Lucky thrift shop finds – Old plant care books with a story to tell

by mandybollegraf

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It’s no surprise that a book lover + plant lady + nostalgia nut like myself gets excited about old plant care books. I’ve been collecting them for years and I never forget to rummage through the book section in thrift shops. My passion for collecting these ‘green’ books has resulted in a big stack which is growing ever still. I’ve read them all, they’re truly the best places to look for great plant care tips. I’ll end this article by giving you my top 5!

Lots of lucky thrift shop finds! Like the old books, the watering can and the plant mister are secondhand as well.

My oldest book

First I want to tell you a little more about how great these books actually are. The oldest one I’ve found dates back to 1912. The year my grandpa first saw the light of day and one very big ship hit an iceberg. The Titanic did not make it as you know and my grandpa wasn’t granted a save passage through to the millennium either. But after 107 years this small. green book which most likely has been travelling from bookshelf to bookshelf, is still going strong!

My oldest plant care book is from 1912 and it’s called ‘PLANT LIFE’.
Most plant care books I find are from the 50s, 60s and 70s. This duo however is from the roaring 20s. The one in front is called ‘SUCCULENTS’ and the other ‘HOUSEPLANTS’. How amazing are these art deco/art nouveau covers?!


Probably the best thing about old books, I think, is the way they tell you something about the spirit of the age. You really get that sense of long-lost times and get amazed about how much has actually changed. And I’m not just talking about how language evolved. I absolutely love the old pictures of retro interiors! Even better are the little surprises I find between the pages. People leave all kinds of stuff in their books. I’ve found plant care labels, leaflets of plant nurseries, letters, notes, newspaper clippings and even dried flowers and leaves. I love it!

Some of the things I’ve found between the pages of old plant books.
More ‘extras’!

I promised you the best plant care tips I’ve found in these books over the years.  So, here they are!

My top 5:
Water your plants in the morning. At night when plants take a rest from photosynthesizing all day the roots don’t take up as much water as they can during the day.
Never water or mist your plants with cold water. Make sure it’s lukewarm or at room temperature. Using rainwater is best, since it doesn’t contain calcium or chlorine like tap water. Boiled tap water is an option too, let it cool down before you use it.
Yellow or brown leaves can have many causes, overfertilizing is one of them. So, always stick to the right amount of plant feed. It’s safer to use a little less than to overdo it. In autumn & winter you can skip using it all together.
When watering cacti and succulents don’t water at one spot. Spread it out to avoid drowned roots caused by overwatering. Watering on top of these plants is a definite no-go. Don’t forget that Snake Plants are succulents too 🙂
The warmth coming from radiators dries out the air in the room and tropical houseplants have a hard time coping with low humidity. The air right by a radiator is driest. If you want to put plants in your window sills and there’s a radiator right underneath them, place a deep shelf on it. That way the air gets sent further into the room and the dried-out air doesn’t hit the luscious green leaves of your plant as much.

Old meets new

It’s as clear as day: I LOVE old (plant) books! I’ve learnt so much from them over the years. At the moment I’m writing my very own plant care book, which will be published this year. It will definitely be a nod to the past. I can’t wait for my newbie to be united with his ‘ancestor’s’ in my plant care book case!


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