Gifting for the Green Thumb
Hundreds of houseplants await at TC’s I’m Planty AF
By Brighid Driscoll | Nov. 19, 2022
Along with rattan furniture, shag carpet, and macrame, houseplants were a beloved part of many American households in the 1970s. Mid-century modern architecture had exploded decades prior, and interior designers were using houseplants to soften the straight lines while sticking to the concept of bringing the outside indoors.
Over the last several years, houseplants have become popular décor again, and it’s a trend worth keeping around. Beyond the satisfaction of looking after something green and living, there are stress-relieving, air-freshening, and brain-boosting benefits to keeping plants in your home. If you’re ready to take the plant-owning plunge, downtown Traverse City shop I’m Planty AF offers inspired options.
“Last October, the space where Planty is now was the Bookie Joint,” owner Karen Hilt tells us as she motions around the store. “It was an iconic downtown shop that had been here for 50 years. Garret [Weslock] and I saw them put the sign in the window and just stopped and gave each other a look.”
Going Out on a Limb
Hilt and Weslock are no strangers to being business owners. They also own the popular downtown gift store My Secret Stash (MSS). “We opened My Secret Stash in 2014. That first year was consignment from different makers—some Traverse City-based, from the U.P., Detroit, and Grand Rapids. I worked seven days a week that first year. I’m grateful now to have a full staff,” Hilt says.
After the passing of her older sister, Hilt paid homage to her by selling a few air plants at MSS. “She and her wife had this huge, beautiful garden. I brought home some of her plants.” She placed them for sale upstairs in MSS and was surprised when people were eager to buy them and asked about other plants. Hilt and Weslock started propagating and bringing in different plants from home. They also joined local Facebook page TC Plant Exchange, where plant trades happen regularly and knowledge is freely shared.
Hilt brought that welcoming vibe to the new venture, so if you struggle with your existing plants’ health, Hilt and the Planty staff encourage you to come by with questions. “I have a great staff that is super helpful and passionate about plants. They will come talk to you.”
In addition to a selection of plants in all shapes and sizes—from tall cacti to trailing plants to rare beauties—the shop also has a variety of cute plant-themed gifts and plant accessories. Books, pots, plant food, and more can be found alongside lush green leaves. And if Hilt doesn’t have something in stock, she’s happy to send folks to other plant stores.
“Plant tourism is a thing that’s happening,” she says. “I think I see it more because we’re Instagramming about our plant babies, but people will come in and be so excited that we have so many great plant stores. It’s something we should be embracing.”
When it comes to finding the perfect plant for your household, Hilt says it is important to keep in mind that different houseplants have different temperaments. While some can go long days without water, others need frequent watering. Some varieties need plenty of sunlight, while some thrive in very little.
The go-to plant that Hilt recommends for beginners is a succulent. These low-maintenance plants are well-loved for their varying shades of green leaves and adorable small stature. They’re also easy to look after because they require very little water, as many succulent varieties originated in dry, desert-like climates. Hilt says their leaves determine when to water; soft leaves are usually an indicator that the succulent needs a watering. Aim to water them every other week spring through autumn, and once a month in the winter when they go dormant.
Ready for a little more? The shop hosts regular terrarium building classes. “We call it our terrarium bar, but it’s for building any plant. We do birthday parties with kids or adults, bridal parties, and team building. We have all the tools here, we walk you through what you need to do, and it’s a really fun way to break the ice.” Terrarium bar options are created based on budget and how much time you can dedicate to care.
Planty also offers live wall-building workshops at the shop, teaching you how to put together rows of attached planters filled with plants that will eventually grow over to look like a floating wall of greenery. “You can buy as many shelves as you want. They’re stackable. We can make a live wall as small or as large as you’d like,” Hilt says.
As we get closer to winter, Hilt recommends caring for your current houseplants by watering a little less, pausing fertilizer use, and moving them close to one another for added warmth. She says a few yellowed or dropped leaves are to be expected in the colder months, but if you start to run into more issues, pop into the store for expert advice.
“The most common complaint with plants is that the leaves turn brown or yellow around the edges. What does that mean? Easy: too much water, not enough water, too many nutrients, too little, too much light, or not enough. That’s the historical joke,” she says with a laugh. “We’ll ask you some questions and see if we can’t figure it out.”
Find I’m Planty AF at 124 S. Union St. in Traverse City. (231)493-6440, implantyaf.com
The Secret Behind My Secret Stash
My Secret Stash is an easy go-to for unique, artisan-crafted gifts. Hilt sources many of her products from dozens of makers ranging from local to the Midwest, keeping up with seasons and trends while always having some classics and throwbacks in stock.
How does she do it? Experience: Before becoming a business owner, Hilt worked retail.
“For a while, I worked in high-end retail, making millions of dollars for other people,” she says. “When I quit that, I started working with artisans and galleries downstate, and they were all maker-focused spaces. One place was huge, with over 100 makers selling their items. They each rent their space to sell items and pay a commission to the house. We all took turns running the place in shifts. It was a collective. I did that for a long time, and when I opened Stash, that was the mindset I had going into it.”
From eclectic to heartwarming, Hilt has curated a store that makes gift-giving easy this holiday season. Fan favorites are socks, stickers, and an array of Michigan-themed gifts. Find the shop at 122 Cass St. in Traverse City or shop online at mysecretstash.com/collections.