Hygge and houseplants

Houseplant/bulb hyggeness in a kitchen corner

On a whim, I googled the two words, and, as expected, houseplants are included in the lifestyle instructions issued by the hygge movement. I wouldn’t be insulting readers by assuming they don’t know what this Danish word means because there is no good English translation, but I am sure you’ve at least seen it in print. Hygge—loosely—means coziness. Important elements include good lighting, comfy chairs, good food and drink, and—very important—conversation. It’s about creating a comfortable, stress-reducing atmosphere, and it’s not actually as easy as it may sound. But plants make the long list, especially sturdy varieties that won’t make you worry (stress: bad) about their survival in central heating. So, think aloe, sensevieria, the dracaena family, and other stalwarts.

Plants definitely make me feel cozy, but only if they’re healthy, and even more if they’re flowering. It’s cozy enough in my house now, where the Osmanthus fragrans has been blooming nonstop for months, and the hippeastrum and narcissus ‘erlicheer’ are finally opening. We string LED lights on a couple bigger plants; this definitely adds to a feeling of warmth. Add cut flowers in short containers and candles: very hygge.

I ignore most trends (have never tried to “spark joy”—otherwise known as unnecessary cleaning), but I do get hygge and its ilk. In colder climates, you need to create an ambiance that hugs you without being too messy.

As you may have heard, there’s a new Danish lifestyle buzzword: lykke, which aims for a more ambitious, but related, goal: happiness.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I just did an article on this topic for the Kentucky Gardener. A good way to approach life and our gardens since we have had Nordic Weather… I enjoyed your article.

  2. I am tired of being told to embrace slower lifestyles by the same people who are keeping the population frantic with a never ending diet of the latest things we need to buy to achieve that lifestyle. There’s a disconnect there, no matter what language you use to make it sexier. Just read the following in a marketing brochure for Hygge by a company that will remain nameless – “For a meta experience, pick up your knitting needles for a self-soothing and stress-reducing activity.” Meta experience?!? WTH? I’d rather just knit a sweater. Thanks for the post Elizabeth – just my little rant… And better here than on my site. 🙂

  3. I have many houseplants, and I especially enjoy those that bloom in winter–my moth orchids (Phalaenopsis hybrids), and slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum hybrids), which also bloom in spring, Thanksgiving and Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera hybrids), and various Begonias. I usually buy a small Poinsettia, although I generally avoid throw-away plants. I don’t need a trend from Scandinavia to enlighten me about coziness, comfort, and an focus on quality, although I appreciate that Scandinavian society is superior to US society in pretty much all measures of quality of life and well-being! I also knit, make quilts, and do lots of other arts & crafts, plus I intensively garden my little suburban half acre.

  4. This is an interesting thread. I used to love browsing the lifestyle/plant porn catalogs and magazines, but then I hit a wall of saturation, kind of like what Marianne describes. It feels like each year we are only exposed to what the trend-setters put out there, and it becomes stifling and frankly boring to see the same colors, styles and shapes everywhere. I understand why this is, but it really turns me off. But now I’m moving into a new house, and have choices to make about furniture, decoration, etc and so I am blending things we’ve had for years with what is available out there in the market. The one thing I know I will work around are my houseplants, some of which go back 25+ years and have had many babies.

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