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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

House plants
in and after 1940s wartime Britain

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Carrot tops: a common houseplant in 1940s wartime Britain.

A common houseplant in 1940s wartime Britain.

In early 1940s wartime Britain, all the country's resources went into the war effort. Buying new houseplants was almost impossible. Fortunately some house plants from before the war were well tended and continued to brighten up homes throughout the war, and also fortunately some of their owners did take cuttings for friends and neighbours. However, in general it was make do and be creative with what was available.

This page is about one creatively produced type of houseplant that I well remember from my own childhood home and other homes that I visited.

I grew one specially for this page. Have a look at it in the photo. Can you guess what it is?

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Creative houseplants

This photo is taken from a different angle, looking downwards. That should give you a clue.

Detail of a carrot-top houseplant showing the carrot top bases in a dish of water.

Detail of a carrot-top houseplant showing the carrot top bases in a dish of water.

Yes, the foliage is from carrots. It is actually from three of them to produce a bushier looking result. So perhaps 'houseplants' would be a better term than 'houseplant'.

In World War Two vegetables that grew in Britain, ie that did not have to be imported, were off-ration. This did not mean that they were always available, but carrots, like potatoes and cabbages were more readily available than other vegetables. Farms grew them for city dwellers and householders grew what they could in their back gardens.

On the home front of wartime Britain and in the austerity afterwards, no-one could afford to waste food. However, using carrot tops for houseplants was not wasteful. It merely involved making use of the left-over waste, once the carrots had been peeled and cooked for eating - but see Peter Johnson's comment in the box.

Other uses of carrot tops

Carrot tops had other uses: They were fed to the rabbits that many people kept in their back gardens for free and off-ration meat.

Also carrot top foliage could be chopped up and put into salads.

Peter Johnson

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How to grow your own houseplant from carrot tops

A carrot top prepared for growing on as a type of houseplant common in the Britain of WW2.

A carrot top prepared for growing on as a type of houseplant.

To prepare a carrot top for growing as a houseplant, just cut off the leaves and most of the carrot as shown in the photograph.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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