As Canada’s birth rate withers, ‘plant parenthood’ is in full blossom

Illustration of a woman holding a plant
Elements by Freepik. (Paola Garcés/Toronto Observer) 

My mother once told me, “You will understand once you have one of your own.” Her words still echo in my head. I never thought her prophecy would come true until I started raising Fiona.

Then, I understood everything.

You see, I have never wanted kids.

Fiona changed all that. I feel a type of love I’ve never experienced before. Every day, she seems stronger and taller. Her growth never ceases to amaze me. As she stretches to new heights, I am in total awe. And like many parents, I can’t help but feel she’s growing too fast.

Fiona is my monstera deliciosa. I keep her in a white pot right next to my bedroom door. 

Fiona is trying to get some sun. (Paola Garcés/Centennial College)

To this day,  I’m still firm in remaining child-free, to my mom’s dismay. But I care for this plant. I love her. I want her to thrive. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child? 

Fiona turned me into a plant parent, and a proud one. And I’m not the only one who feels this way about houseplants.

A U.S. study conducted by OnePoll and Article in 2020 found that of their respondent population of 2,000 millennials, seven out of 10 considered themselves plant parents. 

“If you love plants, if you have plants, and you’re taking care of them, and you’re learning, and you’re doing your best — it doesn’t really matter if you have one or 100 — you’re a plant parent,” said Brandon Hamilton, a plant parent himself. “It’s more like a state of mind or an identifier.”

Hamilton, 39, is a personal fitness trainer in Toronto who owns almost 100 plants, and who’s identified by a few of his clients as a “plant daddy.”

WATCH | A ‘plant daddy’ explains his love for his plants:

He has nearly 100 plant babies, among them Celeste, Chad, Karen, Willow, Roo, Ruby, Watermelon Stilt, Lilith, Bernard, Lady, Octavia. Each name is carefully thought out, following a meticulous — but fun — naming process.

Hamilton said that his love for plants stems from his childhood on his family farm in British Columbia. He was around 10 years old when he grew his first plant — an elephant ear — from seed. However, a cat snatched the life away from it, leaving him scarred.

“It destroyed me,” said Hamilton.

After that incident, he had a few wins and losses with plants over the years. But with the pandemic, everything changed.

“(Plants) just uplifted me and brought me joy at a time when I felt heavy and dark. I also had the time to tend to them, take care of them and pay attention to them,” he said.

LISTEN | How 1 ‘plant daddy’ names his plants:

The pandemic was a turning point for many people, especially young people. A report from Better Planter, in 2024, suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has led members of younger generations to choose plant life over parenthood.

(Paola Garces/Toronto Observer)

A survey conducted by Garden Center Magazine in March 2021 revealed that indoor growing sales represent a significant portion of the total sales of more than 250 independent garden centre owners and managers in the United States and Canada. In fact, at least 20 per cent of their sales come from this category.

And people are spending good money on their babies. According to Statistics Canada, in 2022, potted plant sales in Canada surpassed $1.1 billion. This represents a nearly 32 per cent increase compared to 2018.

Data from Statista. (Paola Garcés/Toronto Observer)

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada’s 2022 data shows Canada’s total fertility rate is at its lowest point in more than a century, at 1.33 children per woman.

WATCH | Why this ‘plant daddy’ is child free:

“They (young people) don’t want to bring a kid into the world that they don’t know what’s going to happen in 2030 – 2050. They’re afraid of what’s coming,” said Inês Lopes, a PhD in education psychology.

“Some of them would actually love to have children, but don’t think it’s reasonable to do so.”

Lopes also said that the communication about the world’s problems contributes to young people’s withering desire to have children. Climate change, the housing crisis, economic instability, COVID, the war in Ukraine and Afghanistan, and social movements such as rights trends and racialized people’s rights have been amplified by the media, and some are becoming more apparent in daily life.

That theory resonates with Clémence Roy-Darise, a 26-year-old actress and author living in Montreal.

“I knew I wanted to be a mom,” said Roy-Darisse. “But while I was an activist, it was really hard for me to imagine myself as a mom because I was constantly looking at the bad news.”

Roy-Darise was also surrounded by people “(who) had no hope” as they understood the bad impact the environmental crisis had in the future.

“My impression of why young people are attracted to plants is that they grew up with education about the environment and climate change. That was built into their early years, and they carry that with them,” said Susan Potvin, the owner of Flourish Garden Services, a company specializing in gardening care and planting installation in Toronto.

“It’s also a way to nurture something, to learn how to nurture something without a huge commitment,” Potvin said.

LISTEN | Millennials want to nurture something — but not necessarily children:

I agree with Potvin. I’m learning how to nurture through Fiona.

My motherly instinct is developing with every clipping that she grows. They’re a reason to video call my mom and show her that I’m capable of taking care of a plant, but most importantly to show her how proud I am of Fiona.

My resilient, Fiona.

Fiona is thriving. (Paola Garcés/Toronto Observer)

About this article

Posted: Apr 23 2024 10:15 am
Filed under: Lifestyle News