A Brief History of Houseplants

When Did Houseplants Become Popular?

There’s no doubt that houseplants have seen a surge in popularity in contemporary society; we can all shop for indoor plants at the click of a button. But have you ever wondered when houseplants began to gain popularity? Well the history of ornamental plants and gardening spans back quite a while; centuries in fact.

From the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon to a present day Millennial revival, here we reveal the history of houseplants.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

One of the earliest records of ornamental plants used for domestic decoration dates back to the extraordinary Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Around 600BC in modern day Iraq, the exotic paradise was conceived by King Nebuchadnezzar II as a gift for his wife, Queen Amytis.

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens bloomed with lush displays of palms, herbs and perfumed flowers.

"Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens bloomed with lush displays of palms, herbs and perfumed flowers."

Moving Mediterranean

Hot on the heels of the Babylonians, the Greeks and Romans of 400BC adored house plants and liberally scattered pots around their villas and bathhouses. Whether in humble terracotta pots or ornate marble vases, brightly coloured flowers like roses were favoured along with marigolds, violets and herbs like rosemary and thyme.

Sir Hugh's Greenhouse Effect

The concept of plants indoors didn’t really take off in the West until the 17th century when English agricultural guru Sir Hugh Platt documented cultivating plants indoors in his legendary 1652 book, The Garden of Eden. This set the trend for greenhouses and conservatories, inside which, exotic flowers could be grown and brought indoors for decoration.

The Victorian Industrial (Houseplant) Revolution

The Industrial Revolution birthed many things, but with it came better-built houses with higher ceilings and larger windows. These created prime conditions for houseplants to flourish indoors and so botany exploded amongst our well-heeled Victorian ancestors. 

In an era of colonisation, the cultivation of new and exotic plants was of interest to the upper classes of society. Soon enough, potted plants became part of the furniture in well decorated homes of the late 1800’s. 

Be it their own botanic house or a lavish parlor room (from which the “Parlor Palm” gets its name) A true victorian favourite.

The Roaring 20s

The indoor-jungle mania of the Victorian era began to wane in the 1920s with the advent of the Art Deco movement. Instead, chic minimalism was à la mode, meaning indoor foliage like ferns and exotic plants were used more sparingly.

Mid-Century Modernity

Two World Wars meant that houseplants weren’t anyone’s priority during the first half of the 20th century, but in the 50s their popularity resurged. Not just in homes, but in offices, public buildings and just about anywhere a pot could be rested or hung. Hardy succulents were the go-to plant of choice given they could stand a variety of temperatures and weeks without water.

21st Century: A Very Millennial Revival

It’s safe to say houseplants have seen an ultra modern revival as of late. From micro cacti to monster Monstera’s. Society has fully embraced the power of houseplants, cultivating collections to showcase on social media. Nurturing houseplants goes hand and hand with the self-care and wellness movements we are all so fond of these days; our plants make for a joyful escapism from tech-centric modern living.

Victorian Inspiration

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Clay: The Contemporary Botany Company

We lovingly curate a selection of indoor plants & handmade pots. Delivered across Dublin and Nationwide.

Words by: Clay: The Contemporary Botany Company

Images by:

A Butchers Hook, Scott Webb, Phillip Deus, Lina Kivaka, and Julia Volk

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