We have always had house plants since we first set up house together in Bishop’s Stortford in 1967. Our landlady gave us a Spider Plant, which in a sense is still going strong – not the original roots, but the plantlets from the original one, creating new plants every year or two. This is definitely one of the easiest plants to grow – quite a huge amount in a year if well fed, watered and potted on – and it is very tolerant of the occasional unintended drought! It throws out stems with small flowers and then tiny plantlets which grow nourished by the parent plant until they achieve contact with the soil – or until you transplant them.
We always had a theory, which I think was shared quite widely in 70s and 80s UK, that house plants were good for the house environment, both visually and air-wise. Garden centres used to have great masses of them for sale.
Over the years we had all sorts, even a huge Swiss Cheese Plant that lasted several decades, eventually growing as high as the ceiling and starting to take root in the walls and carpet. Eventually this long-standing friend had to be sacrificed, it was struggling and too big to pot on. But it is quite amazing how long plants will last with fairly minimal attention.
We tended our son’s university Yucca through a growth spurt. It was outgrowing our house, but fortunately he moved into a flat in Edinburgh with high ceilings, and the two of us could just manage to transport it there, filling our campervan to the limit.
As the years went by, I think people got busier and had less time for house plants, perhaps less of a feel for connection with nature with all those electronic distractions. The sections in the garden centres have seemed much smaller over recent years, although now I sense a revival.
And now the evidence is in. A recent programme from the BBC series Trust Me I’m a Doctor showed new research that established that house plants are very good at reducing the levels of chemical pollution produced by household cleaning and freshening products – they just absorb the nasty chemicals from the air. So there’s a good healthy reason to maintain house plants.
They are also visually attractive and keep us just that little bit more attuned to nature and her seasons. And of course, they sequester carbon dioxide from the air, so in a very tiny way contribute to the battle against global warming (I suspect not trivial if multiplied by the number of households in the world!).