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News / Business / Clark County Business

A growing trend: Indoor plant stores are sprouting up around Clark County

‘The trend comes from wanting the home to feel alive’

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 30, 2024, 6:12am
7 Photos
Matt Sievert, owner of Bright Indirect Light Social Club, looks over exotic plants at his Uptown Village shop. When he&rsquo;s not at the store, he&rsquo;s at home, caring for his own 150 house plants.
Matt Sievert, owner of Bright Indirect Light Social Club, looks over exotic plants at his Uptown Village shop. When he’s not at the store, he’s at home, caring for his own 150 house plants. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Forget about the red and blue waves of politics. A green wave is sweeping the country, bringing a proliferation of indoor plants to homes near you (or perhaps to your own home). What may have begun as a pandemic-era pastime seems to have bloomed into serious obsession, generating $16.2 billion in 2022, according to Acumen Research and Consulting — revenue that’s expected to double in the next decade.

Until recently, the only place to feed the houseplant frenzy in Clark County was a nursery or grocery store. Now several local retailers cater specifically to “plant parents,” while other businesses like Pop-Local on the Vancouver waterfront and Acorn & the Oak in Camas (florist by day, restaurant by night) offer a robust indoor plant selection.

“I think the trend comes from wanting the home to feel alive,” said Matt Sievert, owner of Bright Indirect Light Social Club, a new indoor plant shop in downtown Vancouver. “It’s a sacred space for a lot of people. You go in and the air is fresh and there’s vibrant green and a sense of peacefulness.”

From metal to monstera

Sievert, a former welder who changed careers to avoid the job’s physical toll, estimates that he and his wife have about 150 houseplants in their house. He said it’s hard to give an exact number because they move plants between home and shop and “keep adding to the collection.” Sievert, who said his green thumb stood out in his family of black thumbs, enjoys plant-keeping partly because of its mental health benefits. Plants boost mindfulness, he said, and taking care of living things is a labor of love.

IF YOU GO

Bright Indirect Light Social Club, 1600 Washington St., Suite 111, Vancouver; 503-754-6930; brightindirectlightsocialclub.com
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays
Upcoming workshops: Staghorn mounting class ($45), 4:30 p.m. April 21. Register in person at the store.

Ratany Bloom, 1911 Main St., Unit B, Vancouver; 360-448-7702; ratanybloom.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays
Upcoming workshops: Kokedama moss ball ($45), 1 to 2:30 p.m. April 7 and 21; cacti and succulent arrangement ($75), 4 to 6 p.m. April 18

Suburban Succulents, 10515 N.E. 71st St., Vancouver; 360-843-6602; suburbansucculents.com
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. today and Sunday; otherwise by appointment

His views are in step with an array of studies suggesting that houseplants lower stress, increase productivity, reduce sick days, purify the air and generally contribute to well-being (research that’s been, confusingly, both verified and debunked by further studies).

Before opening his Uptown Village store in December, he and his wife sold plants at street markets and at Kindred Homestead Supply. (Ridgefield Mercantile still carries a selection of Bright Indirect Light Social Club’s plants.) Sievert said he’s inspired by Hilton Carter, an author, interior designer and “plant stylist,” e.g., an expert in decorating living spaces with plants. Carter, who’s designed a line of plant-related products for Target, is a “plantfluencer,” posting on social media about his urge to care for plants. Sievert said he can relate.

“It’s my break in my day,” Sievert said. “I come home and check on them and talk to my plants.”

‘A way of life’

Adriane Savelli, 34, started selling succulents at the Salmon Creek Farmers Market before she opened Suburban Succulents in 2018 in her Orchards garage — or “residential boutique,” as she calls it, which is open by appointment. She sells succulents, cactuses, tillandsia (aka air plants) and tropical plants through her store. She said that 75 percent of her profits come from plant maintenance services for homes and offices, where she helps with leaf cleaning, regular fertilization, pest control, trimming and pruning. She occasionally offers workshops or “plant parties,” teaching people how to create succulent terrariums and other potted arrangements but has scaled back since her daughter was born in 2022.

Savelli’s horticultural prowess developed while she was studying business management and entrepreneurship at San Jose State University in California. To make ends meet, she worked for a company that did plant maintenance for office spaces. She propagated plant cuttings to grow at home. Plant care became “a way of life,” she said. Now it gives her the flexibility she needs as a new mother, she said, noting that she used to keep regular shop hours but that’s harder with a baby. However, because she’s been in business so long, she has many repeat customers and offers delivery through Door Dash. She enjoys finding the perfect fit between plant and owner.

“It’s not about selling the plant,” Savelli said. “It’s, ‘Are you satisfied? Is your plant doing well?’ If not, let’s find you something that will make you happy.”

Bloom and grow

Ratany Bloom opened in July on owner Ratany Ouk’s 40th birthday. Before that, she worked as a fine jewelry consultant and managed her own part-time floral design and delivery business. Ouk, a Vancouver resident, sold her arrangements at a maker’s market in Sellwood, Ore., but expanded to a brick-and-mortar store to accommodate more bridal clients. She’d always loved houseplants, she said, so it made sense to include them in her shop. Her boutique on Main Street in Uptown Village is a tranquil, green oasis with succulents, tropical plants and larger potted plants. For Ouk, plants are a source of comfort as well as creative inspiration.

“There’s something about plants. They talk to me,” Ouk said. “Every plant I bring in, I wipe the leaves down. I put pebbles in the pot. I give it a lot of love before I put it out on the floor.”

Ouk offers regular “Sip and Bloom” workshops at her store, combining instruction on plant arrangements with glasses of bubbly. She’s a devotee of kokedama, or the Japanese art of wrapping an ornamental plant’s roots in a moss-covered soil ball that can be hung or displayed on a saucer. She said that sharing her know-how is a rewarding way to cultivate relationships with regular customers and appreciates “growing with them” (pun intended).

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) may be driving the trend, posting TikTok videos and Instagram photos of lush, flora-filled interior spaces. Plants might be taking up the emotional space formerly reserved for pets, with an estimated 70 percent of millennials referring to themselves as “plant parents,” according to swns-research.medium.com. Perhaps that’s why it’s surprising that growertalks.com puts the average age of houseplant-buyers in the United States at 51. If so, it’s not surprising to Savelli.

“I work with a lot of older women,” Savelli said. “I have ladies that aren’t looking for plant trends. They just want a plant that is going to do well in their space.”

This isn’t the first time that houseplants have loomed large in home décor, said Sievert. They were also popular in the 1970s, when spider plants in macrame plant hangers were all the rage. Might some of today’s older plant-lovers be enjoying a bit of green nostalgia? Sievert said his weekend clientele tends to be under 40 but on weekdays, he sees more retirees. However, he wondered if phytophilia (love of plants) may have less to do with age and more to do with “a personality type,” he said, “very expressive, more of an artsy-type vibe.”

Or maybe people own plants simply because plants are nice to be around. Sievert said he’s surprised every day by the number of “people who just want to spend time in the space” soaking up some green vitality. Ouk said she’s had the same experiences with visitors to her store.

“Plants give you such a good energy when they’re in your space,” Ouk said. “When somebody starts with one plant, they see how good it makes them feel, and then they want to see how many different kinds of plants they can have.”

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