Houseplant mania reaches Buffalo

Exact name of this begonia coming soon

For years I’ve posted about my indoor gardening scene and endured the derision/indifference of my fellow Ranters about my love for houseplants and bulb forcing. Remember Amy’s Top Ten Reasons I Hate Houseplants? It’s still a great rant, so, even though I disagree with it, I encourage all to click back and enjoy.

Here is just one part of my friend Johanna’s houseplant set-up. Photo Johanna Dominguez

Well times have changed—in a big way. Thanks to millennial fervor for houseplant collecting, I find myself at the low-to-moderate end of the houseplant spectrum. I have friends who are accumulating indoor plants at the same rate I would be buying garden perennials and annuals in May and June. That’s a lot. We’re talking rooms with wall-to-wall plants and frenzied searches for rare hoyas and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (whatever those are). We’re talking building indoor potting stations and covering every possible surface with plants and buying enough grow lights to arouse the suspicions of local law enforcement agencies.

Here’s Johanna’s office space, which has been planted up. Photo Johanna Dominguez

We’re talking regular houseplant swap meets and a huge Etsy houseplant sector. I am not a part of this scene and never will be. I probably will buy more plants, but I don’t like the hassle of grow lights, especially in our common living spaces, where they don’t fit into our lighting aesthetic.  And all the watering! The bug checks! The diseases! The wilting and dying for no apparent reason!

No. However. Dipping a toe can’t hurt, and now it’s been made easier as two specialty houseplant venues have opened in our area. One is an adorable little shop, the Plant Shack, located in a nearby state park (shown above). Another in the city proper, Daddy’s Plants, defines itself as “an indoor plant shop that cares about the health, aesthetic and design elements of adding plants to a home.” It may not sound like a big deal, but these kind of shops have not been common in our modest metro area before this.

So, a bit of a slippery slope. I bought two unusual begonias (one shown at top) at the Plant Shack and then plumped for a pricey monstera for my office (above). I have a feeling there will be just a few more. And then it’s bulb forcing time. I’ll double down on that just to impress all my new indoor plant loving friends. Have you upped your houseplant game recently?

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. It is strange my green thumb turned black when I had kids. They are all in their 20s now and I started dipping my toe into houseplants again. Then I found out how big they had become on social media.

  2. I need houseplants and flowers to get through the winter. Ferns, begonias, spring bulbs but absolutely no office style low light plants. And sorry but nothing is more unattractive than a hanging plastic pot. Who wants to look at plastic and macrame.

    • Well, those aren’t my plants, but I find her setup quite attractive, macrame and all. And honestly, with that many plants, I’d be sticking with the plastic pots for some of them too. Particularly for hanging, given the weight issues.

    • I agree that plastic pots are unattractive – however – some plants – especially hoyas – do best in plastic pots. They cannot go in terracotta as they have epiphytic roots and they become damaged as they grip the abrasive pot. They do best in plastic so in plastic they stay.

      • I’m sorry but I collect Hoya and they grow quite well in terra cotta. Why do you think that an epiphyte that can attach itself to tree bark would have a problem attaching itself to clay or that it would be better in a plastic unbreathable pot?

  3. Twenty seven years ago we moved to a new state and bought our first house, and I bought 3 plants: an aloe Vera, a pepperomia and a prayer plant. I’ve been dividing and propagating them ever since, they’ve had many babies! Some I’ve given away, some I’ve kept, some have died, but I always have to decide what to do with the offspring. The original aloe mother died, but her line continues! These plants are part of our family now, like pets, that I will pass on to my grandchildren one day, if they want them.
    By the way, your begonia looks an awful lot like a piggyback plant (Tolmeia menziesii), which were very popular back in the houseplant-crazy 70’s.

  4. You could always move to SoCal where you can grow all those houseplants on the patio.

    If the people you know are rocking hoyas and zz, go for bromeliads. There are some pretty interesting ones and they don’t need a whole lot of water.


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