A Brief History of Houseplants

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Houseplants are plants that can be adapted to grow indoors in places such as houses, offices, places of recreation, restaurants and so on.

While plants have been companions to humans for thousands of years, you will be surprised to know that houseplants are only a recent addition to the common man’s life.

Why so?

The reason is simple; there was no glass and thus no glass windows. The reason, as you may have guessed – without glass, there was little sunlight available inside the house for the plants to perform photosynthesis.

Plants need carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to make their own food (they are called autotrophs as they use light). So, with no sunlight, the plants could not survive inside the house.

It all changed with glass windows. Now the sunlight could come inside the house.

Glass windows first started appearing in Europe around the 1600s but only became part of the common household in the 1800s.

By the 19th century, more and more people in Europe were experimenting with putting plants inside the house and seeing how they survived.

The first widely popular houseplants were the ones that needed a low amount of sunlight, for example, Aspidistra, Sanseveria, Ferns, Palms, Geraniums, etc.

Source: Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum

While houseplants received early acceptance in Europe, it was not until min 1900s that they became popular in North America.

Dracaenas, Philodendrons, Jade plants, Cacti, and many more became part of households, dorms, offices and places to eat. But this trend reversed again with people getting busy in their work, social media, etc.

The pandemic has again revived the interest in gardening and houseplants. In those tough times, their green friends came out as true companions!

The popularity of houseplants also bought sea change the way they are potted – from simple earthen pots to intricate glass, metals, ceramics, plastic, wood, stone, terracotta and more.


Where do houseplants come from?

Houseplants are derived from the existing outdoor plants. In some cases with breeding, they have been made more suitable for indoor use. Most houseplants we see today are natives of tropical areas.

Final Words

Today, new ways of propagation and breeding along with fast supply chains have ensured that there are a huge number of houseplants to choose from, many of them native to other continents. This has also ensured that houseplants become affordable.

With urbanization, as more and more people shift to flats, from independent houses, the popularity of houseplants is likely to remain strong.

New technologies of artificial and remote lighting and monitoring is also helping people to enjoy the company of these plants even when they do not have too much time to take care of them.