Join the 1970s house plants revolution

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: November 5th, 2017 In: Container gardening

I was part of the original 1970s house plants movement.

When I first left home, house plants were as essential as having a coffee mug, a Habitat plate and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon album. None of us even thought about why we had greenery dangling from every surface.

But house plants slipped out of my life some time in the 1980s and 90s. They’ve recently crept back, mainly via Instagram.

And at this year’s GLEE, the gardening industry exhibition, speakers were talking about 2018 garden trends. They identified house plants as a big new direction – ‘A couple moving in together are likely to buy a house plant as one of their first joint purchases,’ said one expert.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbEzbc5AOlo/?tagged=jungalow

So I’ve been aware of the 1970s house plants revolution for a while. But, until now, it didn’t occur to me to join it. I already have quite enough living things to look after (dog, garden, family…).

But the 1970s vibe is creeping into our lives. For example, check out blogger Jen Stanbrook’s vintage 1970s wallpaper post  on the Love Chic Living blog for a real dose of nostalgia.

Hello Monday. You feel like a new beginning. Anyone else think the start of September feels bigger than January in terms of new beginnings? My inbox is filling up, my girls are back to school and there are lots of new opportunities on the horizon. Having said that I'm still in denial and hanging on to summer vibes as long as I can (I have even booked a cheeky trip to Mallorca for the end of the month!). Photo from a recent blog post on rugs and I just love the colours and fresh summer feel. . . . . . . #homebloggersuk #homestyle #homewares #rattan #colorcolourlovers #colorventures#colourinspiration #colorlove #inspirationiscolour #acolorstory #livecolourfully #stylehome #stylishliving #livingingstyle #interior123 #interior4all #interiorandhome #interiorstyling #designsponge #lovechicliving #interiordecorator #interiorinspo #designinspo

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Mantelpiece without house plants

Pretty – but is there something missing?

And we’ve just re-decorated the sitting room. Suddenly it looks bare without house plants.

Which houseplant to choose?

Although I’ve embraced orchids and built a terrarium with James Wong, I feel disenfranchised from the world of house plants.

While garden centres wring their hands over how to get younger people gardening, the cash registers of those selling house plants are ringing (with the hard-earned pennies of Generation Rent).

making a terrarium with James Wong

Making a terrarium with James Wong and Fiskars UK.

James told me that there were ‘hipster garden centres in South and North London’ which are amazing at selling house plants beautifully. I wish I’d asked him which they were.

However, I don’t live in London. Most garden centre displays of house plants don’t really inspire me.

And internet searches come up with uber-cool images of house plants on Pinterest and Instagram.

But sadly, we’re not uber-cool. Our house isn’t white with IKEA ‘Billy’ bookcases and Eames chairs. It’s a family home, crammed with junk shop finds. It can easily look cluttered.

Macrame pot holder.

Macrame pot holder seen at GLEE17, the gardening industry’s professional exhibition. 1970s house plants and pot plant holders are a hotly tipped trend for 2018.

For example, a very stylish friend of mine has just made her own macrame pot holder – perfect for 1970s house plants –  which would be wonderful in her contemporary Shoreditch home. In mine, it would look a bit too 1970s…

Try your local independent florist…

So I went into our local independent florist, Lotty’s Flowers and spoke to the owner, Charlotte May.

1970s spider plants at Lotty's Flowers

Charlotte May of Lotty’s Flowers in Faversham, with a tray of spider plants.

She confirmed that people are buying house plants again. She’s doing a brisk business in aspidistras, spider plants, Swiss cheese plants (monstera), ‘string of hearts’ plants and cacti. Just hearing those plant names was like going back to my student days.

(At one point in my student days, I lived in a squat. We didn’t have curtains or carpets, but we still had spider plants and a Monstera).

Some excellent reasons for choosing 1970s house plants

As a house plant – or indeed as a person – you had to be tough to survive the 1970s. Homes and offices were often freezing cold.

Which was a consequence of modernisation and strikes, rather than the weather. Most houses had their fireplaces ripped out or covered over. And at any time during the winter, either Gas or Electricity could be on strike.

With little or no double-glazing, insulation, wood burners or working fireplaces, we were left to shiver in finger-less gloves.

When I had a kitchen put into my first flat in the early 1980s, it was an accepted principle of British kitchen design that you had a gas hob and an electric oven (or the other way around) so that you had something to cook on during strikes. And don’t mention the trains…

But back to house plants. If a house plant could survive the 1970s, you have a good chance of keeping it alive now.

The five 1970s houseplants for now

If your local nursery or garden centre doesn’t stock these, an independent florist can often order them in. Or you can get them from Amazon (affiliate links, which means that I may get a small fee if you buy through them, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay.)

Aspidistra: was once a symbol of surburban stuffiness (as in George Orwell’s book ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’). Now achingly cool, and one of the few plants that can survive with remarkably little light.

1970s houseplants - aspidistra and spider plant

1970s houseplants on display at Lotty’s Flowers in Faversham. The large plant on the left, in a pink container, is an aspidistra. Directly below it, you can see the stripey leaves of a spider plant.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum): Almost impossible to kill. It even survives office life. And it dangles. Trailing and dangling plants, such as String of Hearts plant (Ceropegia woodii), are very 1970s.

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa): These sculptural plants were everywhere in our 1970s student flats (OK, squats). They grew to an enormous size (they can be up to 10ft tall) and lurked rather menacingly in corners. The gloriously big ones are now quite expensive, although Amazon has small ones (eg 40cm) for around £11 + delivery.

Ferns: The 1970s were the era of the fern. In both house and garden.

Anything pointy-leaved: mother-in-law’s tongue, aloe vera, and all plants that look like miniature palm trees.

How to rock the 1970s house plants look…

A single orchid on the mantelpiece is not enough.

You are truly only cool if you have an urban jungle in every part of your life. Take these Instagram posts by TV botanist (@botanygeek) James Wong and ‘waiting for the plantpocalypse’ model Hannah Lee Duggan (@hannahleeduggan):

1970s house plants in a laundrette

James Wong’s heavenly laundrette

Plant filled bedroom

Hannah Lee Duggan’s bedroom

And one of the most influential ‘urban jungle’ blogs/Instagram accounts is Urban Jungle Bloggers. Each of their posts get tens of thousands of ‘likes’.

#urbanjunglebloggers

Urban Jungle Bloggers – look up the hashtag if you love the jungle look.

And Mr Plant Geek, Michael Perry showcases plant trends on Instagram, most recently featured house plants in the shower.

But even low-maintenance plants need care

Michael Perry is running a campaign to encourage people to speak up for neglected house plants drooping in shops, offices and restaurants.

The problem is that plants outside are partly looked after by the weather. Even if you neglect them, they will get some sun and rain. Inside, you’re completely in charge of how much light and water they get.

There are care instructions on labels. But labels get lost (unless you are very meticulous). You can google plant care for various plants or buy a book, such as How Not To Kill Your Houseplant

And if, like me, your introduction (or re-introduction) to house plants is getting an orchid, there’s a video here on how to look after it. It will bloom for years if you do.

And the consequence was…

I bought a String of Hearts plant, two spider plants and some cyclamen from Lotty’s Flowers. And I think the mantelpiece looks much better. What do you think?

Mantelpiece with house plants

Mantelpiece with cyclamen (Plant of the Month for November according to the Joy of Plants) and String of Hearts plant. Better than the bare mantelpiece though still not jungly enough to be cool.

Two authentic 1970s house plants: Spider plants and terrarium in the kitchen

Spider plants and terrarium in the kitchen

If you fancy getting the 1970s look in your house, then you may be interested in this video on how to shop in flea markets and charity shops. The 70s vibe is definitely big in pre-loved, vintage and flea market at the moment!

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Join the 1970s houseplant revival

4 Comments

  • James says:

    The 1970s are definitely back!

    We love houseplants as well and have recently set up an online shop that specifically sells vintage plant pots from the 1960s and 1970s that go well with these houseplants! You can find us at https://plant.furniture

    In terms of garden centres that specialise in houseplants there are a couple near us in London that do this really well.

    The first is The Nunhead Gardener which manages to cram loads into a tiny site. http://www.thenunheadgardener.com/

    The second is Forest (which has branches in both Deptford and Peckham) and has a huge variety of plants. https://forest.london/

    • I’ll definitely take a look. Thanks for getting in touch, and it’s nice to see a company thinking about house plant pots – I did go hunting for some the other day and found that there wasn’t much choice.

  • sophie whelpton says:

    Love your posts and look forward to Sunday reading. I came to one of your workshops on blogging 4 or 5 years ago. Just wanted to let you know about a new App that my son’s friend is working on called Smart Plant. There are 2 weeks left to invest as little as £10, I have invested a small amount, first time investing in a start up – think it is very good. If you’d like to look at it, here’s the link….
    https://www.crowdcube.com/companies/smartplant/pitches/bd0Emb#
    Hope you don’t mind me sending this, just bin if not for you.

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