plant week

What’s the Next Status Plant (That Isn’t a Fiddle-leaf Fig)?

A tall Ficus Audrey in “pole” form. You can also train it to look more like a traditional tree. Photo: courtesy of @othertimesvintage

The fiddle-leaf fig has taken us all on a wild ride. It started popping up on Instagram around 2014 (the term began to spike on Google around that time as well). Then it went from West Elm catalogue cameos, to boutique-y plant shops like the Sill, to basically being sold out everywhere (even though you could maybe still find one in a matte-white ceramic pot if you were willing to pay $250).

And yet, it endures. “It’s still our best seller, it’s still huge,” says Rebecca Bullene, owner of the Greenery. The fiddle’s novelty might have worn off for some, but according to Taryn Tavella, associate editor for lifestyles and interiors at trend-forecasting agency WGSN, it has reached the point where early adopters will “definitely start to want something new.”

A few brave plants have tried to come for the fiddle’s crown. The monstera almost staged a successful coup. The Chinese money plant never quite made it. The rubber plant sputtered out, too. While the fiddle-leaf fig remains a lovely plant, we wondered: What’s the next status plant? To find out, we interviewed a dozen plant experts, including owners of boutique online plant stores, local retailers, wholesale plant buyers, plantfluencers, plant historians, and trend forecasters.

The next status plant: Ficus Audrey

We asked each plant expert for a few top picks, and the one plant that was on nearly everyone’s list was Ficus Audrey (a.k.a. Ficus benghalensis). “The next big tree is Ficus Audrey, 100 percent,” says Bullene. Hilton Carter, plant stylist and author of Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants, says he’s been seeing it “here and there on Instagram,” and getting some questions about it on his book tour, so that’s a sign that something is brewing. “When people start asking about particular plants in my workshops, that’s when I know they’re really starting to blow up.” (Carter also loves Audrey: “Who doesn’t want a plant that already comes with a name?”)

Our experts highlighted its low-maintenance and more “forgiving” nature when it comes to water and light, which is something Tavella thinks people are starting to prioritize. According to Bullene, Ficus Audrey is a much better fit for most people. “Audrey doesn’t have the same light requirements as the fiddle-leaf fig, so it’s really more adept with filtered light, which is more what we have in New York and other cities. And with watering, it likes it more moist than the fiddle, but it’s also okay drying out completely. The fiddle really responds negatively to any inconsistency, but Audrey is more tolerant.”

The fact that Ficus Audrey is relatively easy to care for is definitely the main appeal, but some were equally enthusiastic about its looks. Ficus Audrey bears a striking resemblance to the rubber plant, but it swaps out the glossy, moody, burgundy leaves for some that are small, matte, and emerald green; and the leggy and dark trunk for one that’s thick and white, almost birch-like. Bullene told us that you can let it grow straight up as a pole, or it can be (pretty easily) trained to take on a “traditional tree shape,” leaf canopy and all. Plant Shed’s Joseph Sharp — who we should note was the first one to tip us off to Ficus Audrey — thinks that surreal effect of “having something that looks like it should be outside but inside” is what really makes it stand out. Things are heating up for the new status plant. Greenery’s stock constantly sells out: “I just got 20 of our six-foot Audrey poles. I sent an email that they’re back in stock, and they’ll be gone in two days. Everybody is asking for these,” Bullene told us. Things are heating up for the new status plant. Greenery’s stock constantly sells out: “I just got 20 of our six-foot Audrey poles. I sent an email that they’re back in stock, and they’ll be gone in two days. Everybody is asking for these,” Bullene told us.

Being the status plant that it is, Ficus Audrey is unfortunately often sold out, especially in the entry-level six-inch potted variety. The Greenery is currently out of stock of the 6-inch plant, but we suggest signing up to be notified when they have Audreys back in the shop — and acting fast when they do.

From $250
Photo: Greenery

If you’d prefer something that arrives a bit more “treelike,” Greenery has five-foot-tall Audreys in stock that are already trained into tree canopy form.

Runners-up

Raven ZZ plant

It was honestly a really close call between the Raven ZZ and the Ficus Audrey. In the end, Audrey had a couple more votes. The Raven ZZ is a different beast entirely, but the plantfluencers are going crazy for this thing. “This is my prediction for the next ‘It’ plant,” says Erin Harding, the writer behind Clever Bloom and co-author of How to Raise a Plant: and Make It Love You Back. “It’s easy to care for, just like its green brother, and I can’t wait to see how it’s styled in homes!” And if you’re thinking, Wait, isn’t that just a regular ZZ Plant … but black?, well, you’re right. All we can say is it had the second-highest vote count of any plant, and it had the highest exclamation-point count by far, so there must be something to it.

It’s hard to get reliable information about the Raven ZZ, and it’s mostly available through third-party sellers online, so proceed with caution. From what we were able to learn, it debuted at the annual Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in January 2018, where it won the award for Best New Plant. It seems that the plant was essentially developed and patented by Costa Farms, the huge plant grower and distributor that supplies places like the Home Depot, Ikea, Amazon, and many more.

The Raven ZZ will occasionally pop up on various plant retail sites, but it sells out fast. It even made a brief cameo on Amazon, for the lucky few who were able to snag one. Still, the most reliable — albeit limited — supply appears to be on Etsy, where a variety of small shops sell everything from cuttings to full plants. We’d recommended doing your best to vet any seller before purchasing, and the seller linked to here has a lot of reviews from purchasers who leave comments and post pictures of their successfully delivered plants.

Philodendron pink princess

The philodendron pink princess came up a lot, and it ties in with the “pink plant” trend that visual merchandiser Chikako Ishii Frank has been noticing. Others have been picking up trends toward colored foliage and variegated plants, so this rolls everything up into one. As is the case with most status-y plants, it’s really hard to come by because the few stores that manage to get them sell out right away. Darryl Cheng, author of The New Plant Parent, says this easy-to-care-for pink philodendron is one of his top picks. He likes its “clean structure: a simple vine and big waxy leaves.” It’s available from some sellers on Etsy, but since these are so hard to come by and the demand is high, the prices can be quite steep.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise
From $50
From $50

The bird of paradise might be a little too exposed to be called the “next” status plant, but if were to pick a plant at the height of its popularity, this would be the one right now. Benito Gonsales, plant buyer at Saifee Hardware & Garden in the East Village, says, “People are asking about it all the time,” and it’s one of their best sellers. “Just give it bright light and water it once per week. It’s a lot easier than the fiddle-leaf,” says Gonsales, adding that you can get it to flower annually “if you take care of it.” We’ve noticed it popping up in new restaurants and boutiques the way the fiddle-leaf did a few years ago, and the huge tropical leaves definitely make a statement. Carter says it’s still one of the “hottest” plants, and it’s one of his “go-to suggestions for people with bright light.” Amazon sells one that is about three-feet tall in a nine-inch plastic grower’s pot, and there’s also a larger version from the Sill, complete with a 12-inch ceramic pot. (But at the moment, the Sill’s is only available for local delivery in New York City and Los Angeles.)

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What’s the Next Status Plant (That Isn’t a Fiddle-leaf Fig)?