From baking bread to putting together puzzles to learning TikTok dances, Americans found many hobbies to keep themselves sane and occupied during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another popular past-time that emerged is plant-keeping. According to a new survey of 1,000 Americans ages 18 to 54 and older, conducted by Trees.com in partnership with online survey platform Pollfish, two-thirds of Americans used this time to try out their green thumbs and spruce up their homes and gardens with plants.
Our survey found that not only is plant-keeping helping people pass the time, the hobby is also having a profound impact on people’s mental and physical health during this stressful time, to the point where the overwhelming majority of people surveyed said that they expect to continue with their plant-keeping hobby even when the pandemic is over.
The majority of people who responded to our survey, 64%, said they took up plant-keeping as a hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-five percent did not, and 1% of respondents chose not to answer.
A review of data from Google Trends, which compiles and analyzes data on Google searches in real time, reinforces how much interest in plant-keeping increased as normal routines were upended by shutdown orders and transmission fears in March and April of 2020. Google Trends normalizes and measures search interest on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the maximum search interest in a given topic for the time and location selected.
Searches for “planting” and “plants” started increasing during the week of March 22, 10 days after the federal government declared COVID-19 a national emergency, and right as many states and cities were implementing stay-at-home orders to help halt the spread of the disease. According to Google Trends, searches for “planting” peaked during the week of April 26, with searches for “plants” hitting their high point the following week.
35-44 year-olds most likely age group to start plant-keeping hobby during pandemic
Plant-keeping is most popular among people ages 35-44 years old; 74% of people in this age group said they started keeping plants during the pandemic. People ages 54 and older were the least likely age group to adopt this hobby; only 48% of people in this demographic said they started keeping plants this year.
When it comes to gender breakdown, men were more likely than women to try their hand at gardening. Seventy-three percent of male respondents said they’ve developed a green thumb during the pandemic, compared to 59% of female respondents.
Plant-keeping appears to be a popular hobby for couples. Sixty-eight percent of people who are married, and 67% of people who live with their partner took up this activity, compared to 60% of people who are single, and 55% of people who are separated or divorced.
Employment status also appears to have an affect on whether people picked up this hobby. According to our survey, 73% of people who started keeping plants are employed, 72% are students, and 67% are in the military. Meanwhile, only 44% of people who are unemployed, and 41% of retirees started a gardening hobby this year.
Gardening is a popular hobby among people of Asian ethnicity; 84% of people in this demographic said they started this activity in 2020. Black people were the least likely to start keeping plants, although the majority of respondents from this group, 60%, said they took up plant-keeping last year.
93% of older Americans say keeping plants helped their mental health during the pandemic
Amid the stress, fear, and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many health experts continue to express concerns about the short- and long-term impacts the pandemic will have on people’s mental health. The good news is, those individuals who began keeping plants during the past year seem to have found a hobby that offers some relief. Eighty-eight percent of respondents who began a plant-keeping hobby said it has had a positive impact on their mental health.
The hobby appears most beneficial for older adults. Ninety-three percent of respondents ages 54 and older said the hobby has positively impacted their mental health, as did 91% of retirees.
Younger adults are finding it slightly less helpful; 84% of 18-24 year-olds who are keeping plants said it is positively impacting their mental health. In terms of employment, among military personnel who started keeping plants, only 67% said it is improving their mental health.
Men were more likely than women to say that plant-keeping had a positive impact on their mental health. Ninety-four percent of male respondents said the hobby was beneficial, compared to 86% of women.
Although only 50% of widowed people said they started keeping plants as a hobby during the pandemic, 100% of those who did said it had a positive effect on their mental health. Ninety-two percent of married individuals who began keeping plants, as well as 92% of separated or divorced individuals also noticed a positive impact on their mental health. For single people, the hobby was slightly less helpful; only 86% of people in this demographic said keeping plants improved their mental health.
The positive aspects of plant-keeping extended to physical health for some survey respondents. A smaller majority of people, 67%, said plant-keeping helped their physical health. Three-fourths of 35-44 year-olds who were keeping plants reported physical health benefits from the activity, compared to 62% of respondents ages 25-34.
Seventy-nine percent of men said they experienced positive physical effects from keeping plants, compared to 63% of women. Students were the most likely group to say plant-keeping is having a positive impact on their physical health, with 75% of people in this demographic expressing this view. Military personnel found the activity less helpful; only 50% of people in this group said they experienced physical health benefits from plant-keeping.
Despite the hobby’s popularity with cohabitating couples, only 58% of people in this group said plant-keeping had a positive impact on their physical health. However, 79% of individuals who are separated or divorced said they found the hobby to have a positive impact on their physical health.
Just over three-fourths of Black respondents, 77%, said plant-keeping was helping them physically, while only 67% multiracial respondents expressed the same view.
More than ¼ of Americans have taken on debt to fund their plant-keeping hobby
The amount of money people are spending on their plant-keeping habit varies from $5 to nearly $2000, although our survey found that most people spend between $50-$200.
While most people said they have not gone into any debt to fuel their plant-keeping hobby, 27% of respondents said they have. Eighteen- to twenty-four year-olds were the most likely to have taken on debt to fuel their plant-keeping hobby; 47% of people in this demographic said they’ve accumulated debt to maintain their hobby, compared to 16% of people 54 and older. Men were more than twice as likely as women to go into debt for their plant-keeping hobby, with 39% answering “yes” to this question, compared to 16% of women.
Sixty percent of military personnel have taken on debt for their hobby, as have 35% of students, and 31% of people who are currently unemployed. Only 11% of retirees who started a plant-keeping hobby have taken on any debt because of the activity.
Individuals who earn more money were also more likely to say they’ve taken on debt as a result of their plant-keeping hobby. Forty-eight percent of individuals who make more than $150,000 annually said they’ve taken on debt to fuel their plant-keeping activities, as have 36% of people who make $100,000-$149,999 annually.
90% of Americans expect to continue keeping plants after pandemic ends
As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues, and Americans anticipate some sort of return to normalcy in 202, people who started a plant-keeping hobby during the pandemic are optimistic that they will continue with this activity even after the pandemic ends.
Regardless of age, at least 96% of all respondents said they consider themselves a plant-keeping enthusiast for life. Ninety-eight percent of men, and 96% of women said they expect to continue keeping plants going forward.
Students were most optimistic about being plant-keeping enthusiasts for life; 100% of respondents in this group said they will continue with their plant-keeping hobby after the pandemic. Perhaps in a reflection of their lower rates of mental and physical health benefits, military personnel were the least likely to say they are plant-keeping enthusiasts for life; only 67% of people in this group identified as such.
The data from this report comes from an online survey administered by online survey platform Pollfish. The survey was created and paid for by Trees.com. In total, 1000 Americans ages 18 to 54 and older were surveyed on the questions in this report. This survey was conducted from January 6-7, 2022.
Full Survey Results
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, did you at some point pick up plant keeping as a hobby (indoor or outdoor) when it wasn’t one before the pandemic?
- Yes (64%)
- No (35%)
- I’d rather not say (1%)
Have you taken on any debt to fuel your plant keeping hobby that you developed due to the coronavirus pandemic?
- Yes (27%)
- No (72%)
- I’d rather not say (1%)
Are you still keeping up with your plant keeping hobby that you developed due to the coronavirus pandemic or have you lost interest and stopped?
- I am still keeping up with my plant keeping hobby (90%)
- I have lost interest and stopped my plant keeping hobby (9%)
- I’d rather not say (1%)
Even when the coronavirus pandemic ends and life goes back to normal, do you think you will now be a plant keeping enthusiast for life?
- Yes (90%)
- No (3%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (7%)
Has your plant keeping hobby that you developed due to the coronavirus pandemic had a positive impact on your mental health?
- Yes, I believe it has improved my mental health (88%)
- No, it has had no impact, or a negative impact, on my mental health (9%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (3%)
Has your plant keeping hobby that you developed due to the coronavirus pandemic had a positive impact on your physical health?
- Yes, I believe it has improved my physical health (67%)
- No, it has had no impact, or a negative impact, on my physical health (27%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (6%)
(Editorial Note: This article has been provided to AMAC Foundation by Trees.com Communication Manager Allison Carter, and is provided to our readers as a general public service.)