DESIGN-PLANTS

“People just want their space to be verdant and vital . . . whether it’s their inside office, adding houseplants, or their patio, keeping up their plants there,” said Chantal Aida Gordon, the author, along with Ryan Benoit, of the Los Angeles-based gardening blog Horticult. 

When Danae Horst and her husband, Bill, owners of plant nursery Folia Collective in Los Angeles, looked around in March, "we thought we were done," she said.

They feared for their livelihood at the beginning of the pandemic as shutdowns forced them to close their shop doors to walk-in customers and stop their in-home plant-styling consultations.

As of October, however, they've seen a 13 percent increase in sales over last year, even without those two major arms of their business, thanks to getting the plants onto the store's e-commerce site right away.

"We probably quadrupled our average on-hand plant volume, and it still feels like we just cannot restock fast enough," Horst said. "We have plants that sell out in five minutes."

This year has seen a boom in bread-making, home-schooling, outdoor entertaining - and, it seems, plant sales.

"Anecdotally, I've heard about people who design gardens having sales double and triple this year," said Chantal Aida Gordon, the author, along with Ryan Benoit, of the Los Angeles-based gardening blog Horticult and the book "How to Window Box." "People just want their space to be verdant and vital, . . . whether it's their inside office, adding houseplants, or their patio, keeping up their plants there."

If you want to green up a thumb or two, try these nurseries and plant shops that deliver nationwide. Don't forget your local nursery; many are starting to get in the delivery game, too. And if you're looking for the right plants to start with, we asked Horst, Gordon and Heather Rodino, author of "How to Houseplant," for some suggestions.

Where to shop

Andy's Orchids in Encinitas, Calif. Rodino is a fan of orchids, and Andy's is one of her favorite places to look for them. Rodino loves having flowering houseplants indoors, and orchid blooms can last for months. Andy's is good for mounted orchids, species orchids and miniatures, she said. Website: andysorchids.com.

Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond, Calif. "Their website is very accessible and full of really fascinating plants," Gordon said. "Their excitement and love and wonder of flowers, it's infectious." Although most plants are for outdoor gardening, the nursery sells succulents for inside, too. Plus, "they time when they send the plants out, so they won't get stuck in the post office over the weekend," she adds. Website: anniesannuals.com.

Gabriella Plants in Oviedo, Fla. "They only sell online, they grow all of their own plants, [and] they have a huge selection of interesting things," Horst said. The nursery ships directly from its warehouse. Website: gabriellaplants.com.

J&L Orchids in Easton, Conn. J&L is another place Rodino turns to for orchids. "Every plant I've gotten from them has been excellent," she said. Website: jlorchids.com.

Logee's in Danielson, Conn. For rarer plants, Gordon suggests Logee's. Because the company specializes in tropical plants, many will thrive indoors. "They sell a good variety online, and they also sell plants for outdoor gardening as well," Horst adds. Website: logees.com.

Monrovia in Visalia, Calif. "They package their plants amazingly," Gordon said. She recently ordered roses from the company, and "they arrived intact and they looked good." Monrovia also has nurseries in Connecticut, Georgia and Oregon, and it sells houseplants and container-garden plants, as well as outdoor-garden-only plants. Website: monrovia.com.

NSE Tropicals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. NSE specializes in "harder-to-find, more interesting tropical plants," Horst said. Of its options, she said Philodendron bipennifolium and Rhaphidophora tetrasperma aren't "super fussy." But for those who want a challenge, she likes Alocasia reginula, Anthurium crystallinum and Philodendron gloriosum in its large, round form. Website: nsetropicals.com.

Pistils in Portland, Ore. Pistils has "a lot of harder-to-find plants," Horst said, "which you don't see online as often." She names the Birkin philodendron as one. Pistils also has a monstera named Swiss Cheese Vine and a sansevieria named Samurai. Website: pistilsnursery.com.

The Sill in New York. The Sill caters to the urban houseplant gardener who has little space and time to care for plants. "You'll find a lot of good low- to medium- to bright- to indirect-light plants," Gordon said. Website: thesill.com.

Etsy, various locations. "I've had a surprising amount of luck on Etsy," Gordon said. "If you look at their [plant sellers'] reviews and they check out, chances are, you're going to get a good plant." When Rodino was let down by an Etsy plant, she was pleased that the seller adjusted the price, she said. Website: etsy.com.

As for which plants are trending, Horst said, "it feels like every plant is popular right now." Plants that were underappreciated or a little unusual are doing well with consumers. For example, a grower will deliver a batch of variegated syngonium to Folia Collective, and it sells out in minutes, she said.

"There's a contingency of plant people who are into plants for the status, the collector status, trying to find the next cool plants. It's kind of like the sneaker culture, but in plants," she said. She's seen someone spend $12,000 on one plant. For everyday consumers, though, plants are generally a low-investment addition to a home. The Sill, for example, offers a $60 set of five easy-to-care-for plants.

And in terms of caring for your plants once they arrive, Rodino said: "If you understand how plants are grown in the wild, you're setting yourself up for success." For example, Monstera deliciosa grows in "dappled light under the forest canopy," but a cactus gets full sun in a desert. That means that in your house, the monstera will do well in a room without direct light, while a cactus will need a window that gets plenty of sun.

Here are some plants to help you start your collection.

Plants to try

ZZ plant. Even in the darkest corner of her home, and when she neglects watering, Gordon's ZZ plants "are still sending out these amazing shoots that are very glossy," she said. "I think that's a great plant to get started with."

Philodendrons. A quick-growing plant, the philodendron only needs medium indirect light and water every week or two.

Pothos. This low-maintenance plant thrives in bright indirect light and only needs watering every week or two.

Satin pothos. Horst recommends this plant, Scindapsus pictus, with its beautiful silvery green leaves. It's a vining plant that only needs low to bright indirect light, and water when the soil is dry. (Don't let it see temperatures below 55 degrees.)

Snake plants. Because snake plants, or sansevieria, are so common, Gordon suggests going with a more interesting species of the genus. Sansevieria masoniana, for example, looks like a "tie-dye tongue sticking out of a pot," and Sansevieria cylindrica "looks like a miniature emerald city," she said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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