Is a hotel for houseplants a good idea – or a sign of our impending doom?

Recently, I killed a cactus. It was not mourned. Presumably, a cactus that manages to die has a death wish. Cacti – and I just, belatedly, checked – need a dribble of water every couple of weeks and some vague access to light. Their native environment is “burning to death in the centre of an arid desert”. A cactus that manages to die in a peaceful, nurturing home somewhere in Clapton, east London is, frankly, not trying hard enough. We clang open the kitchen bin. We tip the cactus in whole with its soil. We buy another one from Ikea next time we’re there. The cycle begins anew. We hope the next one wants to live.

Plants and millennials go hand in hand. I have a couple of theories about why: one, we are all addled on a combination of antidepressants, pollutants, sulphates and gig economy workaholism, and frankly we need the peaceable energy and clean O2 that plants provide; two, the aesthetic allure a background plant brings to an Instagram selfie simply cannot be overstated; and three, vile landlords won’t allow us to have pets, and nobody but Prince Harry can afford to have actual real children, and the only way to really let out those evolutionary dead-end feelings is to look after a cheese plant. My housemate very carefully dusts the leaves of his, while gently murmuring and singing. One day, a thousand economies from now, he will make a handsome, loving father to an actual child with feet.

All of this – death, life, landlords, millennials, cacti – is why I struggle to raise my usual level of contempt for the Patch Plant Hotel, a new PR stunt-cum-actually-good-idea from online plant-ordering behemoth Patch.

The deal is this: much like you would put a dog in a kennel when you go on holiday, you put your beloved plants into the plant hotel, where someone with some little pruning scissors will look after it until you’re back. You could just ask your neighbours, yes, but who really talks to those? You could ask your friends, but who really trusts them? Beyond the ludicrousness of collecting all your plants up and getting in a cab with them down to Battersea – an absurd thing to do – all of this strikes me as a frankly brilliant idea. In 10 years’ time, when the birth rate is at an all-time low but everyone has a thriving yukka, these things will be all the rage. And when they are, I will be checking all my cacti in and leaving them there permanently. It’s for their own good.

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