A Philadelphia Renters Guide to Houseplants
Nothing livens up an apartment more than plants. Whether you already know how to coax blooms out of a reluctant amaryllis or have a reputation as a serial plant killer, Philly has knowledgeable plant shops throughout the City, ready to help.
Choosing the right houseplants for your apartment is like going on a first date. It’s not just about what looks good to you. It’s about matching your space and preferences to the plant’s needs. To make the process easier, we have provided a list of things to keep in mind. Jot down your answers and take them with you when you visit a plant shop.
Before you go
Be prepared to answer questions:
- What kind of sun exposure do you have – east, west, north or south?
- Is the light blocked by any tall buildings or trees?
- Do you want a high, medium or low maintenance plant?
- Will plants be on window sills, in window boxes, hanging, or on the floor?
- Do you have pets?
- Do you prefer succulents, tropical plants or exotics?
- What is your plant budget?
“Most people are beginners,” said Tara Alexander, owner of Urban Jungle in East Passyunk. “They do best with hardy plants like pothos, philodendrons and snake plants which do not need a lot of care and require less light. These plants tell you when they need water. They droop!”
If you travel a lot or simply can’t be bothered with weekly upkeep, start with a snake plant. “They thrive on neglect,” quipped Alexander. A once-a-month watering will do. Plus, snake plants will rise to new heights, up to three feet tall. Alexander recommends placing your snake plant on a stand for a more dramatic effect.
Before you pick out an artisanal ceramic container, Alexander advises taking your plant home in its original pot and living with it for a while. “Some plants do better in smaller containers, others need to be transferred to a larger pot. Give it some time before making a change,” she said.
These days, everyone wants a kitchen herb garden even if they live on take-out. Urban Jungle will be getting herbs closer to Spring, but cautions that they are not easy to grow. “Herbs are outdoor plants that like heat during the day and cool nights. They need a windowsill with a lot of sun,” said Alexander. “A grow light and a humidifier will help, especially in winter.”
Undecided? Pick up an Urban Jungle Houseplant Grab Bag – four “mystery” plants for $40.
Located in the heart of Fairmount, Plants Etc. is an adorable little shop with a big heart. Established in 1982, owner Dana Kalens designs and delivers some of the classiest window boxes in town, as far as Fishtown. (Speaking of classy, she also does the window foliage at Rittenhouse Square fashionista destination Sophy Curson.)
Known for its specials on Foliage Fridays and Succulent Saturdays, Kalens also offers DIY kits for making your own succulent garden in a glass bowl. Pair that with a bottle of cabernet and a few friends and it’s a party! Not into DIY? No problem. Kalen’s will have a succulent garden ready for pickup or delivery.
This is also the place to get colorful geraniums for your terrace or a tall statement plant indoors. Big things happen in this little shop!
City Planter owners Mary Costello and Peter Smith channel their 25 years of horticultural experience into making novices feel confident. “We will give you advice on how to keep your plants alive, even if you don’t have a green thumb,” said Costello.
During the pandemic, the store has been closed to the public for indoor shopping but their online shop continues to offer a wide variety of houseplants of all shapes and sizes, including African violets, Bonsai plants and herbs.
Check out their Garage. There you will find a selection of plants and containers that don’t come up to the standards for sale in the shop but are still worthy of love. Grab a bargain for bubkas. 100% of proceeds from the Garage go towards organizations in need.
Vault & Vine combines a café and small scale event venue with a lush selection of houseplants. It feels like something you’d expect to find in SoHo or Paris, not on Midvale Avenue in East Falls. Originally launched as Falls Flowers in 2009 at another location, the owner Peicha Chang made the leap to her current concept and location in 2017.
“We promise houseplants that are almost impossible to kill,” said Chang. “And we’ll help find plants tailored to your unique space.”
Want to be surprised? Become a member of Vault & Vine’s Plant of the Month Club, a three-month subscription. Each plant comes potted in Organic Mechanics soil and includes an instructional video to help you succeed. You can pick low maintenance, pet safe and air purifying. Members receive their plants the second week of every month by pickup or delivery. Subscriptions – which make a great gift – fill up fast.
Ultimately, the plants you bring into your apartment are a reflection of your personality and style. Delicate or audacious. Whimsical or seductive. Graceful or prickly. They will grow with you, change with the seasons and reciprocate your nurturing care.