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Gaining ground: Houseplant gardening blooms in popularity during pandemic

by Janet B. Carson January 22, 2022 at 1:32 a.m.
A customer's designer shoe became a striking planter for "air succulents" at Dandelion Home and Garden Store in Hillcrest. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Gardening continues to be one of the top hobbies in the country, but the type of gardening fluctuates in popularity.

Gardening encompasses landscaping, vegetable or fruit gardening, lawn care and interior gardening. Sometimes perennials are the star; edible gardening has been the superstar for the past few years. An up-and-coming contender is houseplants.

Indoor plant gardening is on the rise, with more and more people adding houseplants to their homes than ever before.

It could be that since people were staying home and had more time, they needed something to fill that time. Growing houseplants gives you something you have control over, something to care about. Watching a plant grow or flower or put on fruit can be exciting. Seeing something you have nurtured thrive can be very fulfilling. And houseplants are a way to bring nature inside. They can make your living space inviting, and they can fill a void left behind after the holiday decorations are gone.

Whatever the reason, the popularity of houseplants has increased dramatically in the last few years, and it looks like that trend is continuing.

Growing houseplants is not new. Many people can remember their grandmother's windowsill full of African violets or a mason jar with a philodendron vine draped across the room. Surprisingly, it is the younger generation of millennials leading the pack in the new burst of enthusiasm for indoor gardening.

Marketing studies suggest that millennials are very concerned about wellness, and there is plenty of research that showcases the healthy effects of having plants nearby. Houseplants help to clean the air. In 1989, NASA did a study that is still relevant today, documenting the benefits of houseplants on indoor air quality. The initial study was done on a limited number of plants, but since then, researchers have found that many plants remove toxins. Some of the best include philodendrons and pothos, Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema sp.), spider or airplane plant (Chlorophytum), dracaenas and peace lily (Spathiphyllum).

  photo  Luanne Blaylock adjusts displays at Dandelion Home and Garden Store, 2923 Kavanaugh Blvd. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)
 
 
DECOR AND PLANTS

Houseplants are available at a wide array of stores from nurseries and garden centers to grocery and specialty stores. A new type of plant business opened in 2021 in Little Rock. Dandelion Home and Garden Store in Hillcrest — a combination plant store and home decor store — is the brainchild of Susan Veasey and Rachel Morris, partners in business and in life.

The shop — at 2923 Kavanaugh Blvd. — is chock-full of plants but also antiques, local art and decorating ideas. The shop showcases how you can use the plants it sells in a wide array of home settings.

While Veasey is more the decor/design person, Morris has the love of houseplants. They moved to Little Rock from Dallas to enjoy a bit of a slower pace. They wanted a business that would meet both their needs, but also be of value to the community. They found a retail concept they both can enjoy, with each sharing her strengths.

Veasey, a full-time nurse at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, uses her off-time to work in the store and decompress from all the stress of the covid unit. Plants can do that — they can offer an escape from some pretty stressful times.

Their business name sums up their ideas. Dandelions are tough, durable plants with deep roots, and although some may consider the dandelion a weed, it produces a beautiful flower, the plants are edible, and you can make a wish with the seed pod — a versatile plant, and a versatile business.

Dandelion offers a wide array of houseplants in a variety of sizes at a variety of price points, and for someone starting out, they offer plenty of small plants. Dandelion will help you choose a plant that is right for your home. They will also share cultural information so you understand how to care for the plant.


UNIQUE PLANTERS

The same can be said for the home decor lines. While they do carry antiques, they also feature art, jewelry and a wide range of home goods. They seek out items from small, unique, startup businesses with interesting products to showcase.

Trying to mesh the two parts of their business, they started combining their antiques with their plants, turning some of their decor inventory into creative planters. You can choose one of their planted containers or bring in your own container. Dandelion will work with you to create a design using succulents or houseplants that will enhance both container and plants.

SUCCULENTS

Recently, a customer brought in a designer shoe, and the end result was pretty amazing, with an arrangement of "air succulents" that showcased both the plants and the shoe. The shop also uses succulents in wedding designs and as favors for baby and wedding showers — a lasting reminder of a memorable event.

Succulent plants have been gaining in popularity, and more varieties are available in Arkansas than just the familiar hens and chicks. Succulents have thick, fleshy leaves. They survive well in dry conditions. Air succulents are something a bit different.

Air succulents are a relatively new offering from Holland. Succulent plants would be planted in soil; but these air succulents have had the roots cut off and a callus has formed. They can be grouped in decorative containers, left to sit on a shelf or made into a living wreath.

They are not considered long-lived plants, but they will last longer in humid locations like a bathroom or kitchen. They can absorb moisture from the air. Some growers recommend a light misting of the plants to extend their life, but any lingering water droplets on the foliage would lead to problems.

Consider air succulents as an alternative to a bouquet of flowers — they will last much longer and are extremely easy to take care of.

If you prefer potted succulents, they sell those as well, along with many other houseplants and a diverse mix of cacti.

HOUSEPLANT TIPS

If you are new to gardening, start small and grow your success.

The two main things houseplants need to survive are sunlight and water. The biggest killer of houseplants is overwatering, so learn something about what your plant needs to thrive — light and moisture needs will vary with species.

Pothos, Chinese evergreens, philodendrons and dracaenas are all good choices to start with.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Houseplants are a lot less demanding than a pet, and a lot less expensive as well. Once you get the knack for it, branch out and add to your collection or, better yet, divide or propagate and share with your friends.

If you don't own a houseplant, it is time get on that train. There are lots of options out there.

Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.

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