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Keeping it green with Grace & Thorn

December 09, 2020

Houseplants are having a bit of a revival. Head to Instagram and you’ll find tonnes of dedicated home accounts filled with plants, shrubs, and greenery. Not only do they look clean and fresh, but there are loads of health benefits associated with them, too.

We recently asked London based florist Grace & Thorn to tell us more about what houseplants can do for your physical and mental wellbeing, and which ones they recommend bringing into the home.

 An assortment of potted houseplants arranged on a window sill.

The history of the humble houseplant

Whether it’s for their fragrance, style, culinary use or health benefits, people have been bringing plants into their homes for thousands of years. The history of the houseplant is wicked – from female pioneers growing gardens upside down to sailors risking their lives to bring citrus trees back across the oceans. We give a knowing nod to the Victorians trying to combat pollution with the humble fern, and then have our minds blown as a houseplant reference book becomes the second biggest seller after the Bible. But throughout all this, one thing holds true: over thousands of years, we’ve all been plant obsessed.

House plants surrounding a fireplace in a bright living room.

No-one actually knows when the first plant was brought inside, but the first recorded examples can be found in artworks from Ancient Greece. The Greeks decorated almost every part of their lives, from their streets to the insides of their homes, so it’s no wonder that they turned their attention to plants. Ancient Egyptian records indicate the first official trade of flora between countries, and the badass Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut grew frankincense in her temple in 1478 BC. In ancient China, the Chinese pimped their homes with plants to signify their wealth, and Roman villas were scented with the blossom of citrus trees. In around 600 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar built botanical bliss down by the rivers of Babylon. He made the gardens for his wife, Queen Amytis, who missed the green hills of home, filling them with fragrant blooms – every plant you can imagine, and trees hanging from the ceiling!

In the seventeenth century, plant discoveries from far and wide were brought back by blustering sea captains. Houseplants got their first shout out in The Garden of Eden, a MASSIVE book written by Sir Platt in 1652. He wrote of ‘cultivating plants indoors’. Over three hundred years ago, the first book aimed at the ‘city gardener’ (sound familiar?) remarked on how fellow citizens indulged their love for gardening in the little space the city offered, by ‘furnishing their rooms or chambers with basins of flowers and bough pots’. Pots were a big deal in the eighteenth century, when they started to be mass-produced for commercial uses.

The nineteenth century saw advances in the home and as domestic heating improved, plants moved from hot houses to conservatories and into our living rooms. The arrival of the sash window from Holland led to the design of window sills and balconies and houseplants flourished, natch.

A potted cactus with pink flowers in front of a green background.
An indoor plant on a table, with framed pictures on the wall behind.

The twentieth century saw houseplants falling in and out of favour on the regs, but their big moment came in the 1980s, when they were not only considered as design features, but a great way of making a healthy home! Until this point there had been a strange stigma that houseplants were bad for you because they might attract pests and dust into the home, but when NASA launched their research that having plants in the home was absolutely beneficial for your health, plants flew off the shelves!

In recent years, plants have made (another) comeback, and we can look back to history to see why plants are relevant now. Like the Greeks, we are all looking for more ways of self-expression, like the Victorians we are trying to combat pollution, and like anyone living anywhere in the modern world we are trying to reclaim nature, in whatever mini-succulent-sized way we can.

This has become even more true this past year as we’ve all adjusted to pandemic living. We’ve seen no end of people buying rubber trees to spruce up their home offices and sending emotional-support cheese plants to their pals. Not only are they a great way to brighten up a space, they also, as NASA have pointed out, help clean pollutants like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide out of the air and improve oxygen levels in our homes. And it’s more than just our physical health that they benefit. Gardening has long been regarded as a way to give our mental health a boost, and this applies to indoor gardening too!

The joy of learning and responding to your plants’ needs and watching them grow is an incredibly satisfying and therapeutic process, and the routine of caring for your plants is a great way to put a little moment for yourself into your day-to-day, especially for those of you who have been stuck working at home and need to step away from the desk every now and then.

Two dogs sitting on a sofa with house plants and lamp on the side table in the background.

If you’re looking for something in particular health wise, there’s no end of research that’s been done into how certain plants can cure what ails ya, simply by being in the room with them! Some of our personal favourites are:

 A large spider plant in a hanging macramé basket.

The Spider Plant

Extremely easy going and one of NASA’s top picks for removing all manner of nasties from the air, including benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene. Because of these cleansing properties, it is a good option if you find yourself getting regular headaches, fatigue or sore throats.

The Epiprenum
(aka Devil’s Ivy)

The devil isn’t just in the detail on this one - it’s all good! Another great detoxifier (formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene for this one) that’s also super easy to care for. It’s also a very fast grower, and very easy to propagate plant babies from for your mates, so will bring you lots of joy there too.

The Sansieviera
(aka Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or the Snake Plant)

Despite being a sun-worshipper, this little wonder does most of its work at night, so is thought to improve your sleep as it soaks up carbon dioxide and realises oxygen, helping you breathe easier.

The Boston Fern

This is a great option if you spend a lot of time in an air conditioned room or suffer from dry skin. as it helps increase the humidity level of a room. It also is known to remove toxins - so it’s a real all-rounder!

A potted snake plant next to a retro record player.

That all said, even if your houseplant doesn’t have specific physical properties for improving health, don’t think any less of it! All plants improve oxygen levels in the home, and will still bring you the same happiness and satisfaction when you see a new leaf or offshoot appear! So whether you’re starting small with a desk-top succulent, or creating your own home jungle, there really has never been a better time to #greenupyourgaff!

To find out more about Grace & Thorn and see some of their amazing floral creations, head to their Instagram account @graceandthorn.

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