In the ecofriendly city of Seattle, we are often encouraged to shop locally and support small businesses. But when you’re a college student, that might not always be feasible, as sometimes shopping locally might mean spending a little bit more. There is also a big debate in the plant community between supporting local shops or heading to a box store like Home Depot, Lowes, or Walmart.
My very first succulent I purchased, who has since passed (R.I.P Franklin), was from the garden section of a Walmart. The first houseplant I purchased was from the Home Depot garden center. Since those purchases, I have branched out to local plant shops in Seattle, and I’ve found a lot more plants than box stores have to offer. An argument can be made for both shopping locally and shopping in box stores for plants.
Shop box stores if you’re looking for basics or trendy tropicals. I always find a lot of monstera deliciosas, fiddle leaf figs, and occasionally birds of paradise. They tend to have a large selection of pothos, which is a great beginner plant, as well as a lot of succulents to choose from.
In my experience, the garden center at a box store doesn’t always have a person knowledgeable about plants caring for them, so these are more susceptible to problems such as overwatering, foliage or root damage, and pests. You really have to inspect the soil and the leaves before purchase to make sure you’re bringing home a plant that is healthy and to ensure you aren’t introducing any pests and potentially infecting your other plants. It’s recommended that you isolate your new purchase from the rest of your plants for at least a week or two to ensure that it is pest-free.
Shop locally if you’re looking for plants that are harder to find, not necessarily rare, but things that are only available in limited quantities. This typically means you’ll be paying a higher price for your plants because they’re in limited supply. I’ve also found that local shops tend to have the best pottery selection for decent prices compared to box stores.
Shopping locally also allows you to follow the shops on social media, so you can know as soon as they receive a new shipment or are offering any last minute deals. It’s also a bit more convenient to shop locally in Seattle because small shops are usually closer than the box stores. Around the UW, there are four plant shops I frequent that are only a few miles from campus: Ravenna Gardens, Plant Shop Seattle, Indoor Sun Shoppe, and Cultivate Propagate.
I completely understand the debate between shopping locally and shopping in big box stores, as I want to support local businesses instead of massive corporations. Yet sometimes it can be more cost effective to purchase from a box store instead of a smaller shop, and sometimes the box stores have the exact plant you’re looking for. Or maybe you don’t have small, independent shops near you and box stores are the easiest way for you to get plants.
Everyone has a different situation and different plant needs. I was a Home Depot garden center queen until I started following Seattle plant stores on Instagram. I was able to see the different kinds of plants they had in stock that were so unique compared to the tropicals I found in box stores.
Some of the plants were smaller than what you’d expect to see in a box store, but plants are an investment. I plan on having all of these for years and years to come. I plan on passing some off to friends or trading in Facebook groups through the years. I can start with a smaller plant and be happy about it because I will get to grow it for a long time and keep it happy until it’s off to someone else.
It’s important to be mindful of where you’re purchasing your plants while also keeping in mind that not everyone has the ability to shop locally all the time. Plants are an opportunity to come together, learn, and grow. Don’t let box store bias interfere with that connection.
Reach writer Iseabel Nance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @iseabel
Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.