Plants have an almost divine ability to breathe life not just into a room but into us. Fill a hospital room with foliage and watch a patient bounce back more quickly. Maybe it was the prayers – but maybe it was the plants. For Alexis Sims, it was the plants that brought her back to life. Last year, Sims found herself divorced with a weeks-old baby and living in a house under construction.
Her mom brought over a couple plants to warm up the space for the baby, but they also served to steady Sims. “Repotting them, watching them grow, cleaning off the leaves, pruning them, all of that just helped me stay in that moment versus having those anxious thoughts where you’re wondering what’s going to happen,” she says.
Caring for the plants proved therapeutic for Sims, and, in the year of the bizarre, she thought others may also be able to benefit – and so Leaf Me bloomed on Juneteenth. This online plant boutique responds to the increasingly intimate way in which people, especially young consumers, like to shop.
So rather than a swipe-thank you-come again approach, Leaf Me’s plants are available to rent for photo shoots and events, and they also offer repotting and plant styling – which means they’ll show you how best to care for and arrange your new plant in your favorite space.
Sims currently sources most of her plants from nurseries in sunshiny states like Florida and California, taking care to consider which will thrive in the homes of her mostly Michigan-based clientele. Though, she has plans to eventually grow her own plants and control the supply chain.
“As Black people, we participate as consumers in all these markets, but we really don’t tap in on the business side. So, I thought this was a good opportunity to pay homage to my ancestors” – she says green thumbs run in her family – “and provide this therapeutic service.”
Plant Parenting Tips
• Bothersome bugs
Sims says, “Bugs mainly come from overwatering. If the soil is too moist for too long, you can get all kinds of bugs.” Gnats, fruit flies and spider mites are common insects that can attack your plants. Also avoid letting dust collect on your plants. Dust often contains skin cells and pet hair, a nice snack for pesky pests. Wipe your plants down regularly. Dunking your plant’s leaves or spraying them down in a solution of slightly soapy lukewarm water can also help.
• Soil selection
“There’s no one-fits-all for soil. Certain plants require certain kinds of soil. Succulents, for example, they like a lot of drainage, so sand or moss or things like that. Sometimes, you can sit a succulent in rocks, and it’ll be fine.” Sims recommends researching your plant and its needs before just using whatever’s around or grabbing an all-purpose soil.
• Solar power
How much or little sunlight to give your little one will be specific to the plant, but in general, Sims says, “Most plants like sunlight.” She says south-facing windows typically get the best light, but follow your plant’s instructions and trust your instincts. And avoid sitting your houseplants outside – that’s often too much direct sunlight. “There’s a thin line between perfect and a burnt plant.”
• Water level
“A lot of plants lean over, droop a little bit when they’re ready for some water,” Sims says. “It does not mean they’re dead – it means they’re thirsty.” Browning leaves could also be a sign that it’s time to water, and remember, you’ll want to water more in the summertime than during the winter months. To avoid overwatering, watch for limp leaves and fungus gnats, or stick your finger an inch or so into the soil. Still moist? Hold the water.
• Repotting plan
“The drainage hole is a good indicator of whether or not your plant needs to be repotted,” Sims says. “If you see roots in the drainage hole, that means it’s too big and it needs a bigger pot.” Also watch for matted roots near the soil surface. If you buy a plant still in one of those pliable plastic pots, it’s probably been in there a while and may need to be repotted when you take it home. Otherwise, you’ll typically need to repot every year and a half or so once your plant reaches a mature size.