Ferns in the 70s for sure. Otherwise?
October 26, 2010 3:42 AM   Subscribe

What kind of house plants were popular/fashionable in the past? I'm most interested in the 1950s/60s, but would like to know other decades as well.

My googling didn't show much other than that houseplants really became popular in the 50s. Asking because I want more houseplants and (dorkily) may want to choose based on the age of my house (1954).
posted by Stewriffic to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
When I was growing up in the Eighties lots of people seemed to have spider plants but you don't see those any more.
posted by ninebelow at 3:46 AM on October 26, 2010

I think I'd associate an Aspidistra with Britain in the 40s and 50s.
posted by hydatius at 4:07 AM on October 26, 2010

Very much the Aspidistra in the 40's.
posted by i_cola at 4:20 AM on October 26, 2010

My mother grew pothos throughout the sixties, but she called it philodendron. It wasn't until the seventies that she became successful with other houseplants.
posted by Ery at 4:28 AM on October 26, 2010

Cheese plants were very popular in the 1970s.
posted by mippy at 4:35 AM on October 26, 2010

I associate African violets, azaleas, gardenias, peace lilies, and begonias with the 50s. In line with the era's tiki craze, exotic tropicals like bromeliads, birds of paradise, philodendrons, and orchids were popular too.

Also, my grandma has had the same Christmas cactus since the 50s. It still blooms yearly and it's a really special thing to have in a home given its longevity and winter blooms.
posted by melissa may at 4:43 AM on October 26, 2010

Spider plants, 1970s. Money plants, 1970s onwards. Air plants 1980s. I wonder if hipster houseplants exist yet?
posted by rhymer at 4:50 AM on October 26, 2010

Oh, philodendrons in the sixties! With either those white plastic mini-trellis' or the columns of that hard spanish mass-like material.

You've made me want to go all retro-seventies and have spider plants and macrame in my windows and foist baby spider plants off on guests!
posted by readery at 4:56 AM on October 26, 2010

Aspidistra. Also Swedish Ivy and Philodendron.
posted by shinybaum at 5:27 AM on October 26, 2010

Definitely Christmas Cactus. In this area those plants were actually passed around in the form of cuttings that will grow roots. Some of the plants have been around for 100+ years, kind of like sourdough bread starter. My mom was given a cutting from a plant that was originally planted in the 1930's.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:00 AM on October 26, 2010

Welp, so far so good, since I'm set with the Christmas Cactus at least. I also have two aloe plants. Thanks for the suggestions so far, and I especially like the ones that are backed up with personal anecdotes of family history and/or citations!
posted by Stewriffic at 6:50 AM on October 26, 2010

You might benefit from taking a trip to the library and taking a look at "women's" magazines like Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens from that era. I suspect they'll both plants in photos and also perhaps articles about care for specific plants/flowers -- not to mention decorating tips, since the way the plants would be displayed indoors is likely very different than it is today.
posted by anastasiav at 7:00 AM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

This 1954 ad from Sunset magazine illustrates a Monstera deliciosa. Here's a Sunset cover with (I think) the same plant.

You might enjoy poking around the 1950s Interior Design and Residential Architecture Flickr group.
posted by purpleclover at 7:53 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Given some more years, one of the answers will be marijuana.
posted by aniola at 8:06 AM on October 26, 2010

My mom always had an avocado pit suspended by toothpicks in a glass of water.
posted by CathyG at 8:07 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's a photo of the Eames House from 1949, with a large Monstera delciosa in the foreground. Or is it a Philodendron? Either one seems very mid-century modern to me. There are plants in the background that I can't identify.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:19 AM on October 26, 2010

Sorry. Here's the photo.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:19 AM on October 26, 2010

Seconding CathyG. In the 60's, everyone was growing avocados. Also Wandering Jew plants. I never saw spider plants/airplane plants till the mid 70's.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2010

In Western Australia, so I don't know that this will fit your needs, but..

Older folks and houses around here often have pelargoniums, geraniums, camelias, azaleas, succulents (eg jade plants and mother in law's tongues), cacti, and small palms as house or porch plants.

Aspidistras were big here too, even though they tend to get horribly burnt in summer.

A grapevine or two on the corners of your porch became increasingly common in the 50s and 60s as Australia became more southern european in flavor.

Also a tub of mint under the dripping tap by the back door seems to have been a feature of every older house I've ever lived in. But I suspect that started long before the fifties.
posted by Ahab at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2010

(If it doesn't have to be a house plant..) Dichondra lawns.
posted by Ahab at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2010

Ninebelow: we still have spider plants.
posted by Logophiliac at 10:32 AM on October 26, 2010

African violets were a craze in the 1950s--African violet societies were popular with clubwomen.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2010

1970s: African violets, coleus plants, spider plants.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2010

Also 1970s: asparagus ferns, rubber trees, sheffleras, and even more asparagus ferns. Asparagus ferns in brass containers were the quintessential fern bar plants.
posted by tangerine at 12:19 PM on October 26, 2010

I'm gonna start with the Monstera delciosa. Awesome answers all!
posted by Stewriffic at 3:33 PM on October 26, 2010

I have a sanseveria that came from cuttings from a plant my great-grandmother had - something like 80-100 years ago. And I have spider plants, pothos, Christmas cactus...
posted by leslies at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2010

Geraniums in the 50s.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:25 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

So... I got Monstera adansonii because it was all I could readily find. It's close enough to the Monstera deliciosa that I'm OK with it. It's also called "Swiss Cheese" plant, so mippy gets a belated best answer. I'm also considering geraniums, but they're not for sale until spring, I'm pretty sure.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:56 AM on November 7, 2010

BTW, i love my new plant.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:38 AM on November 21, 2010

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