A Brief History of the Houseplant

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Greening up your home and improving your health go hand in hand when you add some indoor-friendly plants to your abode. In fact, homeowners have used houseplants to benefit their health since before the term “homeowner” was even a word. With in-home gardening in mind, here’s a brief history of indoor plants that are known for sprucing up homes and health of the people living within.

Chinese Houseplants 3,000 Years Ago

As early as 1,000 B.C.E, ancient Chinese cultures were using penjing trees and plants of different varieties in interior spaces as ornamental features. Back then, indoor plants weren’t only a sign of wealth, but also a way for inhabitants to practice their green thumb year around, regardless of outdoor temperature extremes.


Over 3,000 years later and houseplants are still centerpieces for homes all across the world. If you want to take a cue from the past, then why not add some potted plants to your interior spaces? The snake plant is a great start because it’s resilient and helps fight formaldehyde and other toxins that are found in many household cleansers.

Hanging Plants in the Gardens of Babylon

As one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are another early example of domesticated plants. Emperor Nebuchadnezzar grew the indoor/outdoor plant wonderland in 610 B.C.E. in the middle of his Babylonian Empire.

Hanging gardens of Babylon

Although recreating The Hanging Gardens in your home is a bit of a stretch, there are some great hanging plants that you can easily add to your indoor decor. A golden pothos is a leafy green plant that cascades perfectly from a hanging pot. In addition, it’s known to decrease airborne dust and increase indoor humidity levels, which is great for dry skin.

Tropical Plants and the New World

When Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, he probably never expected to find so many tropical plants at his destination. Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas, which has its fair share of tropical flora. Ever since the discovery, people have included tropical plants in their living spaces.

There are broad ranges of plants considered “tropical” and each has its own health benefits. If you want to add a splash of color to your indoor spaces, then caladium and hibiscus are great options. However, if you want something tropical with health benefits, then an aloe plant and its healing aloe vera can’t be beat. That plant also goes back to the Chinese dynasties, and to the Egyptians, used for some of the same purposes as they are today, including as a soothing balm for minor scrapes and chapped lips.

Aloe vera plant leaf

Houseplants and the Victorian Era

In Victorian England in the late 1800s, people grew plants inside during the cold and dreary months of the British winter time, while their famously sumptuous gardens outdoors waited for their attention until springtime. Although you’d think cheery, colorful plants were the way to go, people of this time period grew English ivy, dracaenas, and Chinese evergreens because these plants require low light and actually create more oxygen for indoor environments during the darker winter months.

The Victorians also popularized the greenhouse and the botanical garden, with the famous gardens at Kew being a good example, although those gardens were established earlier in the mid-1700s. It was here that species collected all over the world from the furthest reaches of the British empire were put on display for the public. You can visit Kew gardens today, too.

Today’s Houseplants

Besides the names themselves, houseplants haven’t changed much through the centuries. Depending on which plants you choose, many varieties are known to remove toxins from the air, help with congestion, and even alleviate chronic dry skin, so go ahead, turn your home into a greenhouse!

If you’re trying to decide whether to introduce houseplants into your home, just remember that people have done so for centuries.

Your houseplants

Which plants currently take up residence in your space?

How do they play a part in creating an atmosphere in your space?

Tell us all about it in the comments section of this post.


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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.