Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed the growth of indoor plant culture in New York. Living walls—a term few of us would have recognized ten years ago—are now a common fixture in the city, from cafes like Milk and Honey to hotel lobbies like One Brooklyn Bridge. If you don’t already have an air plant, succulent or a terrarium, you’ve seen them everywhere by now, especially in the pages of West Elm catalogs. Even the New York Times is on to the trend, and tracing the roots of it to “wellness-minded Millennials, especially ones in large urban environments that lack natural greenery” who “are opting to fill their voids — both decorative and emotional — with houseplants.” (Really?!)
I’m not convinced that one cohort is the sole source of the plant boom (and don’t believe plants are that much of a panacea), but there are certainly a growing number of outlets to get your greenery on in New York. Along with traditional plant stores and nurseries, you can now find pre-potted plants in a mobile greenhouse that roams Brooklyn; in at least three stores that double as coffee shops (here, here and here), and at plant swap meetups and sites for green thumbs to trade specimens.
To find out the coolest plants to add to or start your indoor garden, we polled the most well-curated plant sources in NYC for their favorite, unique variety. You’ll want to keep their recommendations on hand April 28 and 29 at Understory, a new event (of which we’re a media partner) that includes an epic plant sale and workshops for budding horticulturalists and botanists.
Taryne Messer, garden designer and organizer of the annual Saipua Plant Sale
In addition to designing and installing gardens in New York City, Taryne Messer has organized Saiupa’s annual plant sale for the past four years. “It’s like the MET Gala meets Black Friday for houseplants,” she says. The biggest Saipua sale yet will be at Understory April 28 and 29. Says Messner, “We’re excited to showcase some incredible specimens this year in a space like 99 Scott.” Here is the variety she is loving right now.
Favorite, unique plant that will be at Understory:
Creeping Onion (Bowiea volubilis)
The growth pattern: it’s a large naked (dormant) bulb during the winter and then in the spring the most delicate serpentine foliage erupts from the center. The shadow cast by its silhouette is my favorite art on my walls.
It thrives off neglect like a proper city plant should. Offset it from a sunny window and allow it to lightly dry out between waterings. It’s an aggressive viner so make sure there’s a surface for it grow along, offer additional support.
$35-55 (contingent to size)
Christan Summers, founder, Tula House and Tulita
Christan Summers founded Tula in 2016, which she runs with her partner, Ivan Martinez. Together they sell a curated selection of pre-potted plants at their showroom, Tula House, each of which comes in limited edition planter made in collaboration with local ceramicists. They sell the same selection, as well as unpotted plants and planters, from their mobile greenhouse, the “Tulita.” You can see them and shop their collection at Understory, and follow their Instagram to learn of more Tulita outings.
Favorite, unique plant sold at Tula House:
The Epiphyllum anguliger
The Epiphyllum anguliger is a tropical cactus and a member of the night blooming cereus family. It’s a great indoor plant due to its hardiness and low light requirements, and it also blooms! And the blooms are huge. Sometimes the size of your entire hand. But they only last about 12 hours so you’ve got to time it so you can be home to see the show.
These guys like bright indirect (some direct) sunlight. Which is what most of us have in the city. They also like to dry out between waterings, like most cacti. But they do like a thorough watering —so when the root ball has dried, give this guy a really good soak. Water less in winter, and more in spring/summer. Fertilize once a month in the spring/summer season.
They retail for $80 per plant.
Ryan Lee, co-founder, Rooted
Rooted is an online plant shop that delivers pre-potted plants to homes in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan (below Midtown). It soft-launched in January (you need to email them directly to order until their site goes live, or follow their Instagram for updates), and they hold occasional pop-ups, including one at Understory. The inspiration for the concept came from the real-life experience of moving into a big apartment and having a hard time finding and transporting, high-quality plants, said co-founder Ryan Lee. “We strongly believe in the connection between humans and the natural world, and just wanted to bring some of the outdoors, indoors. Also, plants are fun! Figuring out where to buy and how to transport them, not so much. We’re here to change all that.”
Favorite, unique plant sold at Rooted:
We’ve got so many favorites, but the Alocasia Stingrays have got to take the cake.
They’re just really weird. They look like something out of a sci-fi movie. They’ve got tons of personality and literally look like stingrays. They’re plant stingrays. You’re growing stingrays in your home, how cool is that?
They’re a relatively low care plant and great for beginners. They thrive in most indirect light situations and have moderate watering schedules. A general rule of thumb: plants don’t need that much water. It’s usually better to underwater than overwater, or else you could introduce root rot.
These guys go for $29 each, including delivery. We also have a wide selection of pots and will prep them for you prior to delivery.
Sofija Sutton and Ka Yee, Managers, Sprout Home Brooklyn
Sprout Home is one of the original, design-minded indoor and outdoor garden centers in New York. It opened in 2007 at 44 Grand St. in Williamsburg, and has since moved across the street to 59 Grand, while the original location now offers wares for the table and kitchen.
Favorite, unique plant currently in stock:
Sofija: The Rabbit Foot Fern.
Ka: Ferns in general would be great in bright, indirect sunlight. Rabbit foot ferns like to be a bit drier compared to other indoor ferns. Water approximately every four days or so. You would want to let 1/4 of the soil dry out before you water. Since it depends on the amount of sunlight you get to determine the watering schedule, the best way to figure that out is to touch the soil.
4″-8″ plants are approximately in the price range of $10-$30.
Your most popular plants:
Fiddle leaf fig and Monstera (always), ZZ plant and snake plant (both low maintenance), big cactus.
Susanne Kongoy, owner, GRDN
GRDN in Boerum Hill is another longtime, well-curated nursery and plant shop in Brooklyn. After a career as a chef, Susanne Kongoy opened her garden shop in 2004, where she sells outdoor and indoor plants, cut flowers, pottery, and home goods. She will also be on site at Understory.
Favorite, unique plant at the moment:
We love them for their natural form, silvery-green leaves,
and relatively easy care.
Staghorn Ferns like bright, indirect light, and once-a-week watering.
$24 for a 6-inch potted fern and $69 for the mounted version.