collective, an organisation who 'throw pop-up Indoor plant parties in our Bohemian Style Warehouse while DJ's play on site.'

The hipsters and the horticulturists had become the same; I felt like neither.

Ungreen thumbs

But the weirdest thing I discovered online was that I wasn't alone. There were forums full of people like me (plant murderers), driving themselves crazy trying to revive their indoor disappointments. One particularly sad post accurately captured the collective mood.

"Guys I NEED your help, my friends are coming over for a dinner party and my Fiddle leaf is an embarrassment! It's brown and droopy, and nothing is working. What can I try?????"

Nothing spoke more to me than that series of desperate question marks. With each fallen leaf, I too felt my status slipping, while everyone around me continued to gloat about their thriving indoor gardens.

Instagram was a steady stream of lush photos accompanied by infuriatingly upbeat captions. "Did you know that studies by NASA revealed that indoor plants can reduce stress and improve our moods!"


That was news to me; I was more stressed than ever and perpetually in a foul mood. I began to have visions about waking up to a loungeroom full of angry friends, surrounded by dead leaves.

Eventually, I conceded the Fig-Jig was up, and I handed the fiddle over to a new owner. Despite the desperation to see what all the fuss is about, for me (and so many others online), the pressure to be a plant person was too much.

"Not everything which makes us feel better is good for us," writes modern philosopher (and probable green thumb), Alain de Botton. "Not everything which hurts may be bad."

So I'll take my sterile lounge room, free of everything, including failure.