Years after it was first proposed to the Unicode Consortium, a houseplant emoji is finally coming to a device near you! But what will it look like?

houseplant emoji
Heather Arndt Anderson / Photology1971/iStock/Getty Images
Artist's rendering of how the new houseplant emoji might look

Coming soon to a device near you, what we’ve all been waiting for: a new batch of emoji. In addition to the expanded list of foods (tamales, a bell pepper, and blueberries), vital organs (heart and lungs), and a few additional animals (beaver and dodo, to name a few), there are a few new additions to the ol’ Animals and Nature emoji menu, and plant parents, your cries have at last been heard!

Image result for y'all ready for this gif

There will finally be a houseplant emoji.

Leaked on Twitter last week, Emojipedia’s version is this cartoonish little buddy right here. 👇🏼

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As announced by Unicode last week, we can all expect a new round of emoji for our phones and laptops in the second half of 2020, and we have a few questions. First of all, what plant is this even supposed to be? It looks like it could be a Dracaena ‘Compacta’ (Dracaena fragans).

Check the overall shape and growth pattern—if you can overlook the emoji’s artificial symmetry, it looks just like everyone’s favorite air-purifying houseplant.

Or maybe it looks like a snake plant of some kind (maybe a Sansevieria kirkii?)

To try and get to the bottom of this, I had a quick chat with Griffin at Portland Nursery’s help desk; I showed him this emoji, asked what he thought, and while he didn’t want to go on the record with any specifics, he did concur that while the new houseplant emoji is extremely generic-looking, it could look like one of the two plants above if you squint your eyes. But why is Emojipedia’s proposed emoji such diluted weak sauce compared to the nicely pteridiform (fernlike) Google version of the emoji shown on the Unicode list?

My second question is, why has it taken so long for the Unicode Consortium to add a houseplant emoji in the first place? It was first proposed way back in 2018—with a much more detailed-looking emoji, I might add—it’s an uncanny likeness of a zebra-plant (Aphelandra squarrosa). I highly recommend you read the proposal, especially if you want to know how to effectively use the new houseplant emoji to throw low-key shade.

(Also, #TIL that one of the people who submitted that houseplant emoji proposal is none other than The Fortune Cookie Chronicles author, Jennifer 8. Lee! What can’t she do?)

It should be noted that just because Emojipedia revealed its conception of a houseplant emoji, that doesn’t mean that’s what will show up on our phones next summer. Apple has its own team of emoji designers, and theirs are different than Samsung’s and Google’s. Facebook has its own team of designers, too, including Portland-based illustrator and iconography enthusiast Alexa Grafera (who, it should be noted, is not personally designing the houseplant emoji and couldn’t discuss details of it even if she were—but her snack emoji are stupendous and she designed Facebook’s birthday cake emoji!). I chatted with her a little about what her process looks like.

foliage houseplants
Photo by artpritsadee / Getty Images

First, she collects and reviews reference photos, especially stock images (such as the one above), and tries to determine whether or not a truly stylized version of the object exists. For the houseplant, for example, she’d keep the pot simple (the pot is what differentiates a houseplant from a garden plant) and go with a clearly recognizable icon that resonates with the most users possible. “Emoji is the gateway to iconography,” Grafera says.

Then she begins sketching and coloring, before workshopping the emoji with her team. Since users can be surprisingly passionate about emoji (let’s not forget the Bagel Incident), this last step is important in ensuring the process remains collaborative, but more importantly, determining that her emoji are truly universal.

Apple and Facebook haven’t yet revealed their versions of the houseplant emoji, so I guess we’ll all just hang out here on tenterhooks for a few months. In the meantime, I guess we’ll all have to slum it on 🌱, 🌿, and the other outdoor plant emoji. (Emoji creators, if you’re reading, I strongly vote for a Monstera!)