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The Decade-ence of Houseplants

The Decade-ence of Houseplants

Posted by PlantLady on 8th Oct 2021

I wanted to play matchmaker for some vintage houseplant containers I inherited and it’s possible that I got carried away while looking at plants online (said no plant person, ever)… Now I've got info on over a century of popular houseplants, so if you are curious as to what plants have been icons through the ages, this is for you...

While this is by no means an exclusive list, as there are plenty of family photos and stories to add here, it’s a fun place to start if you are looking to make some intentional additions to your collection.

In the Victorian era and early 1900’s the term ‘pteridomania’ aka ‘fern fever’ was coined. The plants of choice were ferns, ferns, and more ferns, although palms and cast iron plants also had a large place in households during this time.

In the 1940’s, women moved into the workplace during WWII, and potted plants of all shapes and sizes became a household AND a work staple. Peperomia, Syngonium, Aglaonema, Philodendron, Sansevieria, and Ficus elastica were all easy-care plants for this time. There are even photos of Monstera deliciosa showing up in households as well.

While many of the houseplant varieties remained steady in the 1950’s, an escapist, laid-back style was born in the tiki culture and an exotic, tropical vibe abounded. Bromeliads, Philodendron, Bird of Paradise, Sansevieria, and of course, Monstera deliciosa hula’d their way into homes.

Before plant videos, there were magazines, and these helped growers in the 1960's find ways to keep their houseplant collections thriving as they made recommendations on humidifiers and other houseplant tools. By this time, African violets had become very popular, along with begonias. Other familiar faces include Monstera deliciosa, Sansevieria, and pothos.

In the 1970’s, everyone went plant crazy (which is a beautiful thing)! African violets, begonias, Dracaena, ferns, Ficus elastica and Ficus lyrata, Peperomia, Philodendron, pothos, Sansevieria, spider plants, staghorns, succulents, and cacti were staples in many collections, and although terrariums had already been around, they became more popular along with the iconic 70’s macrame hangers.

In the 1980’s households scaled back on the size of collections and instead focused on the size of the plant. Typically 1-2 large statement plants such as Ficus, Yucca, or Ming Aralia became the focal point of home growers.

After being popular in the 19th century, orchids came back during the 1990’s. Other popular plants include Dracaena, Philodendron, spider plants and pothos, and in the late 90’s continuing on through the early 2000’s, succulents and lucky bamboo were included in the family of favorites.

In the 2010’s, houseplant classics remained, including our beloved Monstera, and the Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) had its grandiose day in the sun.

And we’re coming full circle by starting the 2020’s similar to the Victorians, with ferns, ferns, and more ferns, as well as palms and Aspidistra. In addition to iconic classics, we’ve got access to unique hybrids and variegated versions of some of our favorite varieties.

Whether you’ve got a mid-century modern or a retro 90’s vibe, curating the collection that makes you feel happy is more attainable than ever. Humidifiers, grow lights, and glass cabinets that channel the original 1800’s Wardian case (thank you Ikea plant cabinet hacks) make care easier. Global shipping, online shopping and a healthy online plant community make learning, buying, trading, and selling more accessible and allows us to create our own icons for today.

So what started for me as a quick trip down the planty rabbit hole, has given me more plant choices than I know what to do with (said no plant person, ever), and even though now I have too many options for my vintage containers, that is a problem I will happily take on.

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