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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Perfect plantings

Mad Men’s Betty Draper made all of us cringe when she bought a Victorian fainting couch to go with her Dunbar sofa.  Some items work with mid-century furnishings, while others don’t.  That holds true even for plants.  If you want an authentic MCM  home, detail counts.

Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I recall several houseplants that all my friends’ moms seemed to favor.  Rubber tree plants top the list.  They were so popular that Frank Sinatra sang about them in “High Hopes,” and they were featured in Better Homes and Gardens Houseplants in 1959.

Other favorites were sansevieria, also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, split-leaf philodendron, and any type of succulent or cactus.  All of these are still easy to find at your local nursery today.

Planter style is important too.  Outdoors, most housewives favored white or red clay pots, but the bullet planter was the hands-down indoor favorite.  I occasionally see one go for a great price on eBay, and is the place to find great reproductions in lots of colors.  They even sell seconds from time to time.

Rubber tree plant
Better Homes & Gardens book Houseplants, 1959

Split-leaf philodendron

Jade plant

Succulent dish

Sansevieria in my home

Bullet planters


  1. I'm a succulent and mother-in-law's tongue fan. I have several strategically placed in my mediocre pots. What I REALLY need is a bullet planter. I've been eyeing Craigslist and Ebay for quite some time. I still dream of happening across one (or two or three...) at an estate sale some day.

  2. Those are my two favorites too, and you'll see them in lots of the pictures of my house. I don't have bullet planters yet either. Like you, I keep thinking I'll find a real bargain somewhere...but I've been saying that for years.

  3. I ADORE those hip haven planters.
    They didn't seem to be quite so popular over here as I rarely see anything like them on eBay.
    Shame I can't find a stockist over here...
    These are nice too -

    I've also wondered about typical mid century plants so found this post very informative - thanks :)

  4. Wow, such attention to detail! I love the vintage photo - I noticed the painted brick :) I have a jade plant in a turquoise McCoy planter.

  5. @Tanya: I should have known you'd notice the painted brick. You and I do have a thing for details, don't we? :)

  6. This site is a wonderful forum for guidance and inspiration! Not only do the right plants complement the period feel, but they also add life and relax the straight lines of modern decor. If I may suggest, another popular floor plant to add to the list is the Dracaena Marginata, or Red Margined Dragon Palm. With thin stalks supporting a starburst of tapered green leaves, these also look great in spacious living rooms with built-in brick planters. They do, however, have a tendency to grow quite tall over time.

  7. @ModRocket: Welcome to my blog, and thanks for your comment. I have always had good luck with dracaena, and I agree that it looks very nice in mid-century homes.