The best books for keeping your houseplants alive

Who am I?

I remember my first ever houseplant—doesn’t everyone? It was a spider plant, just a small one grown as an offset from my mother’s vast ‘mother’ plant. Yestwo mothers! The plant and my green-fingered mother got me hooked on houseplants. As a social historian, I’ve written about all things to do with the homeclothes, gardens, even gardeners themselves but houseplants? Why was there no social history of plants in the home? Where did that spider plant come from? And when? The answer is Japan in the late 18th century. But the truth is that plants have been brought into homes for centuries and their stories are fascinating. 


I wrote...

Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes

By Catherine Horwood,

Book cover of Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes

What is my book about?

There is no shortage of books on how to look after houseplants but no one has shown us how and when and why these plants came to be in our homes. Catherine Horwood’s combination of social history, plant history, and the history of interior design explains why, as Flanders and Swann sung in the 1950s, "the garden’s full of furniture / and the house is full of plants."

In this fascinating book we learn how potted plants are as much subject to fashion as pieces of furniture. This book shows that there is little new when it comes to plants in the home.

The books I picked & why

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The Indoor Garden Book: The Complete Guide to the Creative Use of Plants and Flowers in the Home

By John Brookes,

Book cover of The Indoor Garden Book: The Complete Guide to the Creative Use of Plants and Flowers in the Home

Why this book?

This book has been my indoor plant bible for over thirty years. John Brookes is best known for linking indoor living spaces with outdoor gardens but here he turned his masterly design eye on houseplants. Yes, all the necessary practical information on a wide range of houseplants is here. But what really separates this book from the rest—and makes it completely agelessis the photography which was so ahead of its time, it looks as though it was published last year. Interior shots with plant placement ideas with enough inspiration for the most demanding Instagram generation. What more could one need?

The Indoor Garden Book: The Complete Guide to the Creative Use of Plants and Flowers in the Home

By John Brookes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Indoor Garden Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offers advice on decorating with plants, tells how to match plants with containers, and covers cut- and dried-flower arrangements, plant care, and room-by-room deoorating advice


The House Plant Expert

By D. G. Hessayon,

Book cover of The House Plant Expert

Why this book?

It is rumoured that this book has, at times, been the world’s best-selling non-fiction book after The Biblequite a claim. Indisputable is that this book and its many reprints and updates remain for several generations, the one essential read for houseplant help. It was written by a scientist who worked for one of the world’s leading houseplant liquid feed after a radio appearance led to the company receiving thousands of letters asking for houseplant advice. Hessayon’s simple formula of basic photographs and short text has been much copied but never bettered.

The House Plant Expert

By D. G. Hessayon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The House Plant Expert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A guide to choosing and caring for indoor plants. This aims to present information on a variety of plants in an easy-to-follow format.


RHS Practical House Plant Book: Choose The Best, Display Creatively, Nurture and Care, 175 Plant Profiles

By Fran Bailey, Zia Allaway, Royal Horticultural Society

Book cover of RHS Practical House Plant Book: Choose The Best, Display Creatively, Nurture and Care, 175 Plant Profiles

Why this book?

Sometimes you need to refer to the highest authority and in the case of plants, that means the Royal Horticultural Society. So when it comes to knowing which house plant is which, what conditions they like, and how to care for them, you can’t really do better than this book. With 175 different plant profiles, the one you picked up without a label at the supermarket is bound to be there, not to mention more exotic offerings that scream "I need special care." 

RHS Practical House Plant Book: Choose The Best, Display Creatively, Nurture and Care, 175 Plant Profiles

By Fran Bailey, Zia Allaway, Royal Horticultural Society

Why should I read it?

1 author picked RHS Practical House Plant Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Turn your indoors into a green oasis! Learn about 175 house plants and follow step-by-step projects to create an indoor garden.

A plant book perfect for people who live in apartments and enthusiastic gardeners who want to move their gardening expertise inside! Learn how to create an indoor garden that will improve your wellbeing, is good for the environment, and will bring tranquillity to your home.

The RHS Practical House Plant Book shows you how to create a green home - literally. Inside this plant guide you'll find:

- A "Designing with Houseplants" section that reveals key principles for choosing,…


Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants

By Hilton Carter,

Book cover of Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants

Why this book?

The clue here to why this is a great book is one word in the subtitle: ‘style’. You may know how to look after your houseplants and be confident in their care but how do they look in your home? If you drool over Instagram shots of homes that seem to drip greenery from ceiling to floor, then this is the book for you. There is absolutely nothing minimalist about Hilton Carter’s love of houseplants. Every corner of his Baltimore home is packed with plants. Don’t even start to think about his watering routinejust enjoy his creativity and pinch some ideas for your own home however modest.

Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants

By Hilton Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild at Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Hilton Carter's love for plants is infectious... His lush and exuberant displays are inspiring reminders that plants can be so much more than neat little containers on a window sill." Grace Bonney, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Design*Sponge

Take a tour through Hilton's own apartment and other lush spaces, filled with a huge array of thriving plants, and learn all you need to know to create your own urban jungle. As the owner of over 200 plants, Hilton feels strongly about the role of plants in one's home - not just for the beauty they add, but for health benefits as well:…


Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

By Ruth Kassinger,

Book cover of Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

Why this book?

Sometimes you don’t need glossy colour photographs of plants to be transported to green pastures. Ruth Kassinger charts her journey from complete plant novice to houseplant addict enchantingly with stories of visits to nurseries across the US as she learns about the plants she longs for and how they are grown. Before long, her conservatory fills with treasures, each with a story to tell. You come away inspired and encouraged to follow in her footsteps to create your own green patchwork of plants even if you live in the smallest apartment in the most inhospitable climate.

Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

By Ruth Kassinger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paradise Under Glass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paradise Under Glass is a witty and absorbing memoir about one woman's unlikely desire to build, stock, and tend a small conservatory in her suburban Maryland home. Ruth Kassinger's wonderful story of the unique way she chose to cope with the profound changes in her life-a book that will delight readers of Eat, Pray, Love and I Feel Bad About My Neck-is interwoven with the fascinating history of conservatories from the Renaissance orangeries to the glass palaces of Kew.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in houseplants, Maryland, and gardening?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about houseplants, Maryland, and gardening.

Houseplants Explore 14 books about houseplants
Maryland Explore 10 books about Maryland
Gardening Explore 70 books about gardening

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Random House Book of Indoor and Greenhouse Plants Vol. 1, A Family Guide to Terrariums for Kids, and The Indestructible Houseplant if you like this list.