Nineteenth Century Seed Companies and Nurseries Encouraged Indoor Plants for the Winter

During the Victorian influence in late nineteenth century America, it was important to keep plants in the house in the winter to give the sense of garden even to the indoors.  Plants like hibiscus, abutilons, and palms became quite common for house plants.

Seed company and nursery owners made sure their customers learned how important such plants were for the gardener.

Illustration of indoor plants, including vines, from Catherine Esther Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe's book The American Woman's Home, 1869.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine of 1881 Gardener’s Monthly: “The love for window flowers or for plant cabinets attached to dwelling rooms seems to be increasing in popularity from year to year.”

L. Templin & Sons said in the 1886 annual company catalog: “While we are admiring our beautiful gardens, we should not forget to make some preparations for beautifying our homes during the long dreary winter months. Nothing can do more towards making the house cheerful in winter than a few pots of choice flowers in bloom.” The catalog then proposed hardy bulbs and winter-blooming plants that the reader could grow in the house.

Amaryllis 'Hercules'. Courtesy of Logee's Greenhouse.

Maybe the reason the Amaryllis bulb appears today in every garden center and chain store during the Christmas season is so that we too can have a little bit of the garden in the house when the cold of winter takes its stand.

Since the late nineteenth century we have enjoyed plants indoors with the encouragement of the seed and nursery catalogs.

Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick wrote in his catalog of 1874: “Keep the plants clean and comfortable, with thermometer not over seventy or seventy-five in the day, and not more than fifty or sixty in the night.”

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