Plants are having a moment, especially with millennials. Despite all of the articles about what industries millennials are killing, plants and nurseries are safe.
Story by Kennedy Williams
Photos by Brianna Casselman
Perhaps it is because fewer millennials are buying homes compared to other generations. Or maybe it is because health is at the top of millennials’ priority lists. For many, becoming a “plant parent” is equally about creating an aesthetically pleasing environment as it is about finding joy in nurturing something.
These two local plant stores are the perfect go-tos for plant shopping and apartment inspiration.
Nestled between Breakaway Records and Blue Velvet on North Loop is Flourish Shop, part jewelry design space and part plant store. The mix of minimalist jewelry and sleek houseplants are the perfect juxtaposition, drawing shoppers in from the ever-crowded parking lot. ORANGE Magazine sat with owner Rachel Roberts to discuss her inspiration for the shop and how she merges jewelry design and plants.
When was Flourish founded?
We opened in August of 2017.
What was the inspiration for the shop's name?
I knew that I wanted to have a storefront and do something with plants. Aside from jewelry, plants are my other passion. I was looking for a name that embodied the sense of what I was doing and “flourish” just popped into my head because it is the definition of everything that matters: a flourish life, a flourishing business, growing and prospering. It seemed perfect!
Take me back a little bit, have you always been into design?
I got my BFA from University of Texas at Austin but I wasn’t necessarily always into design. I was more into the art side of things. Right after I graduated I started making jewelry and I realized that I loved all things design.
Have you always been into plants or is this a relatively newfound passion?
I’ve always loved them but within the last few years I’ve really gotten into incorporating them into interior design and decorating. I love that! I think plants bring such a life into your space and environment. You can’t help but to be happy when you’re surrounded by plants.
What void in the market do you think Flourish fills by merging jewelry and plants?
I feel like there was definitely a need for a store like this in this part of town. We don’t really have designer boutiques or a place for people to come and get a little something for their home in their own neighborhood. I am definitely speaking to a niche over here.
Why do you think there are so many independent plant stores popping up?
There’s a plant renaissance right now. Plants have become a huge industry again. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with social media and design blogs. If you’re really into design or you just pick up a catalog for an interior design store they have these amazing plants in there. People are putting out really great work out there on Instagram with plants in their pictures and people want to be a part of that. On the plant supply end of that, we’ve seen it completely change over the last two years.
What are some of your best sellers?
The snack plants are popular because they’re so easy. Any kind of ivy as well. People love the ivies because they’re easy and they look great in every space. And then there’s the succulents. People can’t get enough of those. As long as they get good light you can’t go wrong with those.
Tucked away at the corner of Mary Street and South First, Frond Plant Shop is a dreamy enclave of tropical plants, pastel-colored pots and wicker chairs that make visitors want to stay for the day. Owner Sara Cecilia Barnes opened Frond in the summer of 2016 and has maintained a strong following ever since.
What were some of your goals when you founded Frond?
I really wanted to marry houseplants with home decor. As I’ve been open a little longer I’ve realized that part of my job is helping people care for plants. For some reason, I never really thought of that when I started. I’m self taught, so it’s not like I know everything but I have a lot of experience. I’ve killed a lot of plants!
What’s your background in? You mentioned that you’re not trained in botany.
I’m an artist first and foremost. My dad is an artist and my mom is a designer. I moved to Austin from the hill country and I needed something to do. I always wanted to open a shop. When I was younger my parents had a home decor shop and I wanted to be like them. My houseplants are my hobbies so I knew I had to include that in my business.
What’s your curation process like?
I don’t really have one! I’m so interested in so many styles and some things may not go together but when I put them in a space it makes sense. I feel like if you take one or two pieces they could be a certain style, but if you take several there’s a nice juxtaposition.
How would you describe the vibe of the shop?
Very natural with the colors. A mix. It’s rustic and warm but there are some fancy parts too.
How did you choose South Austin as the neighborhood to have the shop?
It’s always been my area. I’ve always lived in South Austin. Having grown up in the hill country, we’d come to Austin every weekend because it was so close. We always hung out in South Austin. It’s kind of where my roots are.
What are your thoughts on the current energy around plants and their trendiness?
I think it’s a wave. My mom is such a plant lady. In the ‘70s she had all of the vinyl plants and macrame. Things always come in waves. Now we’re in the wave where plants are extremely popular. I feel like plants are becoming more popular with people our age because it gives us something to take care of. It seems like an adult thing to do. It’s almost like plants are the adult versions of Chia Pets for us.
That’s so true! What makes Frond special or unique for you?
I think it’s the collection of everything in the store. It’s the mix of plants and planters. Customers always comment on the variety of planters I have to complement the plants. That’s half the fun of getting a plant, putting it in something great.
Do you work with local artisans for the planters?
I try to keep it local if I can. I have a few handmade planters I’ve found on Etsy wholesale that come from around the country. Settle Ceramics is local and I have some custom pieces from Samantha [Heligman, the founder]. It’s cool. I like to have fun with it.
What are some plants you’d recommend?
I’m really into ZZ [Zanzibar Gem] plants. I love a good Philodendron.
Before heading out to Flourish or Frond Plant Shop, here are five basics for keeping plants alive while being a college student.
- Start small. Big plants are eye-catching but pacing yourself is important, especially in shared living spaces and packed dorm rooms.
- Do your research. Know which plants work best in low, indoor lighting.
- Do a soil test. While it seems like plants need to be watered every few days, they are not that high maintenance. Check the plant’s moisture level by sticking a finger a few inches into the soil. If it’s dry, water it! It’s best to saturate the soil when watering succulents, for example, and then let it dry completely.
- Water according to your class schedule. If you know you watered the plant last week before going to your UGS, check the soil moisture this week before going to that class.
- Talk to the sales associate. Shopping for plants can be intimidating and it’s easy to get caught up in what looks pretty. Let them know what your space is like. Even show them pictures if you can. This is especially important when figuring out what plants will be the most likely to survive in your dorm or apartment.