Grower of exotic houseplants reaping what she sows

Exotic plant lover Nicole Warner has opened a shop in downtown Sarnia called That’s What She Grows. Submitted Photo

Cathy Dobson

A beloved hobby has grown into a new business for one Sarnia woman – literally.

Like many of us, Nicole Warner, 33, found time on her hands during the pandemic lockdowns and looked for a creative outlet.

“I’ve always loved house plants, especially exotic ones that I import from overseas,” she said. “I’ve got hundreds in my home.”

Last fall, a friend suggested making a YouTube video as a fun project, with Warner in front of the camera and the friend helping edit.

“It was just something different to do. I’m not a public speaker but I’m a bit of a character and I wanted to show off my plants,” she said.

The videos they produced feature Warner primarily unboxing imported plants.

“I buy thousands of dollars worth of plants at a time and you never know what will come out of the box,” she said.

She has made 54 videos since October and named the show That’s What She Grows.

Meanwhile, Warner realized Sarnia didn’t have a rare and exotic plant shop – at least not one with species that interest her. And she was encouraged to open one by someone willing to help with the investment.

“It all happened quickly,” she said. “I did the due diligence, got incorporated and got the permits. Then I hunted for space downtown. There was no question in my mind that’s where I want to be. It’s more artsy and everyone’s a big community down here.”

That’s What She Grows opened at 149A Christina St. North in April. It carries succulents, common houseplants like ferns and philodendrons, cacti, carnivorous plants and rarities she sources from Thailand, Indonesia and Ecuador, such as anthurium villenaorum and philodendron billietiae.

On top of the thousands of plants in her 900-square-foot retail space, Warner sells pots, grow lights, air purifiers and other equipment.

Foot traffic at That’s What She Grows has outstripped expectation.

“I thought most of my sales would be the online market. I am shipping right across Canada but I’m finding most business is in-person. I feel really humbled,” said Warner. “People are so supportive, it brings me to tears.

“Regulars come in and talk to me about plants or chit chat while I propagate and repot. I just love it.”

Warner says she offers something at every price point, from common $5 Montana ferns and lavender plants to rare philodendron tortums, which sell for $600.

She hosts weekly planting events at The Refined Fool that are selling out. She also organizes succulent planting parties, in which 20 people learn about succulents and pot and plant them, at a cost of $25 to $100, depending on the pot and plant chosen.

“I’m planning to do workshops too about how to propagate plants and other educational topics,” said Warner.

For customers interested in establishing a grow room, Warner is offering her years of experience with hundreds of varieties of plants, and is available for home and business consultations.

Warner can be reached at That’s What She Grows by calling 226-349-0851 or online at thatswhatshegrows.ca. Store hours are Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Got a great idea for the Business Journal? Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.