Exotic Plants sees growing interest in unusual houseplants
By Debbie Arrington
Call it the “Plantdemic.” Spending more time at home prompted new interest in gardening and plant shopping, particularly houseplants.
During the pandemic, Exotic Plants – Sacramento’s go-to indoor gardening store – saw a huge increase in interest in houseplants and succulents as more people discovered the pleasure of indoor gardening.
“The Plantdemic was very interesting,” said owner Kifumi Keppler. “It was a learning experience for me, too.”
Why the renewed interest in indoor gardening? Indoor plants have a proven positive impact on mental, physical and emotional health – all important benefits during such stressful times as a pandemic.
Many of these newbie Plantdemic gardeners had little or no prior experience, but they had definite ideas about what they wanted. Spurred by Instagram and other social media, these shoppers sought out unusual flora, Keppler noted.
“They didn’t want generic plants like Chinese evergreen; they wanted something rare,” she said. “I had to switch gears.”
Keppler and her expert staff tapped their far-flung sources, including those in Hawaii, Tennessee, Italy, Indonesia and right here in Northern California. They filled Exotic Plants’ spacious store with thousands of living treasures.
“That interest is continuing,” she said. “We’re getting more and more rare plants to meet that demand. … Young people in particular are into new things and unusual plants.”
Why stop with indoor greenery? “We’re starting to offer more outdoor plants such as bamboo, maples and some other unique plants,” Keppler said. “People ask for outdoor plants. People want unusual edible plants, too, used in Japanese and Thai foods such as wasabi, Meyer lemon and kaffir lime.”
Houseplants can create a lush, tropical feel in any room, noted Keppler. “With plants, you’re extending that tropical ambiance from indoors to outdoors.”
Founded in 1972, Exotic Plants has grown into a regional destination nursery for rare and sought-after plants, attracting shoppers from throughout California and Nevada. It also provides several plant-related services including commercial, residential and special event plant rentals.
Recognized as Northern California’s top houseplant expert, Keppler has seen many trends over her decades of experience.
“I went through a lot of changes in the plant industry,” she said. “(When she started), it used to be wandering Jew, piggyback plant and Swedish ivy, lots of Boston ferns. I did a lot of designer homes with three to five plants in each room. Designers used houseplants in model homes because they helped sell the property faster.”
Now, Keppler adds house appeal in a different way. Her handcrafted moss “walls” are living art – with ferns and other plants incorporated into the richly textured background. Interior designers rely on Exotic Plants to give rooms that something extra – life!
“A lot of people started after me in the plant business; it’s become more and more competitive,” she added. “But we were strong, and still are.”
In 2019, Exotic Plants moved into its current location on Fulton Avenue. Its 4,000-square-foot building brims with colorful bromeliads, vibrant crotons and statuesque palms. Its selection of exotic orchids is the largest in the greater Sacramento region. Many more plants including scores of succulents fill a 3,000-square-foot-patio. There’s also space to teach workshops and hold special events.
All plants are very healthy, fresh and ethically sourced, with new stock hand picked by Exotic Plants expert staff.
But its store is much more than a place to buy plants. With its art- and antique-filled spaces, Exotic Plants is – as one shopper said – like “an oasis where customers come to escape the frantic pace of their busy lives and come away feeling refreshed.”
Keppler continues to innovate as she nurtures her store and educates its customers. Exotic Plants recently resumed in-person workshops and other events. (See Exotic Plants’ website for details.)
After nearly half a century, Exotic Plants is firmly rooted, Keppler said. “Sacramento is becoming a plant town.”
Exotic Plants is located at 1525 Fulton Ave., Sacramento. Phone 916-922-4769 or visit www.exoticplantsltd.com.