With subscription services popping up for everything from underpants to Scandinavian design, it only makes sense there’d be a few box options for one of the most beloved of household fixtures: houseplants.
While Urban Sprouts isn’t the only company to run a plant subscription, they are the closest one to home. The plant shop first opened up shop in Ballard in 2015, but moved to Renton in 2016 after the Ballard building was torn down—and it’s been operating there ever since.
The store started out selling houseplants, gifts, and handmade home items—plus some classes on terrarium building, bonsai, and even less plant-y crafts like soapmaking—drawing from owner Jen Stearns’s urban agriculture studies at University of Washington, plus her background in everything from landscaping to gift shops to garden supply.
But about a year ago, said Stearns, a family member encouraged her to try running a subscription service. The wide reach of their social media presence—in case you haven’t noticed, Plant Instagram is a thing—meant the company was reaching people that couldn’t necessarily make it to the storefront.
“A lot of our marketing is through social media and because of this we now have enthusiastic followers that are out of the area, so I thought it would be a great way to stay connected to and meet more customers who weren’t able to make it to the shop,” said Stearns.
Shipped plants need to be sturdy—so the succulent of the month club ($9.99) came first, then the air plant club ($11.99). “Then on a whim [I] threw up the little plants club, at the time I was thinking it would mostly be foliage plants,” said Stearns. “But after getting some more experience with shipping plants all times of the year the little plant club plants tended to suffer.”
Little plant club ($9.99) grew into something showcasing a variety of plant species—as long as the choices are unique and little. “The little plant club is a mixture of succulents, cacti, air plants, foliage and some cool unique things too,” said Stearns. She said past boxes have included living keychains and marimo moss balls. This month, Urban Sprouts is sending out a rose of Jericho, a tumbleweed that can dry out and turn green again multiple times.
Even with a unique selection of plants, though, choices can’t be too hard to maintain. “These boxes are targeting for all experience levels including newbies,” explained Stearns. “We tend to select species that are both unique enough to impress and hearty enough to withstand shipping and beginner to intermediate care.”
To be extra cautious, each box comes with a card with instructions, a link to more in-depth care information, and contact information to consult with Urban Sprouts staff on plant care.
“As part of our regular services in the shop we encourage people to send us photos of their plants when they are having problems and we work with them individually to troubleshoot, diagnose and reverse plant issues,” said Stearns. We have extended this offer to our subscription customers as well.”
Soon, Stearns wants to start other subscription services that mimic class topics, too.
Stearns said most of their customer base came in saying they’re “bad with plants” or lost on how to care for them. “Soon they’re in here every few weeks to buy another plant,” said Stearns. “I get tremendous joy from seeing my customers ‘bloom’ into plant people and love when they send me photos of their urban jungle dreams coming true.”
Urban Sprouts is open Tuesday through Sunday at 724 South Third Street, Suite B in Renton, or online at urban-sprouts.com.