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Iconic Houseplant Trends Through The Decades

October 14, 2023 4 min read

Iconic Houseplant Trends Through The Decades

The Green Evolution: Exploring the Iconic Houseplant Trends that Have Flourished Across Decades

iconic houseplants

Houseplants have long been an integral part of interior design, adding life, color, and a touch of nature to our living spaces. Over the years, these green companions have evolved alongside changing trends and preferences, reflecting the unique styles and aesthetics of each era. From the sleek and minimalistic foliage of the mid-century modern era to the lush and tropical vibes of the 1970s, each decade has brought its own iconic houseplant trends!

There's No Place Like Home: The 1940s

During the 1940s, a significant shift occurred in the United States as many women joined the workforce during World War II while men went off to fight overseas. In response, offices and businesses aimed to create a more comfortable and familiar atmosphere by incorporating elements reminiscent of home decor. 

One such trend that emerged was the presence of potted plants on desks and window sills. Women, longing for their gardens back home, adorned their workspaces with these plants, leading to a surge in the popularity of houseplants. Some houseplants that were popular at this time were African violets and trailing plants, or various small plants.

Tropical Paradise: The 1950s

During the 1950s, there was a notable surge in the popularity of certain tropical houseplants, such as bromeliads, birds of paradise, and philodendrons. These plants were inspired by the romanticized allure of the South Pacific and the prevalent tiki culture trend of that time. They were chosen to create an atmosphere of escape and a yearning for travel. These "exotic" plants were often accompanied by other elements associated with Polynesian aesthetics, including decorative cocktails adorned with paper umbrellas and pineapple, hula-girl imagery, imitation tiki figurines, and wood carvings. Additionally, the era saw the rise of "Hawaiian shirts" for men and dresses influenced by sarong designs for women.

Suburbia Is Calling: The 1960s

During the post-war period and the subsequent baby boom, the United States experienced a shift towards suburban living. This led to an increased demand for new homes and furniture that could be quickly manufactured, incorporating the latest advancements in materials such as plastic, Lucite, Plexiglass, and vinyl. As the middle class expanded and consumer culture thrived in the 1960s, a wider range of houseplant species became more readily available. Popular choices during this time included snake plants, begonias, golden pothos vine, and African violets. However, the quintessential houseplant of the midcentury era was undoubtedly the split-leaf philodendron, commonly known as the Swiss cheese plant.

Macramé Moment: The 1970s

During the 1970s, the popularity of indoor plants soared as they became an integral part of home interiors. Hanging baskets suspended in macramé and trailing vines winding along trellises were used to soften the geometric and angular architectural designs of that era. The addition of lush, untamed plants with their soft and airy foliage brought further texture and a natural touch to the prevalent patterned textiles and earthy wood paneling used for wall treatments. Ferns and spider plants thrived during this time and were particularly beloved, symbolizing the golden age of houseplants in the '70s.

The Bigger The Better: The 1980s.

In the 1980s, houseplants were frequently found in the spacious, spa-like bathrooms that were prevalent during that time. These bathrooms often included gym equipment and whirlpools. Outside of the bathroom, home decor trends leaned towards a preference for glossy, plastic-like designs rather than natural elements. However, when plants were incorporated into the interior, they were chosen for their dramatic and extravagant qualities. Palms, in particular, were favored for creating a striking visual impact. One significant contribution of the '80s to indoor plant history was the rise of American mall atriums and food courts. These bustling areas were adorned with skylights, lush plants, and ornamental fountains, creating a vibrant and inviting atmosphere.

A Bamboo State Of Mind: The 1990s

During the 1990s, bamboo became a prominent trend, coinciding with the fascination for Asian influences in fashion. This era saw the popularity of dragon-print dresses, chopstick updos, and calligraphy tattoos. In line with the prevailing minimalist interior design of the time, mood lighting played a crucial role, and the use of up-lit indoor plants became a popular technique. However, the later part of the decade witnessed the rise of boho chic style, which drew inspiration from 1960s hippie culture, the American Southwest, and "global" textiles. This eclectic trend celebrated desert landscapes and embraced collections of cacti and succulents, adding a touch of nature to bohemian-inspired spaces.

Tuscan Times: The 2000s

While Gen Z has recently embraced Y2K aesthetics, they have left behind one of the popular styles of that era known as Tuscan style. This aesthetic was characterized by kitchens featuring faux-antique plaster, travertine tile, ceramic roosters, painted fruit scenes, granite countertops, and ornate iron candleholders. Potted topiaries and boxwoods were often used to complement this style. The distinctive aspect of Tuscan style was the presence of distressed and aged faux Italian planters. However, apart from Tuscan style, the early 2000s did not witness a significant trend in indoor plants. The prevailing tech utopianism of that era favored cool, silvery tones, sleek futuristic interiors, transparent plastic objects, and artificial-looking environments that left limited space for incorporating plants.

Upcycle, Reduce, Reuse: The 2010s

 During the 2010s, the modern farmhouse aesthetic gained significant popularity, leading to the use of mason jars for various purposes, including holding plants. Upcycled containers in general were favored within this aesthetic, although its popularity has started to wane despite its ongoing appeal. Silver-toned greenery like eucalyptus, along with the ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig, were the plants most associated with this style. Another plant that experienced a resurgence from the 1960s was the split-leaf philodendron, coinciding with the rise of faux mid century furniture and decor in the early 2010s.

Less Is More: Present Day

As the "Japandi" trend, blending Scandinavian and Japanese design influences, gains popularity, a minimalist approach takes center stage. We can expect to see carefully chosen statement plants that are sculptural, yet maintain a sense of spaciousness. It's important to note that the limited variety of indoor-suitable plants serves as a constraint in houseplant decor. However, it's only a matter of time before these trends resurface in a cyclical manner. Until then, we'll continue nurturing our philodendron and embracing the current design aesthetic. For more ideas check out Houseplants for Beginners: Best Indoor Houseplants for Beginners!


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