Edward Hartman and Alexis Short’s business has grown like a weed – or maybe like a tropical plant. The duo started selling, packing and shipping plants across the nation from a small room in their townhouse in Fort Worth in 2018. On Earth Day, they hosted a grand opening for their storefront, where they grow and sell plants that originate from all over the world.
“It definitely just kind of took over and consumed our lives,” Short said. “But in a really beautiful, passionate way. You don’t get many opportunities in life where you can really pursue what you feel like you’re really meant to do.”
The store, Planted Roots, follows a boom of interest in houseplants during the pandemic. They are one of many businesses in North Texas that grow and sell their own tropical plants.
Some tropical and rare plants can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars based on availability and shipping. Hartman and Short pollinate, propagate and grow their own tropical plants to make the plants more affordable.
COVID isolation acts as fertilizer to plant hobby
Plant sales have been rising consistently over the last few years, said Charlie Hall, a professor of international horticulture at Texas A&M University. Starting in the middle of 2020, sales increased at a much higher rate.
In 2021, sales rose 18% compared to the previous year, he said. As the COVID-19 pandemic caused more people to stay at home, the interest in the leafy products has increased.
“There’s been an interest in folks not only enhancing the aesthetics of their landscapes and interior escapes, but also being outdoors and being social and a lot of interaction,” Hall said.
Most sales come from large stores like Walmart, Lowes and Ace Hardware, Hall said. Specialty retail shops that sell rare plants, like Planted Roots, are growing in popularity.
Hartman and Short, who recently became parents to baby Amelia, have benefited from the boom.
Before becoming plant sellers, Hartman worked as a veterinary technician at an emergency hospital and Short worked at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
After quitting his job, Hartman wasn’t sure what to do, but he knew how to do one thing: Grow plants. As a child, he watched his father take care of plants in a greenhouse near his home.
When the pair sold 15 plants and made about $800 during their first week, they knew they could run a business from selling plants. As the business grew, they ran out of room in their house.
“It was just plants on plants,” Hartman said. “You couldn’t cook food without moving all the plants off the sink.”
Behind a large curtain at their new store, located on 1917 West Bowie St., a handful of humidifiers hum inside two plastic greenhouses full of tropical plants. Hartman and Short take smaller parts of their plants to grow new ones – a practice called cutting and propagating. They can take one piece of a plant and replicate it to make hundreds.
The plant business
Most independent stores in North Texas sell cuttings, Suzy Hassing, owner of The Plant Hustle, said. Otherwise, rarities like a fully grown Philodendron Jose Buono can cost around $1,500. It’s also not easy to find a good plant. There are scammers, price scalpers, and poachers.
“They’ll chime in in a plant (Facebook) group and try and sell their plants through replies to posts to unsuspecting people … it’s a huge racket,” Hassing said. “And it’s one of the reasons that these plants aren’t readily available to everybody.”
Sales on plants is one way independent stores stay affordable.
If you go: Planted Roots shop
Location: 1917 W. Bowie St.
Hours: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Hartman and Short hunt high and low for their eye-catching foliage. Getting a plant that’s pest-free is important, so they mostly go by word-of-mouth and trading. They ship to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Their hope is to eventually expand to a bigger farm — and continue helping people find the green companion they’ve been looking for.
“It’s really fun to connect with them and they say ‘Oh my god, I’ve been looking for this plant for 20 years … Can you ship it?” Short said.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.