Trends and the Future of Houseplants
Recent History of Indoor Plants
I started growing houseplants in the 1990s, my precious first propagation successes lined up along my bedroom windowsill.
Fast forward some 20 years and my living room is home to a huge planter stuffed full of houseplant treasures.
When I started my career, houseplants were definitely seen as passé and a throwback to the 1970s. Despite houseplants being grown since Victorian times (think Aspidistra and Parlour Palms), the dusty Swiss Cheese plant and Spider plants of the 1970s were remembered more clearly.
The recent resurgence in global popularity can be pinned on Instagram, our homes becoming our offices, and a need for connection to the natural world.
Indoor plants have been present in our homes and offices to some extent, but popularity declined sharply in the 1980s and 1990s.
Photo Credit: gardenista.com
Monstera deliciosa is commonly known as the swiss cheese plant. A popular house plant in the 1970s, it then fell out of favour but has made a strong resurgence with the millennial generation wanting specimen plants in their homes.
My source of information came from a couple of 1970s edition books by Hessayon. I still refer to these now and then. The other was a series on houseplants by Anne Swithinbank in Gardener’s World magazine. I would carefully cut these out and kept them in a file.
That lull has made me focus my attention as to why indoor plants ever fell out of favour. I suspect it has a lot to do with fashions in interior design.
Monstera adansonii is commonly known as the monkey mask plant. Its popularity has increased as it is not a demanding plant and also helps to purify the air. Like humidity and is also very easy to propagate.
Photo Credit: thespruce.com
Indoor Plant Trends Today
Fewer young people have been able to afford to move into homes with gardens. The great thing about indoor plants is that they can live wherever we do. For people living in flats and apartments, keeping plants is that link with green spaces and nature that we all crave in varying degrees.
I believe we also have an inherent appreciation of plants and nurture.
With an abundance of information available online and across social media, there is everything you need to develop and sustain an interest in plants. A myriad of books on the subject of houseplants, articles in magazines, and newspapers have fed those that are hungry for knowledge.
The popularity of houseplants seems to have reached a fever pitch during the pandemic. This was a hobby to obsess over whilst remaining safely at home. No need to worry about who would water your plants, as none of us were going on holiday.
Watching plants develop closely, nurturing their every need, is extremely rewarding. It’s the reason I have spent my life, professionally and as an all-engrossing hobby working with plants.
The lockdowns of 2020 resulted in a flood of images filtering through onto Instagram.
Photo Credit: Simon’s Aquascape Blog
Variegated plants seem to have an extremely eager following, in particular the Araceae.
Indoor plants skyrocketed in popularity so fast that there have been many vendors keen to cash in. London has a plant delivery company, alongside expanded houseplant sections in garden centers, DIY stores, and boutique shops. I’ve even seen planted terrariums for sale on Oxford Street, as well as stylish mid-century modern pots and stands.
I am a little concerned that once everyone is growing the latest ‘must-have’ plant, it will fall out of favour and people will lose interest in indoor plants.
Aquascaping is something that is coming on-trend. It is for the enthusiast. For those who love an aquarium but don’t want to keep fish, this is a perfect solution. Growing aquatic plants in a tank you can bring a tropical mangrove into your room.
The Future of Indoor Plants
Photo Credit: Rob Stacewicz
This collecting bug doesn’t seem sustainable to me. Instagram is full of images showing hundreds of individual plants in a room. All very well, but these Instagram-ready plants are filling up valuable living space, not to mention becoming a full-time occupation maintaining them all.
Perhaps for millennials, investing in houseplants and living spaces is a more fulfilling way of spending money than on expensive nights out. Spending time meditatively looking after plants can be a form of therapy, allowing the houseplant owner to exact control where they aren’t able to in the outside world.
When purchasing a house plant, it is important to think about the container it will go in. Equally important is the backdrop and the surroundings that the plant will be in.
As a garden designer, I look at containers in the same way I see them being used outside. Big statement pieces, overflowing with great combinations of plants. Of all the Instagram accounts I follow, there are precious few that focus on group plantings indoors. Terrariums and aquascapes lead the way when it comes to aesthetic combinations of plants. Maintenance is considerably reduced as you only need to water one container. With more space in the potting mix, plants can seek out more moisture and nutrients. Plants always look happier together, as they create a little extra humidity in their grouping. Just remember to group plants that require similar light and moisture levels, as well as a similar potting mix.
Photo Credit: Rob Stacewicz
Plants always look better when they are grouped. If you do not have a garden what better way to create a little oasis indoors.
In my home, I have planted two large rectangular planters with plants that suit the grey and green scheme of my living room. Plants should link with your interior for a cohesive scheme.
Apart from the standard foliage houseplants, look at new ways of using trailing and climbing plants.
Although my planters are far from perfect, I want to show how and why I have selected certain plants. Although I enjoy growing rare and unusual plants, I think commonly grown plants can be just as aesthetically pleasing, particularly when growing happily and in combination with contrasting foliage shapes and colours.
Maranta leuconeura var. kerchoveana
A common houseplant since the 1960s, the ‘Rabbit Tracks’ plant has always seemed a little insipid in comparison to its strikingly graphic cousin, Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura. As I wanted to create a calm feeling, the subtle beauty of M.leuc. var. kerchoveana was perfect. The stems are lax and trail slightly over the edges of the planter. I enjoy the new leaves, which have much darker black markings before they fade to grey as they mature.
Photo Credit: Manoj Malde
There is a huge variety of air plants to choose from. Some are very easy to look after like this Tillandsia Xerographica and some are not so easy. Tillandsias capture moisture from the air so they need misting. To mist and water, these plants use rainwater. If you cannot get a hold of this then leave water in a bowl overnight and use that the next day. Never allow water to sit in the crown of the plant.
Chlorophytum comosum ‘Lemon’
There is space in every home for a spider plant. However, they are a love or hate houseplant. I don’t think they’re fashionable, but for ease of growth, second to none. Withstanding both dry and wet conditions, they usually manage to reproduce with plenty of spiderlets over the course of a year. I chose ‘Lemon’ as a flash of fresh apple green amongst the glaucous/bluish and silver foliage. I also grow the plain green Chlorophytum comosum but find it grows very large and gets messy. ‘Lemon’ appears to be more compact, the grassy leaves provide a contrast of texture, whilst the stems drape gracefully over the sides.
Another common houseplant that usually looks a little gloomy in comparison to the more fashionable plants. However, a few climbers cover the wall, to help blur the boundary between my living room and garden. Scindapsus fit the bill perfectly, again with my green and grey colour scheme, the calm effect of the leaves creates a nice backdrop for my other plants. I trained it against my wall using a network of clear fishing twine, even using clear acrylic screw/bolts in the wall. This means the supports are near invisible.
If indoor plants are going to stay popular in the long term, let’s get clever about the aesthetics by grouping plants to create indoor garden spaces that truly enhance our homes.
Guest Blogger: Robert Stacewicz Bsc Hort
Robert is a plantsman, writer, and designer.