A passion for houseplants was my gateway to outdoor gardening

Houseplants allow people of all ages to be responsible for some ‘life’, albeit of the botanical kind.

Julia Atkinson-Dunn

Houseplants allow people of all ages to be responsible for some ‘life’, albeit of the botanical kind.

OPINION: The positive effects of introducing nature into living spaces cannot be disputed.

Sure, aspirational interiors dripping in plants that whizz past on social media and in magazines may have launched many people into houseplant-land.

But this doesn’t diminish the good vibes the plants bring. The mainstream garden world could only dream of riding the crest of a global trend!

If we ignore for a moment the ridiculous prices a couple of plants sold for on Trade Me this year, indoor plants mostly owe their popularity to their accessibility.

* Why I felt relieved when my houseplants died
* Why even in the middle of winter there’s still beautiful options for your vase
* The art of watering indoor and outdoor plants

Your first can be bought at a hardware store for around $20, and then there is the perk of choosing a pretty pot to house it in.

Bringing it home and styling it on a shelf secures the visual, instant gratification that many in my generation and below have come to expect. The only thing required from there is to keep that single plant alive.

Buoyed by the success in maintaining this living thing, our beginner plant-owner will thirst for more, drinking up the lush effect these purchases have on their home spaces.

They may start increasing their budget as their research leads them to more exotic finds but increased care and awareness of their plants needs will grow, too.


Social media sowed the seeds for a revival in indoor plants.

Inadvertently, via trend chasing or not, they are connecting themselves to the natural world and building a knowledge base that won’t be forgotten.

Houseplants allow people of all ages to be responsible for some “life”, albeit of the botanical kind. This act of caring for something beyond themselves is of real value to their general wellbeing.

Transiency comes with both youth but also with renting, and in the horrific state of our property sector, for many people locked out of homeownership, indoor plants offer a welcome and achievable foray into growing.

The expense of ploughing time and money into the garden of a rented home is only attractive to those with a real drive to establish a garden outdoors, something that isn’t as common for younger people now as it was for the generations before.

So, when would this passion for indoor growing possibly migrate outdoors?

Over three years ago (in my early 30s), I grew a pretty decent collection of indoor plants that enjoyed life in my sunny Auckland apartment, despite my haphazard watering schedule.

On moving south again, they were all carefully loaded into the car to bump across an island-and-a-half to my new rented home in Christchurch. Even though there was a small courtyard garden at this property, I struggled to keep my outdoor herbs alive, while indoors, my well-travelled plant friends continued to thrive.

It was in early 2018 that we stepped through the back doors of our newly purchased home, scanning the garden that came with it. Despite living in many rented houses with gardens over the previous 16 years, I had never owned my own, and on reflection, this was a massive turning point for my gardening adventure.

My interest in personality-driven interiors, resting on my basic growing skills acquired from being a houseplant mother, surprisingly helped me view this new outdoor space with fresh interest.

Here was an outside room that I could experiment in, choosing beautiful plants that were never suited to the indoors.

Where I had barely mowed a lawn in my flatting years, it was home ownership, combined with space, that broke the lid off a new interest I had simply never had before. Not even a glimmer.

For those of you enjoying your rapid fall into houseplant heaven, please know that the earth outside awaits.

That when your time or opportunity arrives, you can expect to be surprised that here-to lies an awesome source of satisfaction and beauty that your house-planting years will put you in good stead to explore.

Julia Atkinson-Dunn is the writer and creative behind Studio Home. You can join her on @studiohomegardening or

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