Why It’s So Important That I Give My Plants a Name

updated May 24, 2020
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Woman watering plants
Credit: maramorosz/Shutterstock

I remember it so clearly—the night that I came home with my first plant children. It was a brisk summer evening in June, and I was attending a hands-on workshop that involved potting houseplants that I was able to take home with me after. I yearned to have a green bundle of joy to call my own—and equally as important, to call it by a name that felt right. 

I had worked at Apartment Therapy for about a year at this point, which was long enough to understand the joys of being a plant parent and the greater joy of thinking up a name. Our Lifestyle Director Taryn Williford always spoke highly of her plants all named after musicians: Lady Gaga the monstera, Jay Z the ZZ plant, and Madonna the prayer plant, to name a few. I told myself that whenever the time came, I would give my plants the proper identity they deserved—but little did I know it would validate my own.

Where did this plant-naming trend come from?

It turns out, this habit transcends the staff at AT (although the roots here are very strong, no pun intended). Houseplants have been popular for decades, so odds are people have been naming their plants long before millennials started doing it. Plant expert and interior designer Hilton Carter confirmed that older generations have been naming their plants for some time now.

But Erin Marino, Director of Brand Marketing at The Sill, does notice that it seems like it’s on the rise. “I hypothesize that some plant lovers think of their houseplants as part of the family (or the workplace),” Marino said. “Maybe not in the traditional sense like a sibling, pet, or coworker—but as a beloved or treasured living thing that makes a positive impact on their home or work life, which can make them worthy of a name.”

Marino added that giving your plant a name solidifies it as a permanent member of the family, and that you’re committed to taking care of it in the long-haul. Carter also agreed that naming your plant confirms that your overall goal is take good care of them. “I like to tell people to see their plants like potted pets. Just as you’d name a pet, you should name your plant,” Carter said.

Naming plants benefits you, too.

I knew I wanted to create a strong relationship with my plant babies from the start, and so I took the naming process very seriously. Once the workshop was over, there I was—riding the subway home with a dracaena in one hand, a pothos in the other. I remember proudly cradling them in my arms and feeling people’s gazes on me from all corners in the car. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was physically glowing like I just gave birth. But I didn’t really pay attention because I was deep, deep in thought: What was I going to name them? What would be worthy?

By the time I got home, I was no closer to making a decision. I tried to come up with names that were connected—like Tia and Tamara, Winfrey and King—but they all felt force. Then I reflected and thought to myself, what’s something that I love that can be poured into these two living plants?

Then it hit me: Travel. I’ve always had a passion for travel, and my never-ending list of “places to go” is a testimony to it. So my lightbulb moment was such: what if I decided to make my houseplants a living bucket list?

Yes, you bring a plant into your home to help it flourish, but it also helps you live and love a little harder—and learn about yourself along the way.

“[Naming your plant] is another way to assert YOUR identity,” Williford told me. “I love music, so I get to name my plants after musicians I like, and it’s just another way to celebrate something that brings me joy, and another reason to talk about things and people I love. It’s a conversation starter!”

It didn’t take me long to come up with two of the top places I’m dying to visit. And so, Sparti (a town in Greece) the pothos and Raj (short for Rajasthan, a state in India) the dracaena were born. I made a pact then and there that my plants would serve as a reminder of places I wanted to visit in my lifetime, and once I finally did the deed, I would rename them another place that I had a strong desire to visit.

Credit: Nicoletta Richardson
Sparti the pothos plant.
Credit: Nicoletta Richardson
Rajasthan the dracaena.

I know, I know, you might be thinking, “you’re going to change their names?! What kind of plant parent are you!” but hear me out. Coming from someone who changed their name—just from “Nicole” to “Nicoletta,” but still—I believe that names can change as life changes. As life moves on, we see things, do things, experience things, and have the freedom to change—and I wanted to give that freedom to my plant babies, too.

From the name selecting process, I’ve learned a big lesson: taking care of a living, breathing thing is a two-way street. Yes, you bring a plant into your home to help it flourish, but it also helps you live and love a little harder—and learn about yourself along the way.

Credit: Nicoletta Richardson
Savannah the snake plant.

Since I’ve received my two blessings, I was gifted a snake plant. In true millennial fashion—which I’m not ashamed of, by the way—I put it to a vote on Instagram between four places I wanted to travel to (I was truly having a difficult time making a decision). The final outcome was Savannah (Georgia) the snake plant.

Just as I gave my plants an identity, they further confirmed my own as a traveler. Oh, and they also solidified where I might go next, too.