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What Kind Of Plants Make Sense In An Old World Or Victorian Style Home? Ryann Investigates

Plants are windows to the soul. Wait no *checks notes* that’s not right–but they are an aspect of interior design that speaks to the soul. We want our homes to feel lived in if not full of LIFE and what better way to incorporate life than with actual living things? I know I’ve always felt that my home would be complete as soon as I spontaneously procure a green thumb and have a million plant babies, that is until my style went from scandi-minimalist-mid-century to70s-cowgirl-meets-eclectic-old-world-Italian-grandma. Think Brigerton meets The Godfather meets Thelma and Louise with a hint of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But as my home has gradually emulated this style, I began to realize I had NO clue what kind of plants make sense in my home. The few plants I’ve had over the years seem off amongst my decor so I needed some inspiration:

Right away I began noticing a theme. Bushy, extra leafy type plants are welcome in such a style which totally makes sense–it’s like bringing your grandma’s garden indoors.

photo by yuki sugiura | design by  matilda goad | via house & garden

We all know “old world” or “Victorian” styled homes are often littered with floral patterns and earth tones so it’s interesting that I felt like real plants are hard to place in such a style. It’s counter-intuitive for sure, so after scouring the web and pinning for days, I’ve found there are some specific types of plants that make sense with this style I am trying to achieve in my home. Forget cacti, succulents, and Sansevieria (aka snake plants–I just learned that word too, don’t worry) and instead opt for:

1. Large leaf plants such as Monsteras
2. Blooming plants such as Petite Rose Plants and Cyclamen
3. Extra leafy plants such as ferns, palms, and cast irons

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Kangaroo Fern | 2. Monstera Deliciosa | 3. Minima Monstera | 4. Dwarf Eureka Lemon Tree | 5. China Doll Plant | 6. Vickerman Artificial Rose Plant in Pot| 7. Petite Knock Out® Rose | 8. Kimberly Queen Fern | 9. Cast Iron Plant | 10. Boston Fern | 11. Miniature Rose Bush | 12. Swiss Cheese Plant

I personally love a living plant but I am also not against faux plants as someone who is known to commit plant murder (unintentionally of course). #6 would be so sweet in my dining room but maybe I could learn to keep #7 alive? Also, #1 has my heart.

But wait, there’s more…

photo by owen gale | design by studio squire | via house & garden

Did you know that indoor lemon trees exist? When I found this out I nearly fell over. OF COURSE I need an indoor lemon tree in my home. It makes so much sense and yes, I want my home to always smell like fresh lemons. But trees in general are a great addition to an old world style home. They really bring the outdoors in and make a statement that says, “Of course I have a tree indoors, don’t you?” Although again, someone sans a green thumb like me may have to opt for a faux one.

1. Ficus ‘Fiddle Leaf Fig’ Lyrata | 2. Schefflera Arboricola | 3. Lemon and Lime Citrus Trees | 4. Bamboo Palm | 5. Variegated Pink Lemon Tree | 6. Ficus Lyrata | 7. Artificial Weeping Eucalyptus Tree in Pot | 8. Benjamina Ficus Tree – Popular Indoor Houseplant | 9. Arbequina Olive Tree

So, what do ya think? Can you imagine these plants in a 70s-cowgirl-meets-eclectic-old-world-Italian-grandma style home? (Because that’s an easy style to picture in your head, right??). Let me know what you think and suggestions are welcome. Plant parents, please teach me your ways! xx

Opener Image Credit: Photo by Beata Heuman

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5 months ago

Sadly I can attest that indoor lemon trees don’t fare well in medium/low-light climates (unless you are perhaps dedicated/knowledgeable enough to rig up a grow light or something of that nature). I live in the Midwest, and I had one. Notice I say “had.” It was among the cutest things ever, but alas it did not make it through a typically cloudy winter. 🙁 For anyone who is even a little inadvertently plant-murdery, I would advise to save yourself the heartbreak and go with faux when it comes to the citrus trees.

Lane
5 months ago
Reply to  Brittany

My dwarf lemon tree looks pretty good in the Midwest. It thrives outdoors in the summer. It blooms and produces a few lemons too. It dries a bit in the winter months and loses a lot of leaves. Perhaps spraying with water would help as well.

Rusty
5 months ago
Reply to  Brittany

If you want plants to live and add to your space, why choose something difficult like citrus?!?
That’s trying to make life harder.
Assess your space, light levels and indoor climate…then choose the plant.
Let fommon sense prevail.

5 months ago
Reply to  Rusty

Well, I don’t disagree with your sentiment, but in my case the lemon tree was a gift.

kk
5 months ago
Reply to  Brittany

Im in Western MA and my indoor lemon tree has been absolutely thriving in an Eastern facing window all winter …

Mary Catherine
5 months ago

As the daughter of a gardener and an aspiring plant parent, I love this topic and have been thinking of it lately as I try to find the right plants for my aesthetic, (“Mad Men” meets “All Creatures Great and Small?”). Our goal was to have at least one plant in every room for beauty and air quality purposes, and we have achieved it.

My recent thought is that we should let the region whose aesthetic we like guide our plant choices. I may not be right about the following, but these are my thoughts: the more desert looking plants seem most cohesive within MCM design; ferns and lush foliage associated with Northern, wetter climates go well within a more traditional design; tropical plants lend a more bohemian/British colonial look, etc.

On caring for plants—over-watering is usually the reason they don’t make it. I recommend watering plants when leaves are wilting or the soil is thoroughly dry. They will immediately perk back up and be fine. If there are signs of any mites or bugs, spray with soapy water a few times.

Lastly, we have an indoor lemon tree that just bloomed! So happy.

MKK
5 months ago
Reply to  Mary Catherine

Just loving Masterpiece shows, such as “All creatures great and small.” Maybe craving civility. I am a Master Gardner, but find I need hardy indoor plants, such as Snake, ZZ nd cactus. Prior to COVID we traveled a lot, and the plants I mention do not need sitters.

Roberta Davis
5 months ago

Having murdered a few myself, for me it comes down to the conditions and light levels inside the house, as well as to how much fussing I will have to do to keep the plant alive. Will it die if I go to Hawaii for 18 days? Light levels are the most important, I think. I agree that cacti are not as at home in a traditional-style home as in a mid-century modern home. But otherwise, I would choose based on whether the plant will thrive in the place you want to have it. ZZ plants are absolutely the easiest plants to keep alive. They only require watering about once a month and they love low light levels, and they just grow like crazy. Fig trees, on the other hand, are not so easy, depending on which kind. I just bought a ficus Audrey and have my fingers crossed that it will like the fairly bright, indirect light in my living room corner. Orchids- also very easy and beautiful, and look nice in a modern or traditional setting. Their flowers last for months and they won’t punish you if you forget to water them for a couple of weeks. All… Read more »

Alison
5 months ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

ZZ plants are great! I am jealous of your Audrey – I’ve been seeing these everywhere right now and want one, but haven’t found a local nursery with one yet. It’s on the plant list 😉

Marian
5 months ago
Reply to  Alison

I got an Audrey from Bloomscape. It arrived perfectly healthy and hasn’t even dropped a single leaf since I got it five months ago. Highly recommend!

Roberta Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Marian

Encouraging!

Roberta Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Alison

I looked for along time and finally have found some- on Etsy, I was able to get a small one for $30!

JA
5 months ago

Limes are much easier to grow than lemons and the leaves smell like lime. But they aren’t easy. And you will need a dedicated plant light on it about 20 hour a day. A southern facing window will not cut it.

Siel
5 months ago

As someone with a lot of plants in her house (Adding greenery and propagating plants appeared to be our covid hobby. Please send help, it got out of control), I can vouch for the big importance of location and daylight. Select your plant type based on the amount of daylight and/or sunlight it wil get. And keep the change of seasons in mind. No plant will survive if there is not enough daylight, even the ones that prefer shade.
Tip: For a design impact, rather go for one large plant than many small ones. Monstera, strelitzia and philodendron are easy and big tropical plants.

Rusty
5 months ago
Reply to  Siel

Such sage advice.

5 months ago
Reply to  Siel

Ha! Unfortunately plants were my hobby before covid, so imagine now. There is no help for us plantophiles. Well, I have taken to putting extras in a sub zero compost pile, but I feel bad…

Ryann, thank you for this post. I loved the photos. Especially all the bright colors punctuated by plants! :). One note on citrus trees. I’ve had a lime tree indoors/outdoors for a few years, and unfortunately it’s a bit hard to get it to set fruit. So check into that before you have your heart set on having sweet limes or something else that’s citrusy. 🙂 I am partial to buying indoor plants from logees. They have a lot of container trees including avocado and cacao trees which I really want, but don’t have room for.

Alice
5 months ago

You mentioned faux plants in passing…would love a post on those. Tacky or not? Best kinds? Etc

Admin
5 months ago
Reply to  Irene

Thanks Irene!

Alice
5 months ago
Reply to  Irene

Thank you Irene!

Elizabeth
5 months ago

I really really appreciate the amount of amazing information and conversation you all share and think this post could have used more research.

The Victorians were known for their greenhouses. They pretty much invented the idea of houseplants and had crazes around ferns, orchids and also succulents. There’s the orangery, conservatories, arboretums, etc in these past periods. It’s what many of our current wallpapers are trying to echo.

Marian
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Yes, agree! One of my favorite things about the Victorians are their cloches and those glass houses that I can’t remember the name of right now. A section on those would’ve been amazing in this post.

E
5 months ago
Reply to  Marian

Wardian cases 🙂

Lmdr
5 months ago

I have never thought about choosing plants according to my decor style. I have 40 plants or so in my house and the only rationale for selection was the plants needs/my sunlight situation and what I liked. Free yourself from rules with plants, I say. Bring what you love into your space.

L
5 months ago

Where is the topmost photo from? I love it!

Admin
5 months ago
Reply to  L

It’s from the ever-talented Beata Heuman and is linked at the bottom of the post:)

L
5 months ago
Reply to  Jess Bunge

Oops didn’t see it! Thank you and yes, I’m obsessed with her work!

Gina
5 months ago
Reply to  L

Who’s the artist that produced the picture above the mantle?

mallory
5 months ago

During covid I discovered my answer to every design woe is: buy more plants. We went from maybe 10 houseplants to over 35! But luckily for me, I buy them and my husband takes care of them. And so far he hasn’t asked me to stop buying them…

Personally I think any plant can work with any style. I’d love to see a funky cacti in a Victorian room or a bushy fern in an MCM space. They add life to California Cool and Eclectic Grandma. I’d argue it’s the pot design that matters more than the plant itself.

Jessica
5 months ago
Reply to  mallory

I agree about pot design being more important. And really, “giant mass of plants” works with any style 😉

Elaine
5 months ago
Reply to  mallory

So true, pot design can definitely make or break the overall aesthetic.

Alison
5 months ago

Jade plants! Depending on the type you get, they can grow very large and or tall, but take some time to do so. I have one from a friend’s grandma that is beautiful. They’re not fussy and are great if you want a more “structured” plant instead of any type of trailing plant (like pothos). They definitely don’t need direct sunlight.

Plants that remind me of my grandma that I definitely have in my house: violet (these are tiny though), Algerian ivy, peace lily, spider plants, rubber tree (variegated ficus elastica), & Christmas cactus (which doesn’t look “cactus-y” at all, and there are three types – might not bloom depending on where it is, but will likely stay green and alive!)

I’m dying to get a Laurel Bay tree to have for decor, but also eventually for fresh bay leaves (although I would prioritize keeping the plant long term versus using for fresh bay). My husband is currently protesting our current plant status though as our house is not very large. We have probably 35 plants at the moment.

Rebecca Umbach
5 months ago

Love this! what are the chances we can get a round up of not ugly plant stands? The world is full of wooden shelves and single planter stands, but nothing to give you a more collected feel.

Rusty
5 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca Umbach

Rebecca, check out Jungalow’s plant stands and pots!
They’re super great and very unique.

R
5 months ago

How do you make plants cute??

krkrkrkr
5 months ago

Angel vine! They’re not that expensive or hard to take care of, especially in comparison to orchids or indoor citrus trees. They are oddly and sweetly charming little plants.

Caitlin
5 months ago

African violets! There are so many varieties and the special pots where you water from the bottom make caring for them easy. Terrariums in cool shaped glass vessels with moss accents are so fun. I think of those sorts of things as longer lived then cut flowers but probably shorter lived than a typical houseplant. Forcing bulbs like hyacinth, narcissus, and amaryllis inside is also easy and so rewarding. There are special vases for that purpose. Check our Terrain for examples. This year I spent $15 on amaryllis bulbs which felt like a splurge at the time. Both had two stems with flowers lasting almost a full month! Oh and geraniums, especially scented varieties.

Amanda McCullough
5 months ago
Reply to  Caitlin

OBSESSED WITH TERRARIUMS!!!

A
5 months ago

Scented geraniums are probably the most Victorian house plant – not as popular now but very appropriate! Also ferns.

If you’re looking for more options try a crown of thorns – hard to kill and they have flowers. Hoyas are a good choice too – very 70’s. You’re better off at a local nursery than any of these overpriced stores, but if you do want to shop online or have stores to link you should look at Logee’s. Their selection is way better.

Anna
5 months ago
Reply to  A

I’d say all kind of geraniums has a Victorian vibe. Though the scented ones are my favorites. And the bigger the better!

Rusty
5 months ago

I’m a bit stonkered by this post.
Plants are more about the plant than the decorating style – light levels, proximity to heating/cooling, etc.
ANY plant that’s healthy contributes to the room vibe.
If you’re looking at a period of archictecture, the plants really don’t have to go with it, unless you’re setting up a museum.

Healthy plants = contribution to decor, no matter the era.

If you like viney plants for a high shelf, cut off the end of a SWEET POTATO/YAM and put the cut side down inyo a vessel with some water and watch that baby grow!!!

Vera
5 months ago
Reply to  Rusty

I enjoyed this post very much – I believe every vignette / photo needs a leafy green plant! I had never thought about matching the plant and decor vibe though and it was very interesting to consider this.

Ultimately I agree with Rusty that our homes aren’t museums and any plant improves a space. (Also now I want to try your potato tip Rusty!)

I aim for balance. Ex: if I have a more antique/traditional surface, I try to use a more modern pot.

I also consider scale. So a little shallow shelf gets a cute little plant, while a big piece of furniture gets a big plant.

My favourite plants are pothos, spider, and money trees because:
1) they look happy to me
2) they are very forgiving
3) they don’t shed a million pieces (ex: I LOVE the look of a fern but they need a lot of water and if they don’t get enough you will need a broom!)

I am so looking forward to your MOTO Ryan!

Rusty
5 months ago
Stacey Reding
5 months ago

A lot of these plants are too mid-century to feel prefect in a historic home (Victorian) or modest farmhouse (I live in one and lighting isn’t great) My personal aesthetic leans towards English eclectic. Great options for this would be pelagoniums (geraniums) African violets, forced spring bulbs, and amaryllis for winter! Roses are a temperate plant and grow best outside.

Ali
5 months ago

I had an indoor meyer lemon tree that did well until I moved back to California and put it outside. They do require a lot of light and if you want lemons you have to pollinate the blossoms yourself. No hard, a little paint brush does the trick. I actually got lemons! And the blossoms smell AMAZING.

5 months ago

I love platns more and I have to say people must save plants. They are everything for us. I mean that’s the reason how people still live in this world…

Rusty
5 months ago
Reply to  Arda

🌳🌏🌳

Maria
5 months ago

As someone else said, I think the pots and how you display plants matter more for style than the actual plant. Apart from succulents vs. leafy plants and green leaves vs. pink/red leaves, the type of plant doesn’t hinder the esthetics and any one can work if you like it and care for it. I would also say that generally succulents don’t fare too well inside, especially if they are still baby plants. I killed a baby jade because they are so sensitive to overwatering, but my boyfriend gave me a larger jade which is doing pretty well. I also had a medium-size string of pearls and, uhhh, it went quick… (Still have some of the strands propagating hoping to resuscitate it.) So jade plants, snake plants and strings of hearts are the only succulents I would advise. Regarding trees, I can’t say much for citrus but as for fiddle leaf trees I know they are all the rage and super beautiful but they are hard to keep alive! I haven’t even ventured into having a small one, because they need a lot of light and are super finicky, losing leaves if watering is not perfect. So I don’t think… Read more »

i don’t know what kind of plants make sense in there, but i do know that all of these rooms are GORGEOUS. i just keep staring at them.

5 months ago

An unlikely, but cool, tree I grow inside is a banana! It doesn’t produce fruit for us, but it’s about 4 ft and is unfussy. We take it outside in the summer. We ordered this kind from here. https://www.greenhousebusiness.com/orincobanana1.html

5 months ago

I seem to gravitate towards yard clippings or faux plants because I can’t imagine having another thing to take care of, but maybe when my kids are older it won’t seem so overwhelming to water a plant!

Jessica
5 months ago

Sounds like you’re a good candidate for ZZ or snake plants! I learned about caring for plants from my mom, so I can vouch for it being a good activity once a kid can hold a watering can (and they definitely make little ones branded with Disney characters, etc). She and my sister got my nephew started digging in the dirt and caring for plants as a toddler. And growing vegetable plants is a great way to get kids to eat veggies 🙂

Amanda McCullough
5 months ago

As per Mandy from VintageRevivals/HappyHousePlant – plants are not decor….as soon as you treat them as such and put them where they thrive you will be rewarded with a happy plant! I love plants but it is hard with a BOY cat LOL…..he gets into everything! I have always wanted an indoor tree but i’d have to put it in its own room alone LOL and then what is the point….

Hanging plants only, over here LOL

Jessica
5 months ago

Have you tried “cat grass”? My pandemic furbaby was intent on chewing on all my pre-cat toxic plants, so I moved them out of reach and got some pet grass (she seems to prefer wheatgrass to oat grass) for her windowsill. A couple months later I brought home some non-toxic plants and she hasn’t given them a second look!

Elaine
5 months ago

You could also try citrus to deter your boy without causing him any damage? My cat’s reaction to orange is a hilariously dramatic but it guarantees he won’t go near the smell!

Susan
5 months ago

I would imagine a rubber tree plant would fit into this esthetic perfectly. I’m looking for one myself. 🌱

Kj
5 months ago

Another great online source for plants is Steve’s Leaves, he has lots of interesting ones. https://stevesleaves.com/shop/?orderby=by_stock

Beth
5 months ago

Oooh! I’m loving this discussion. I’d add that Begonia Rex (I like the Escargot and 50 Shades of Gray varieties) could be amazing in your home, Ryann. You could go more green on green tonal or go all eccentric grandma with more multi-colored ones. My aesthetic is late 1960s/early 70’s Peter Beard in sexy, feminine and color-saturated way…plus loads of over books. Curvy low velvet lounge chair, a slouchy dark gray couch, lucite waterfall coffee table stacked with my favorite books, ceramics, etc…), some sexy sculptural lounge chairs from the late 60’s (Adrian Pearsall and Arne Norell), a Chinese red lacquer wardrobe (with a EHD- inspired vignette atop), Dogon ladder in a corner next to the fireplace, Milo Baughman arched/caned walnut dining room chairs, woven art and paintings around tying in all the colors, with a subtle Tuareg mat as rug. And I wanted a ton of plants! My go-tos have been a couple Monster Monsteras (crazy wild and fun), Sanseveria, a massive Bird of Paradise, some Begonia Rexes, and other smaller philodendron varieties. My home has good East and West light but I also needed to strategically install some plants lights in my recessed lighting to keep plants in… Read more »

Denali
5 months ago

Please say no to faux plants! They’re terrible for the environment, let off toxic gases in your home, and there are plenty of real plants that are less work than dusting fake plants!

Snake plants are practically immortal, so long as you don’t overwater them (an easy rule: only water when the soil is dry — stick your finger in the dirt if you’re unsure if it’s still damp beneath the surface). I’ve watered mine as little as once every 4 months. They can grow in very low light situations and are one of the best plants out there for improving air quality. Want lots of plants? Snip a leaf off and put it in a glass of water on a window ledge; leave it be a few weeks and it’ll grow a bunch roots (pot it when you see an extra thick looking root starting to poke out — that’s a new baby plant starting to grow).

Denali
5 months ago
Reply to  Denali

P.S. — If you’re worried about dusting real plants, just pop them in the shower once every few months! A good soak will make them really happy and it’ll minimize the need for dusting.

Another pro tip: sprinkle cinnamon on the soil to prevent/get rid of pests or mildew (which often happens when you’ve overwatered). It smells great and doesn’t harm you or the plants.

Sona
5 months ago

If you want some plant inspiration follow @plantkween on Instagram. He is really fun and describes himself as “Black queer femme kween” on Instagram.

5 months ago

it was so exciting. ilove plants . what kind of plants can i have in my room?

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