What is it that makes people want to bring the outside in? And could a house plant habit be useful for you? These questions may be on your mind when starting with house plants. In this post, you’re going to learn precisely why indoor planting is so widespread. This guide also includes lots of information on the benefits of connecting with nature. Let’s dive right in!
The History of House Plants
Our love of house plants has deep roots. History has recorded that the ancient Greeks filled their villas with violets in Terracotta tubs. At the same time, the Romans preferred blowsy roses in marble urns. The Chinese grew miniature trees in dishes. The Pharaohs soothed sunburn with aloe vera. Medieval books show monks spending hours hunched over pots of herbs, tending ingredients for salves and cures.
A few centuries later, explorers like Columbus brought back dazzling new species from the Americas. Plant fever raged; orangeries sprang up across Europe as botany boomed. From the glittering glass palaces of Kew, through a million Victorian parlours, indoor plants colonised our homes and hearts. Succulents and cacti turned the grey-glassed offices of the 20th-century green, and by the exuberant ’70s, rubber plants and Swiss cheese plants thrived in every home, civic space and Columbo movie. Clearly, our passion for indoor plants has never waned.
And now it’s blooming again. Why? Turns out all those interiors magazines showing gorgeous botanical prints on wallpaper, curtains and cushions were trying to tell us something about the real living things. Recent surveys show that houseplant sales are booming – a trend driven mainly by city dwellers, millennials, hipsters and renters. Studies also reveal that although the biggest reason for buying is home styling and decoration, it’s closely followed by people who want to improve their home’s air quality and their personal wellbeing. Instagram is jungle-lush with the trailing, the spiky and the fronded and houseplant-themed tweets run daily into the thousands.
Starting with House Plants
Which indoor plants are the easiest to take care of?
Below is a list of indoor plants that are easy to take care of:
- Most succulents
- ZZ plant
But before you rush to the garden centre, think about why you’re embracing indoor planting. RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist Ian Drummond believes that while the Victorians loved displaying individual diva plants that were exotic and remarkable, and the ’70s were about joyful abundance, today’s is much more environmentally aware and mindful. It’s all about considering our displays and being conscious both of the effects we want to create in our homes and to understand the nurturing benefits of our choices.
The Backlash Against Minimalism
In his book At Home with Plants, Ian together with co-author and interiors expert Kara O’Reilly, suggests we’re now seeing a backlash against everything pale, neat and minimalist and, in its place, a rekindling of thinking of our homes as sanctuaries. For Ian, plants personalise spaces, making them welcoming places to return to, relax in and recharge. But as experts on biophilia (the benefits of people connecting with nature), Ian and Kara are also keen to emphasise how much houseplants give us in return; they boost our moods and help concentration; they refresh oxygen levels and cleanse the air of nasties, converting them into their food supply. As Ian and Kara put it, “it’s a win-win situation.”
Fran Bailey, author, florist and creator of the fantastic houseplant emporium Forest, in Deptford, would be the first to agree. “Our connection with plants is primal,” she writes in her book, The Healing Power of Plants. “We depend on them for our basic human needs, from the air we breathe to the food we eat. Today we have greater wisdom of their healing power and their extraordinary range of properties.” House plants help us keep alert, calm us when we feel stressed and bring joy and beauty to our work and living spaces Click To Tweet.”
So, Where Do You Start?
Fran, who together with horticulturalist Zia Allaway wrote The Royal Horticultural Society Practical House Plant Book, suggests linking plants visually, using their shape, colour, texture or scale. Connecting through harmony and repetition of these elements, say Fran and Zia, creates balance; juxtaposing for contrast builds drama. So, if you’re looking for something to calm a busy hallway, try same-scaled plants, perhaps a row of kentia palms in matching pots.
Texture vs Shape
For more impact, mix things up using texture and shape – maybe devil’s ivy toppling down from a cluster of zebra plants? Succulents and cacti are always worth the houseroom since their low maintenance nature, and almost alien appearance bring vitality to any space. Better still, bright pops of green can invigorate places you might never have considered display-worthy. A glowing run of jade plants on top of a sunny bookcase?
Indoor Plants for Beginners
To build particular moods, Ian suggests grouping plants on shelves with objects – perhaps photos, pebbles, a postcard from a holiday – for an emotional connection. The vast and vibrant range of planters available – vintage, Moroccan, rustic – will also tie a collection together and accentuate your style choice at the same time. And, best of all, once you have your display, it will continue to reward you. As Zia, mentioning a moth orchid displayed in her own kitchen, explains, “it’s bloomed non-stop for over nine months – how could a bunch of flowers ever compete with that?”
Beauty with Benefits
To fully appreciate the practical benefits of filling your home with plants, first, you have to consider their role in a space station. In the ’80s, NASA carried out a study entitled “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.” The two-year investigation, focusing on the number of pollutants absorbed by a dozen common plants, concluded that houseplants had the potential to dramatically improve air quality in a sealed environment such as a space station – but the same applies to modern office buildings and also your home.
The hero of the study was the humble gerbera. Not only does it filter out trichloroethylene (found in printing inks and paint), formaldehyde (tissues, synthetic fabric), and xylene (leather, vehicle exhausts) but, unlike most plants, it also produces oxygen at night. Flamingo lilies, weeping figs, bamboo palm, and snake plant, were all also found to improve air quality. What’s more, most houseplants don’t release pollen, making them an excellent choice for hay fever sufferers.
Improved air quality isn’t the only benefit of owning houseplants. Smell is the most emotionally evocative of our five senses. Yet, the natural aromatherapy of houseplants can sometimes be overlooked. When it comes to choosing plants that beautifully fragrance a room, Zia suggests Nelly Isler orchids for their “wonderful lemony fragrance.” “Cape jasmine and stephanotis have richly perfumed flowers and are great for a hallway to welcome guests into your home,” she adds.
But don’t forget, as Angie Nilson at Pelargonium for Europe explains, some of our garden flowers, such as scented geraniums, thrive indoors too, and effortlessly bring summer into your home when they’re potted up into rustic terracotta containers of varying sizes. Don’t be afraid to try displaying other scented plants such as lavender indoors – the heavenly scents will lift your mood every day.
Fundamentally, in our technologically besotted, connected but isolated times, plants reunite us with nature – a basic human desire. Sadly, ever since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve moved further and further from the natural world’s rhythms and patterns. Long dark nights and uncomfortable winter chills are remedied at the touch of a button. Once seasonal, fruit and vegetables fill supermarkets all year round. Yet studies continue to show that mentally, physically and emotionally, being in touch with nature is essential for human well being. No wonder then that last year the RHS joined forces with the NHS at the Chelsea Flower Show. The show’s Feel Good Gardens, designed to offer a therapeutic space, will be replanted at mental health trusts around the UK to benefit patients using those sites.
Even the rituals associated with plant care can be mindful and life-affirming. Watering, taking cuttings, potting, bedding in, misting, plucking off dead petals and cleaning leaves can all be done while engaging our senses and with a focused awareness on the present. Plants are naturally tied to their own cycles, and they can remind us of our own. In our screen-fixated worlds, they offer genuine connection. The feel of the soil. The mud that clings to your fingers. Once you’re an adult, where do you even get fun like that?
So, it’s actually true – greens really are good for you! Stylish, nurturing, mood-enhancing and enduringly real, houseplants offer us natural, living comfort in our digitised and indoor lives. Small wonder that our love for them is growing more potent than ever. Which leaves only one question; which ones will you fall in love with? Let me know in the comments below. Happy planting!
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