Have you ever wondered why we ended up keeping plants inside their homes? It seems like an odd practice. Our house is specifically intended to keep the natural world out, yet somehow, almost everyone you know owns a houseplant.
In this article, I will tell you where houseplants come from, as well as a few other crazy facts you likely didn’t know.
Here’s Where Houseplants Come From:
Nowadays, all houseplants come from plant nurseries all over the world. Originally, over 90% of the species of houseplants we grow today come from tropical or semi-tropical environments, because they adapted easier to our homes. The rest come from deserts and only very few from colder areas.
The houseplant world is full of fascinating questions and mysteries. Luckily, we’ve compiled all of the answers you need to know:
Brief History Of Houseplants
The practice of keeping plants inside the home can be traced back as far as the Romans and early Greeks. Prior to them, other civilizations like the Ancient Egyptians still kept potted plants, but mostly in outdoor spaces, rather than bringing them into the home.
Houseplants have been popular across the globe for centuries, and we can see them in many ancient cultures. For example, think of bonsai trees, which originally came from China, and which quickly spread to Japan. Plenty of other ancient cultures kept houseplants too.
The popularity seems to have faded away during the Middle Ages, especially in Europe.
Although it’s likely that some houseplants were still kept at this time, they don’t seem to have enjoyed the same recognition.
However, in the Victorian era, houseplants and the cultivation of rare species exploded in popularity.
People raced to find rare blooms, and competed to cultivate new varieties and make the tenderest blossoms survive and thrive. Houseplants have probably never enjoyed such popularity or fervor as they did during this era.
Today, houseplants remain a big part of everyday life, and most people have at least one plant in their homes. We spend enormous amounts of time obsessing over our plants, treating them with care and often – unfortunately – killing them with love.
Overall, houseplants go back a long way, and it seems likely that they will continue to be a popular hobby for many years to come – if not for the rest of human existence.
Who Invented Houseplants?
Although there is no reliable way of knowing the first person that owned a houseplant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is the unofficial inventor of houseplants. As the builder of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon around 600 BC, he is the first person known to keep plants for an esthetic purpose only.
In reality, though, there is no way of knowing who invented houseplants, because the idea stretches back too far for us to have reliable records.
It’s also unlikely that the first person to grow a plant indoors would have been recognized enough to make a written note of the person’s name.
The Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful person at the time that became famous for his work with plants because he built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) for his wife.
It was an entire indoor garden packed with amazing plants that were reflective of the greenery she had left in her homeland of Persia.
What Was The First Houseplant?
The first decorative houseplants were roses and violets that were kept by the Romans. However, it is reasonable to assume that houseplants existed prior and that the first houseplant may have been an edible plant of some sort, brought inside to protect it from pests, harsh weather, or diseases.
The same way people cultivate miniature herb gardens on their windowsills now, ancient civilizations may have grown a few edibles indoors.
Of course, it’s possible that the first houseplant was also purely intended for decoration – we simply can’t reliably know.
Where Are Houseplants Grown?
Today, all houseplants are grown in plant nurseries or greenhouses across the globe. Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible to grow almost any kind of houseplant in any place, and that includes our homes.
Climate controlled rooms, hygrometers, humidifiers, and more have all contributed to our houseplant growth, and ensure that you can grow almost any houseplant you want in your home.
Of course, you can’t grow all plants in your house. Many plants are too big, won’t thrive in a container, or need the cold.
A lot also need far more sun than they will get when grown in the home, and will therefore die if you try to grow them inside.
However, it’s still true that wherever you go on the planet, no matter the culture, you are likely to find at least a few houseplants, even if they aren’t as popular as they are in the United States.
Do All Houseplants Come From The Same Place?
No, not all houseplants come from the same place. Although they are all grown in plant nurseries now, originally our houseplants come from a wide variety of places.
They have often been taken from tropical or at least warm environments because this makes them better suited for growing inside the home, where temperatures rarely drop below freezing.
However, you can now buy houseplants that have come from a rainforest, such as Monsteras and Philodendrons, or others that have come from deserts, such as cacti and succulents.
Plants from almost every continent can be grown in the home, and no matter what kind of plants you like, you’re bound to be able to find one.
Why Do Indoor Plants Exist?
Nowadays, indoor plants exist simply because we like them. A lot of people feel disconnected from the natural world, and houseplants go some way to mitigating that feeling. They also give people something to look after and nurture.
It’s hard to say why people originally started bringing plants indoors, except that we have always liked to decorate our internal spaces, and many people find plants attractive and appealing – so this is an extension of decorating the home.
It’s also possible that at times, plants have been brought indoors for practical purposes (protecting them from pests, diseases, and bad weather), and over time, this has evolved into keeping them for pleasure.
Another reason people keep houseplants is in an attempt to clean the air, although the effect of this is likely to be fairly minimal.
When Did Houseplants REALLY Become Popular?
The houseplant really became popular in the 19th century, when people suddenly began bringing exotic plants from all over the world back to their home countries. Because of that, houseplants became a symbol of status and wealth.
Also, travel was out of reach for many people, so bringing plants back was a way to share these delights with those who couldn’t make such long journeys.
As an example of this, the Aspidistra was brought from China to England in 1823, and got its name (the “cast iron plant”) as a result of its resilience when exposed to dark, smoky, polluted Victorian homes.
The transportation of this plant was seen as a mark of civilization and the growing culture.
As travel constraints lessened, plants started to spread, and they needed to be kept indoors to prevent them from dying of cold.
What Is The Most Popular Houseplant?
The Snake Plant, with more than 270,000 searches per month might be the most popular houseplant in the world. Philodendron is the second most searched, with over 170,000 searches a month. Aloe Vera is also very popular, with over 160,000 searches a month and is widely grown for medicinal purposes.
The African Violet is also very popular and could be the most widespread houseplant, with more than 16,000 varieties, making it the houseplant with the most varieties in the world.
The National Garden Bureau named the Peperomia as 2022’s houseplant of the year, which will surely increase the popularity of this already very popular houseplant.
Our common houseplants originated mostly in tropical environments but today they are grown in nurseries and houses all over the planet.
Houseplants are a curious development and although their history is very mysterious, they are enormously popular and are constantly gaining more and more fans.