Unearth the ancient symbolism of houseplants and their historical significance. From representing wealth to symbolizing love, discover the rich heritage behind these vibrant green companions. Explore the cultural importance and evolution of houseplant symbolism throughout history in this fascinating article.


Houseplants have become an integral part of interior design, bringing life and vibrancy to our homes. But did you know that the historic symbolism of houseplants goes far beyond aesthetics? Throughout history, different cultures and time periods have assigned various meanings and significance to these leafy companions. From representing wealth and prosperity to symbolizing love and purity, the history and evolution of houseplant symbolism is fascinating. In this article, we will explore the rich heritage of houseplant symbolism, delving into ancient civilizations, iconic time periods, and the cultural importance of these green wonders. So, let’s dig deep into the past and unravel the secrets behind the historic symbolism of houseplants.

Ancient Beginnings

The history of houseplant symbolism can be traced back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all valued the presence of plants in their living spaces. In China, indoor plants were associated with wealth as early as 1,000 BC[^1]. They represented the opportunity for year-round gardening and were deemed ornamental, signifying prosperity.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, believed to have been created around 610 BC, were a testament to the symbolic importance of houseplants. King Nebuchadnezzar II constructed these lush gardens as a botanical haven for his wife, who longed for the greenery of her homeland[^1]. Fragrant flowers, palm trees, cedar, and date trees were grown upside down from the ceiling, creating a breathtaking spectacle.

New World Discoveries and Exoticism

The exploration of Christopher Columbus in the 15th century marked a turning point in the history of houseplants. It brought exotic plants across oceans, introducing a taste of the tropics to colder regions. Tropical plants quickly gained popularity as houseplants due to their preference for warm and humid conditions[^1]. This discovery opened up a world of possibilities, expanding the range of plants available for cultivation indoors.

Victorian Era and the Rise of Houseplants

The Victorian era played a pivotal role in the popularization of houseplants. However, it wasn’t without its challenges. The poorly lit houses and high levels of pollution in Victorian cities posed difficulties for delicate plants. Hardy species like the aspidistra, commonly known as the cast iron plant, became popular choices due to their ability to withstand adverse conditions[^1]. The advancements in heating technology and architecture eventually provided more options for Victorian households, leading to a surge in the popularity of houseplants.

Houseplant Symbolism in Different Cultures

Houseplants have held significant meanings in various cultures throughout history. In Chinese culture, the Lucky Bamboo is considered a symbol of wealth and good fortune[^11]. Its intertwined stems and lush green leaves are believed to bring luck and prosperity to the owner.

In Hinduism, the sacred Tulsi plant holds great importance. It is believed to bring blessings to the home and is associated with purity and spiritual awakening[^8]. The Tulsi plant is often grown in courtyards or in a special place of worship within the house.

In Japanese culture, the bonsai tree represents patience, mindfulness, and natural beauty. These miniature trees are carefully cultivated to mimic the form of fully-grown trees in nature, symbolizing harmony with the environment[^9].

The Language of Flowers

During the Victorian era, the language of flowers, also known as floriography, gained popularity. This floral code assigned meanings and emotions to different flowers, including those used as houseplants[^7]. Orchids, for example, symbolized love, beauty, and luxury. They were often exchanged between couples to determine the gender of their unborn child[^7]. Ferns, on the other hand, represented sincerity and humility, while geraniums symbolized friendship and comfort.

The Modern Revival of Houseplants

After periods of fluctuating popularity, houseplants are currently enjoying a revival and are considered a fashionable addition to interior spaces. This resurgence can be attributed to several factors. The growing awareness of the benefits of biophilic design, which emphasizes the connection between humans and nature, has led to an increased demand for houseplants[^13]. Additionally, the rise of social media has sparked a new wave of plant enthusiasts, sharing their green creations and inspiring others to incorporate houseplants into their homes.

Research conducted by NASA in the 1980s revealed that certain houseplants have air-purifying qualities, filtering out indoor pollutants and improving indoor air quality[^13]. This finding, combined with the growing concern for sustainability and well-being, has further contributed to the renewed interest in houseplants.


The historic symbolism of houseplants is a testament to the enduring relationship between humans and nature. From ancient civilizations to modern-day interior design trends, houseplants have represented wealth, prosperity, love, and purifying qualities. The history and evolution of houseplant symbolism showcases the deep cultural significance attached to these green companions. As we continue to embrace the beauty and benefits of houseplants, let us not forget the rich heritage that accompanies them.

So, the next time you bring a houseplant into your home, remember the ancient symbolism and the connections that have been woven over thousands of years. Enjoy the beauty and embrace the meaning behind the leaves that breathe life into your space.


[^1]: The Joy of Plants. (n.d.). Houseplants: A potted history. Retrieved from <a href=”https://www.thejoyofplants.co.uk/houseplants-potted-history“>https://www.thejoyofplants.co.uk/houseplants-potted-history](https://www.thejoyofplants.co.uk/houseplants-potted-history)
[^7]: Better Homes & Gardens. (2016, January 20). These 6 Popular Houseplants Each Have Special Meanings Behind Them. Retrieved from <a href=”https://www.bhg.com/gardening/gardening-trends/houseplant-meanings“>https://www.bhg.com/gardening/gardening-trends/houseplant-meanings](https://www.bhg.com/gardening/gardening-trends/houseplant-meanings)
[^8]: Indooplants. (n.d.). The Symbolism Of Indoor Plants In Different Cultures. Retrieved from <a href=”https://indooplants.com/the-symbolism-of-indoor-plants-in-different-cultures“>https://indooplants.com/the-symbolism-of-indoor-plants-in-different-cultures](https://indooplants.com/the-symbolism-of-indoor-plants-in-different-cultures)
[^9]: La RĂ©sidence. (n.d.). Leafy Legends: The Vibrant History of Houseplants. Retrieved from <a href=”https://blog.leonandgeorge.com/posts/brief-history-of-houseplants“>https://blog.leonandgeorge.com/posts/brief-history-of-houseplants](https://blog.leonandgeorge.com/posts/brief-history-of-houseplants)
[^11]: Symbol Sage. (n.d.). Succulents – Symbolism and Meaning. Retrieved from <a href=”https://symbolsage.com/succulents-meaning-and-symbolism“>https://symbolsage.com/succulents-meaning-and-symbolism](https://symbolsage.com/succulents-meaning-and-symbolism)
[^13]: Leon & George. (n.d.). The History of Houseplants: Exploring Their Evolution and Cultural Significance. Retrieved from <a href=”https://groovyboardz.com/blogs/news/the-history-of-houseplants“>https://groovyboardz.com/blogs/news/the-history-of-houseplants](https://groovyboardz.com/blogs/news/the-history-of-houseplants)