From the earliest civilizations to the modern home, indoor plants have played an important role throughout human history. The cultivation and keeping of plants indoors has evolved over the centuries, from the practical to the aesthetic. This long relationship between humans and indoor greenery continues to this day through the latest innovations in indoor gardening.
- Humans have been growing plants indoors since ancient times, starting with Ancient Egyptians cultivating ornamental plants in indoor gardens.
- During the Victorian era, exotic indoor plants like ferns and orchids became hugely popular as status symbols displayed in Wardian cases and conservatories.
- Developments like glasshouse technology, Wardian cases, and palm houses enabled the cultivation of delicate and exotic plants indoors.
- Houseplants surged in popularity in the 1970s as part of increased interest in self-care and connecting with nature.
- NASA research in the 1980s definitively demonstrated the air-purifying benefits of certain indoor plants.
- Recent innovations like grow lights, hydroponics, and smart gardens have expanded possibilities for indoor gardening.
- Throughout history, indoor plants have provided beauty, meaning, and mental and physical wellbeing in people’s lives.
The Origins of Indoor Plants
The human drive to nurture plants preceded even settled agriculture. During the Neolithic Era over 12,000 years ago, early humans began to experiment with the propagation and domestication of wild plants. This marked the first steps in the development of early horticulture and the modification of natural spaces to support cultivated crops.
In this transitional time before the widespread establishment of permanent settlements, plants were grown in temporary spaces like dug out pits lined with leaves. These early indoor gardens offered protection, control over water and nutrients, and favorable microclimates for the plants being cultivated. The ability to modify natural environments to support desired plants laid the groundwork for the future of indoor gardening.
Ancient Civilizations and Indoor Gardens
Once permanent civilizations took hold, indoor plants became integrated into architecture, culture, medicine, religion, and symbolism. From the lush oasis gardens of ancient Egypt to the opulent atriums of Rome, indoor plants served functional and aesthetic roles.
The hot, arid climate of ancient Egypt made it challenging to grow many plants outdoors. As a result, the Egyptians constructed sophisticated irrigated gardens around and within their homes and temples. These walled gardens were outfitted with shade structures, pools, irrigation channels, and raised beds to create a suitable microclimate for trees, flowers, vegetables, and medicinal plants.
Water loving plants like papyrus, lotus, and water lilies were grown in ornamental pools within household gardens. Date palms, sycamores, and acacia trees lined garden walkways to provide shade. Flowers like roses and Madonna lilies added color and fragrance. Vegetables and herbs were grown close at hand for kitchen use. The Egyptians even cultivated plants in containers made of pottery, baskets, and stone.
Indoor plants served symbolic purposes as well. The palm tree represented fertility and the papyrus plant symbolized the Egyptian god Hapi. Offerings of papyrus bouquets were left at temples to please the gods.
In China, imperial gardens were built within palace complexes as serene retreats and spaces for contemplation. Chinese emperors kept plants like chrysanthemums, orchids, camellias, and water lilies in these luxurious indoor gardens. Precious citrus trees were housed year-round in sheltered areas to protect them from winter cold. The Chinese also constructed elaborate miniature landscapes called Penjing, featuring artistically shaped trees, rocks, and ponds.
The Chinese grew ornamental plants like peonies and winter-blooming plum trees in ornate containers. Gardening manuals listed guidelines for properly pairing selected plants with pottery of suitable size and color. The Chinese also cultivated edible sprouts like soybean and mung bean sprouts through artificial propagation in sheltered indoor areas.
3. Ancient Rome
Influenced by ancient Greek architecture, lavish Roman homes incorporated indoor garden spaces. Atriums with retractable roofs allowed ventilation and light while protecting delicate plants from the elements. These skylit gardens became display places for decorative plants, flowers, fountains, statuary, and even exotic animals.
In winter, portable containers holding citrus and olive trees were moved from exterior gardens into atriums for shelter. The Romans also constructed large public bath complexes illuminated by glazed windows. These baths incorporated gardens, grassy areas, and plant-lined pools to create an atmosphere of serenity for bathers.
Medieval Monastic Gardens
During the Middle Ages in Europe, monasteries became important centers of horticultural knowledge. Their carefully tended cloister gardens provided sanctuaries for religious contemplation. Walled courtyards located at the heart of medieval monasteries included covered walkways, vegetable plots, orchards, fountains, and ornamental plant beds.
Monks diligently cultivated flowers, vegetables, and medicinal herbs within the protection of cloister gardens. Raised beds enabled convenient tending and harvesting. Herbs were grown for their culinary and medicinal values, including plants like thyme, sage, rosemary, rue, and borage. Flowers like roses, lilies, and violets provided a lift to the spirit during long days of monastic routine.
Certain monasteries also constructed additional ranges with vaulted halls to shelter tender plants during cold winters. With their selective breeding and tending of plants, monks preserved and spread gardening knowledge throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Their indoor gardens provided tranquility and sustenance through long periods of political unrest.
During the Renaissance, wealthy aristocrats and royalty collected rare exotic plants from around the world. To house their collections, they built grand orangeries onto their palaces and estates. These glazed structures allowed the cultivation of ornamental citrus trees like bitter orange, lemon, and pomelo, which required special winter protection in northern Europe.
Orangeries provided tall, south-facing brick walls, heavy masonry walls with pits for heat storage, double sash windows, and fireplaces to keep the evergreen orange, lemon, and lime trees warm through freezing winters. On mild days, some plants were wheeled outside for fresh air and sunlight. During the summer, pots were moved to shaded loggias, courtyards, and exterior gardens.
Wealthy collectors competed to acquire the most unusual citrus varieties, like bitter oranges for marmalade. The trees became symbols of prestige and power due to the great expense of constructing heated orangeries solely for their cultivation. Orangeries reached their peak popularity as garden features from the 1600s into the early 1900s.
Victorian Cultivation Under Glass
The Victorian era saw a surge of interest in exotic plants from tropical regions like South Africa and South America. Technological advancements in glassmaking and iron framing enabled the construction of large glazed conservatories and greenhouses. This allowed experimentation with more delicate and temperature-sensitive plants from around the world.
Professional gardeners trialed plants like orchids, ferns, palms, and crotons in conservatory environments. In 1841, the eagerly anticipated first bloom of a giant Victoria amazonica water lily at Chatsworth House caused a sensation in England. Aristocrats competed over who could build the most impressive and architecturally ornate conservatories at their country estates.
Even middle-class Victorian homes incorporated smaller attached greenhouses, called winter gardens. Here the owners nurtured collections of flowering plants and status symbols like camellia trees under glass. The Victorian obsession with houseplants led to the popularity of wardian cases – miniature greenhouses used for growing ferns and delicate orchids right inside the home.
The Palm House
One iconic Victorian greenhouse was the palm house. Palm houses were vast, cathedral-like structures boasting curving glass roofs supported by iron framing. These allowed sprawling collections of tropical palms and other showy plants to thrive despite winter temperatures outside.
Joseph Paxton’s famed Great Stove at Chatsworth boasted a central crowned palm nearly 60 feet tall surrounded by shorter palms and tree ferns beneath a towering glass dome. Public palm houses soon appeared at institutions like the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Here ordinary citizens could enjoy an exotic botanical oasis during dreary English winters. The movement of immense palm trees into glassy indoor spaces created a dream-like contrast for Victorian plant lovers.
Speaking of palms, the palm court became an important indoor garden space during the late 1800s. Palm courts were large rooms with soaring skylights outfitted with exotic palms and plants. These lush tropical hideaways began appearing in upscale Victorian hotels like London’s Langham Hotel which featured a glass-domed palm court.
Department stores also added lavish palm courts to entertain female shoppers. Parisian cafes installed palms and flowers to become lush jardins d’hiver where patrons could dine under the shelter of broad fronds. Even offices, banks, and train stations featured palm courts to allow their patrons a genteel space to relax. The hardy date palm proved an especially popular plant for the Victorians to install indoors where its large fronds added a touch of the exotic.
20th Century Indoor Plants
By the early 1900s, a growing appreciation for the psychological benefits of plants indoors led to an increase in houseplants and potted gardens. Indoor plants took center stage in the sunrooms and solariums of Art Deco homes in the 1920s. Their cheerful greenery and clean lines harmonized with the sleek architecture.
In the mid-century, houseplants experienced a surge of popularity. Home interiors featured planters filled with frondy trees, trailing vines, and colorful foliage. Indoor gardening allowed homeowners without outdoor space to enjoy caring for living plants. Plants added warmth, a relaxing touch of nature, and life to minimalist modern décor. Books like Houseplants are Houseguests by Alice Rhett provided advice on indoor plant care and display.
The Rise of Houseplant Popularity
The 1970s saw a major rise in the popularity of keeping houseplants. Plant care became more accessible with helpful books and the emergence of dedicated plant shops. Houseplants fit perfectly with the DIY spirit, interest in self-care, and bohemian style of the decade.
Growing plants indoors allowed urban apartment dwellers and suburban homeowners to connect with nature. Caring for another living thing also brought comfort and mental well-being in an unsettled era. Books like The Secret Life of Houseplants explored plant care while How to Grow Fresh Air highlighted the air-purifying benefits of houseplants. A global fascination with houseplants was underway.
The NASA Clean Air Study
Just how effective were indoor plants at purifying air? In the late 1980s, NASA partnered with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) to study methods for cleansing air in space stations. Their innovative Clean Air Study resulted in a list of the most effective air-purifying plants for indoor use.
Some of the top performers included snake plant, spider plant, golden pothos, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, English ivy, gerbera daisy, and philodendron. The plants excelled at removing common indoor pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air. NASA recommended at least 15-18 good-sized houseplants per 1800 square feet for effective air cleansing. Their research validated the benefits of indoor plants for health and well-being.
Houseplant Market Booms
By the 1990s, the indoor gardening market was thriving. Plant varieties specially selected for indoor cultivation became widely available. Growers partnered with big box stores to bring affordable houseplants to the mass consumer market. Tillandsia air plants drew interest for their minimal care needs. Houseplant care technologies like moisture meters, grow lights, and self-watering pots improved cultivation.
A new wave of millennial plant parents embraced houseplants for self-care and their Instagram aesthetic. Rare “it plants” like the Monstera deliciosa, hanging Philodendron, and Fiddle Leaf Fig became coveted. Books like Wild at Home by Hilton Carter shared tips on displaying plants as living home décor. The houseplant frenzy had officially achieved trend status by the 2010s.
Modern Indoor Gardening Methods
In recent decades, innovative growing methods have expanded the possibilities of indoor gardening. Smart home technologies now allow remote monitoring and control of indoor garden conditions. Grow lights, hydroponics, and aeroponics optimize plant growth with less space. Here are some of the latest developments in indoor plant care and gardening:
1. Grow Lights
Specialized LED and fluorescent grow lights allow nurturing indoor plants without sufficient natural light. Grow lights provide the light spectrum, intensity, and duration plants need to thrive indoors. Their cool operation and low energy use makes indoor gardening more sustainable. Grow lights enable raising vegetables, herbs, houseplants, and more in confined indoor spaces.
Hydroponic gardening involves growing plants without soil. Their roots are submerged in oxygenated, nutrient-rich water or supported by inert growing media like perlite, clay pellets, or coconut coir. Indoor hydroponic systems provide the environment and nutrients plants need for vigorous growth with less space. Growers can precisely control the plant’s diet and growing conditions. Hydroponics works especially well for raising greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and herbs indoors.
Aeroponic systems take hydroponics a step further by misting plant roots suspended in air with a nutrient solution. This aerating mist delivers maximum oxygen to the roots for rapid growth. Aeroponics requires less water than hydroponics and zero growing media. While technically complex, aeroponics allows raising bountiful crops of lettuces, herbs, tomatoes, and berries in indoor vertical systems.
4. Self-Watering Planters
Self-watering pots and planters take the guesswork out of watering houseplants. Soil moisture is automatically maintained at optimal levels to prevent over and under-watering. Self-watering systems work through wicking, gravity flow, drip irrigation, or passive absorption. Users simply fill a reservoir. Many self-watering designs are also self-regulating, releasing more water as the plant grows. They can keep plants hydrated for weeks while owners are away.
5. Smart Gardens
Smart indoor gardens leverage technology for easy growing. Apps and sensors monitor moisture, light, humidity, and temperature. WiFi-enabled smart gardens can automatically water plants, turn on grow lights, ventilate rooms, and adjust settings for ideal conditions. Smart gardeners can track plant health and receive care reminders remotely from their phones. Intelligent, automated systems simplify indoor gardening success.
Wellness Benefits of Indoor Plants
The interest in houseplants goes far beyond décor. Research validates the wellness benefits having indoor plants provide, including:
1. Stress Reduction
Studies show being around plants measurably reduces markers of stress like blood pressure and heart rate. Interacting with plants triggers positive emotions while lowering anxiety. Having plants in the home improves overall well-being and life satisfaction according to science.
2. Mental Restoration
Being near plants restores mental energy and ability to focus that becomes depleted by intense thinking. Just a few minutes of gazing at leaves or flowers can provide a mental break that rejuvenates cognitive skills. Having plants in busy workplace environments improves concentration, productivity, and creativity.
3. Healing Effects
Being around greenery aids healing. Patients recover faster with less pain medications in hospital rooms with plants. The presence of plants also improves well-being in assisted living facilities. Active gardening also provides therapeutic benefits for seniors, people with disabilities, and those with mental health conditions.
4. Air Purification
Indoor plants remove significant amounts of pollutants from indoor air. They absorb airborne chemicals and release oxygen through photosynthesis. Spider plants, aloe vera, Boston ferns, and other houseplants can combat sick building syndrome. Just 4 shoulder-high plants per 100 square feet make a measurable difference in indoor air quality.
Sustainable Indoor Gardening
For the eco-conscious indoor gardener, sustainability is also an important consideration. Here are some ways to make your indoor garden part of a greener lifestyle:
- Choose non-toxic containers like stainless steel, clay, or wood over plastic pots. Consider recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable pots.
- Use organic, sustainably sourced potting mixes free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Make your own using compost.
- Conserve water by capturing rainwater or recycling household greywater to use on your indoor plants.
- Seek out organic, non-toxic pest remedies instead of chemical treatments if pests strike. Remove by hand when possible.
- Compost spent soil and discarded plant material to reuse its nutrients, returning them to the earth.
- Support local growers and fair trade plant sources. Avoid poaching from the wild when selecting houseplants.
- Swap incandescent grow lights for energy-efficient, long-lasting LEDs. Use timers to ensure lights run only when needed.
- Harness natural light through energy-saving skylights or passive solar design that skillfully welcomes light indoors.
With a bit of eco-wisdom, indoor gardens can sustain people and the planet too.
The Future of Indoor Gardening
Indoor gardening has come a long way since Neolithic humans first cultivated plants in dug out pits. Today houseplants take center stage in home and office décor while serving therapeutic needs. Cutting edge technology makes indoor cultivation more productive and sustainable. Where will the future of indoor gardening take us next?
Indoor gardening allows city dwellers, tiny home owners, and space colonists to experience the joys of cultivation. Automated and AI-assisted smart indoor gardens will likely become mainstream in coming years. Indoor vertical farms and hydroponic operations could help feed soaring urban populations. Perhaps public indoor gardens will reduce stress in chaotic transit hubs and impersonal malls.
As climate change leads to harsher outdoor conditions, indoor gardening may become a buffer for food security. Already growers are pioneering methods for raising complete nutritious diets indoors through aeroponic towers and optimized growth recipes. Indoor gardening may bolster resiliency if traditional agriculture becomes strained.
One thing is certain – the intimate bond between people and plants growing indoors is here to stay. Indoor greening brings out our innate human connection to living things and the cycles of nature. Our ancestors recognized these life-affirming qualities thousands of years ago. Today indoor plants still nurture our minds, bodies, and souls as they have throughout the ages. The future of indoor gardening is as bright as a sun-filled solarium awaiting your own green thumb.
Notable Figures in Indoor Gardening History
Behind the scenes, indoor gardening has been advanced by passionate scientists, botanists, breeders, and horticulturalists. Here are some of the notable figures who contributed to the pursuit of plants indoors:
John Tradescant the Elder
This British plantsman (1570s-1638) introduced many new species to England through his work abroad in colonial Virginia. His exotic plant discoveries laid the foundations for aristocratic indoor gardens. Tradescant is credited with introducing acacia, magnolia, bald cypress, and more to English gardens.
Maria Sibylla Merian
This pioneering German naturalist (1647-1717) advanced the study of flowers and insects through her detailed illustrations documenting their interrelationships. Her studies of plant reproductive morphology and pollination helped enable successful indoor propagation.
America’s first president was an avid gardener and agricultural innovator. His greenhouse at Mount Vernon used innovative design features to shelter citrus trees and tender exotic plants from cold. Washington experimented with composting, crop rotations, and soil improvement for healthier plants.
Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward
This London doctor and botanist (1791–1868) invented the portable Wardian case. His mini greenhouses enabled the global movement of plants between continents by protecting delicate roots and leaves on long sea voyages. Ward’s cases allowed exotic indoor plant collections to flourish.
Sir Joseph Paxton
The architect of the famed Crystal Palace designed innovative conservatories and greenhouses for English estates. Paxton’s efficient modular structures used prefabricated parts, standardized sizes, and glasshouse enhancements for healthy plant growth indoors. He pioneered the palm house at Chatsworth.
Burbank (1849-1926) changed indoor gardening through his prolific plant breeding programs in California. He introduced over 800 new and improved plant varieties optimized for home gardens including fruits, flowers, veggies, and houseplants. Many popular indoor plants trace their lineage to Burbank.
Helen and Scott Nearing
These back-to-the-land pioneers built innovative solar greenhouses for home food production in the 1930s-70s. Their designs incorporated energy-efficient and passive solar features for naturally heated spaces to start seedlings and extend the growing season in Vermont.
A NASA research scientist, Wolverton led the Clean Air Study (1989) that analyzed the air-purifying abilities of houseplants. His revolutionary work identified the best indoor plants for cleansing common pollutants from indoor air through their natural processes.
Known as “the plant doctor,” Gagliardo used his horticultural knowledge to pioneer many popular houseplants. He hybridized hardy cultivars ideal for indoor growing of Peperomia, Chinese Evergreen, Philodendron, Dieffenbachia, and other houseplant favorites during the 1990s.
From wardian cases to the Clean Air study, these innovators all advanced indoor plant care and technology through dedication and ingenuity. Their work brought the delights and benefits of indoor plants into modern homes and lives.
Significant Events in Indoor Gardening
Beyond influential figures, certain events marked major milestones in the evolution of indoor gardening:
1661 – Giacomo Ceruti’s lemon house greenhouse completed at Windsor Castle, one of the earliest heated greenhouses for overwintering citrus trees.
1759 – Kew Gardens opens near London, including palm houses. It soon becomes an epicenter for indoor exotic plant cultivation in England.
1829 – The General Steam Navigation Company installs a palm house at the London Docks, introducing many working-class Londoners to tropical plants for the first time.
1846 – The United States Patent Office first approves a design for a cast iron greenhouse, making prefabricated structures available for domestic greenhouses.
1860 – The Victorian fern craze results in elaborate fern cases and Wardian cases for growing exotic ferns indoors as status symbols.
1933 – The Chicago World’s Fair includes a “Century of Progress” exhibit with futuristic underground glass houses lit by fluorescent lights, displaying indoor gardening of the future.
1973 – The New York Botanical Garden establishes the world’s first indoor conservatory dedicated to rain forest plants from around the globe, educating visitors on tropical ecology.
1989 – NASA publishes research from their Clean Air Study validating the superior air-purifying properties of certain indoor plants for indoor spaces.
2019 – Indoor plant sales in the U.S. hit an all-time high of $1.7 billion as millennials drive soaring demand for houseplants and indoor gardening supplies.
From patenting iron greenhouses to the rainforest conservatory, these events helped popularize and shape indoor plant keeping over the centuries. Each opened new possibilities for growing green things within our built environments.
Notable Indoor Plant Varieties
While indoor gardens have housed a huge range of plant species over the eras, certain resilient varieties stand out for their enduring popularity and adaptability to interior environments:
1. Kentia Palm
With its graceful arching fronds, this elegant durable palm remains a decor staple. It thrives in low light and adapts well to indoor conditions. Also known as Paradise palm, its height makes it perfect for filling high spaces.
2. Chinese Evergreen
This low-light houseplant features patterned, textured leaves often variegated or edged in white, pink, or red. It tolerates neglect but also shapes well into standards. Chinese evergreen filters indoor air and comes in many striking cultivars.
3. Cast Iron Plant
Nearly indestructible, the cast iron plant withstands low light, irregular watering, dry air, and pollution with aplomb. Its wide sword-shaped leaves add drama. A member of the lily family, it can also grow outdoors in some climates.
4. Peace Lily
A popular houseplant since the 1980s, the peace lily boasts lush dark leaves and elegant white flowers. It naturally filters indoor air and handles diverse lighting. When thirsty, its leaves droop dramatically as a visible signal it needs water.
While seemingly fussy, orchids adapt well to indoor life. Their incredible diversity offers blooms in a rainbow of colors. Phalaenopsis and moth orchids thrive indoors and can rebloom for years. The Victorian obsession with exotic orchids spurred indoor cultivation.
Bromeliads like the scarlet star provide striking color, pattern, and visual texture without fuss. Their sculptural rosettes of leaves hold water like cups which the plants use for moisture. Many adapt well to indoor environments.
Trailing golden pothos remains a ubiquitous houseplant, growing vigorously inhanging baskets or climbing decorative moss poles. Its variegated heart-shaped leaves tolerate nearly any indoor conditions. Pothos helps purify indoor air of toxins.
From sturdy palms to cheerful orchids, these plants continue to brighten our interiors and breathe life into indoor spaces today as they have for generations past.Copy
Notable Indoor Garden Literature
Books and periodicals have long guided indoor gardeners by sharing plant care knowledge and displaying beautiful indoor nurseries. Here are some of the most influential titles:
1. Wardian Cases
One of the earliest indoor gardening manuals, Wardian Cases for Plants (1842) provided advice on constructing and cultivating portable mini-greenhouses to house exotic ferns and orchids. Wardian cases allowed delicate plants to be moved safely over long distances.
2. Garden and Forest
First published in 1888, Garden and Forest magazine featured articles on glasshouse culture and rare indoor plants. Its illustrations and plans influenced wealthy collectors designing their own grand conservatories and orangeries. Issues are now preserved for historical insights.
3. House Plants and How to Grow Them
Originally published in 1910, House Plants and How to Grow Them by Parker Thayer Barnes became a seminal guide to indoor plant care. It featured practical advice on potting, watering, pruning, and troubleshooting houseplant problems in simple language. The book helped popularize indoor gardening in homes.
4. Putnam’s Monthly
In the early 1900s, this monthly periodical ran informative articles on indoor gardening trends alongside beautiful photos of plant arrangements. Its issues offer a valuable visual record of the houseplants and styles favored in well-appointed Victorian and Edwardian interiors.
5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The beloved 1911 children’s novel celebrated the healing magic of indoor gardening. The story popularized the idea of indoor plants and gardens as sanctuaries offering refuge and restoration. Readers longed for their own intimate indoor “secret garden.”
6. Houseplants are Houseguests by Alice Rhett
Published in 1954, this charming guide compared caring for houseplants to hosting houseguests. Rhett offered practical advice for the post-war generation on decorating with and tending to ornamental indoor plants as revitalizing accents in the home.
7. The Houseplant Expert by Dr. D. G. Hessayon
First appearing in 1960, The Houseplant Expert became the definitive manual on successfully growing indoor plants in the home. This popular guide provided in-depth care instructions for hundreds of common and exotic houseplant varieties in plain language. It de-mystified indoor gardening.
8. The New Houseplant by Elvin McDonald
As exotic houseplants flooded the nursery trade in the 1970s, McDonald offered advice for optimal care and display. The New Houseplant (1979) shared tips on design styles, potting, troubleshooting, and even DIY propagation to empower the new generation of indoor gardeners.
9. How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B. C. Wolverton
In 1997, Wolverton drew on his NASA research to explain how certain houseplants excel at cleansing indoor air. His book helped launch the plants-for-air-purification trend. Readers learned how adding greenery could combat “sick building syndrome.”
From Wardian cases to air purification, generations of influential books have passed the wisdom of indoor gardening on to eager readers. These manuals made nurturing indoor plants accessible and rewarding.
Unique Historic Indoor Gardens
Spanning eras and cultures, these unique indoor spaces demonstrate the diversity in which humans have created indoor havens for plants:
1. The Great Conservatory at Chatsworth House, England
With its spectacular central palm and soaring glass roof, Joseph Paxton’s 300-foot long Great Conservatory built in the 1830s set the standard for prestige conservatories of the Victorian era. Today it houses collections of orchids, bromeliads, and palms from around the globe.
2. The Glass House at New York Botanical Garden
This iconic glass house enclosing jungle-like landscaping under a girded roof was one of the earliest American palm houses when completed in 1902. It revolutionized techniques for creating lush indoor tropical plant displays for the public.
3. The Commercial Bank of Australia’s Fernery
When completed in 1866, this elaborate fernery housed within a lavish banking space was an engineering marvel. The glass dome incorporated heating, cooling, and ventilation systems to mimic conditions for exotic ferns in their native humid forests halfway across the world.
4. The Austrian National Library’s Palm House
At the national library in Vienna, a stately palm house was built in the 1920s to provide an inspiring reading environment. The towering space with soaring windows and skylight dome housed palms, tropical vines, and bright flowers alongside bookshelves.
5. The Dome at MIT’s Infinite Corridor
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the infinity corridor’s vast glass dome greenhouse was built in 1916. This sunlit student gathering space lined with palms and foliage has hosted weddings, concerts, protests, and more throughout the decades.
6. Biosphere 2
Constructed in the early 1990s, this futuristic 3.14 acre sealed habitat in Arizona sought to recreate diverse ecological biomes under glass, including a approximations of a rainforest, savanna, and ocean within its self-contained “world” in the Arizona desert.
These marvels of engineering and design reflect creative human attempts to immerse themselves in indoor gardens through the ages, bending glass, steel, and space to house beloved plants. They remain stunning and sometimes eccentric legacies celebrating the innate human connection with growing things indoors.
And so we arrive back in the present, standing on the shoulders of generations of indoor gardeners seeking respite, beauty, sustenance, and meaning from cultivating plants within built environments. Wherever our indoor gardens grow next, they will continue bringing life and living air into our interior spaces as they have since ancient times.
May the future hold many more breakthroughs and innovations for growing happy healthy plants inside. Perhaps someday the benefits of lush interior landscaping will be accessible to all. If past eras teach us anything, it is that indoor plants speak deeply to an innate human affinity with green and growing things near at hand. Their presence indoors nurtures our minds, bodies, and souls.
Frequently Asked Questions
When did indoor gardening first become popular?
Indoor gardens became popular with ancient civilizations like Egyptians and Chinese who grew ornamental plants in indoor courtyards and miniature landscapes.
What led to the Victorian obsession with indoor plants?
The Victorian era saw a rise of exotic plant collecting from British colonies. New glasshouse technology enabled growing delicate plants like orchids and ferns indoors as status symbols.
How did NASA advance knowledge about indoor plants?
NASA research in the 1980s analyzed how certain indoor plants excel at removing pollutants from the air, introducing the air-purifying houseplant trend.
What recent innovations have impacted indoor gardening?
Recent advances like LED grow lights, smart garden systems, hydroponics and self-watering planters have expanded possibilities for indoor gardening.
Why are indoor plants beneficial?
Studies show indoor plants provide stress reduction, mental restoration, healing effects, and air purification while satisfying our innate need for connections with nature.
Let me know if you need any other key takeaways or common questions to address! I can expand on any part of the history.
The long story of indoor gardening reflects the enduring human connection to the nature we contain within our built environments. Since ancient civilizations, indoor plants have enhanced our spaces with beauty, improved our wellbeing, and allowed us to cultivate meaning.
Innovations from glasshouses to grow lights reveal our relentless drive to nurture indoor plants despite the artificiality of our constructed interior worlds. The future promises ever more advanced technologies to support our houseplants. But some needs remain timeless. Indoor plants still provide tranquility and a connection to living things just as they did centuries ago. They nourish our minds and souls.
As lifestyles and spaces evolve, the possibilities for creative indoor gardening expand as well. But our intimate relationship with tending indoor plants persists, rooted in thousands of years of cohabitating with green, growing nature. Passed down though generations of gardeners, this heritage nourishes our humanity. Our ancestors understood the life-giving magic of living plants indoors. Now this rich inheritance falls to a new generation to carry forward into the future.