MILLENNIALS may have grown up in an almost entirely plant-free existence, but back in the Seventies houseplants were – sometimes literally – huge. Spider plants reproduced everywhere, little ‘spiderlings’ hanging from their branches, a new generation just waiting to be potted.

Even the grottiest student flat had a Swiss cheese plant mouldering somewhere in the corner.

Now they’re back, and this time the growing trend is being charted on social media – hashtags such as #plantsofinstagram and #houseplants are used in their millions and tweets on houseplants often receive thousands of retweets.

“In daily life I see fiddle leaf figs and Swiss cheese plants everywhere, especially amongst the younger generation who don’t remember the 1970s houseplant trend,” says Matthew Pottage, of the Royal Horticultural Society.

This boom is reflected in retail sales at the RHS, which have increased significantly; cacti sales rose by 34 per cent last year. Often plants are being chosen to improve the environment and purify air, with sales of Spathiphyllum (peace lily), said to be efficient in removing airborne pollutants, increasing by 23 per cent last year.

The Northern Echo:

Pottage believes the popularity of houseplants will continue to rocket, with the main increase amongst younger audiences who either can’t have or don’t want an outdoor garden.

Three women who are happy that people are buying into the the trend are 59-year-old Jayne King, and her daughters Jenni and Katy, owners of Wild, a plant shop in Norton. All three have always loved plants – the daughters spent hours gardening with their grandparents and say their mother has always had a real flare for caring for plants. “All of our houses are covered in plants,” says Jenni. “They are just lovely to be around.”

Wild stocks mainly houseplants, varying from the stunning spotted begonia maculata to that retro favourite, the simple spider plant. They also stock gift cards made by Jenni, candles hand-made by Katy and macrame hangers by Jayne.

The Northern Echo:

Jayne had many plants when she was a teenager, including a spider plant, but her favourites were cacti. “We often get customers coming in and telling us about the plants they used to have in the Seventies,” she says. “My house is 90 per cent jungle, and I still have spider plants and love propagating them, as well as a fiddle leaf fig, aloe vera and many varieties of calathea as they are so easy to care for. Our friends frequently visit the shop and are becoming just as obsessed with plants as we are.”

Jenni has a giant monstera (cheese plant), a lovely string of hearts and a hoya bella, a family heirloom from her grandparents, and often looks after friends’ plants when they go on holiday. Katy has a huge yucca in her living room, lots of tradescantia, an “amazing” alocasia elephant ear and a little burro's-tail. She adores devil's ivy.

“Jenni and I both manage the Instagram page and love posting about the new plants that arrive as we are just as excited as the customers on delivery day,” she says. “Everything goes full circle and it's amazing to see plants become cool again. So many youngsters come through the door and have so much knowledge about how to look

after them.”

The Northern Echo:

The women feed the plants with an organic fish emulsion, although keeping on top of watering a shopful can be a challenge. “Our Venus fly trap – a carnivorous plant – must be watered with rainwater; there are too many minerals and chemicals in tap water,” says Jayne. “I also do a frequent shuffle of the plants in the shop to make sure they all get their fair share of light.”

Customers at Wild love the begonia maculata and monstera, but the best seller is calathea, which comes in many different shapes and sizes.

As well as looking lovely in the home, house plants also help to purify and oxygenate the air. The women at Wild also point out that looking after a house plant and seeing it flourish can be very rewarding.

“People will say 'you have to come and see this’ when one of the plants has flowered or grown a new leaf,” says Jenni. “There is an element of responsibility to it. They are fun to have around the house, too."

  • WILD: The Plant Shop, 9 Ridley Mews, Norton, Stockton, TS20 1DW. Instagram @wildplantshop.


Too much water

It's surprising that most of the on-trend plants at the moment thrive on neglect, and require a bare minimum of care. Also, too much light and draughts can affect plants, so don't place directly on a windowsill where the window is often opened. They can quickly recover if you reposition them.

Which plants work well in which rooms of the house?

Houseplants will work well in most rooms, as long as there is natural light. In bedrooms: Aloe vera is often recommended, releasing oxygen while you are sleeping. They are one of the best plants for air purification.

In bathrooms: Orchids are popular. They are tropical, so they love the humidity and will be at their happiest on the bathroom windowsill.

Spider plants also work well in bathrooms. Thriving in the often-humid environment, they remove CO2 from the moist atmosphere. They like to be kept in rooms that are fairly well lit and watered once or twice a week, but not in direct sunlight.

Caring for your houseplants?

Succulents and terrariums are pretty easy to care for and look fantastic in groups. They can instantly change the look and feel of a room, from industrial chic to jungle-inspired bold botanicals.