Listening to Heather Anderson discuss various types of plants and their watering and sunlight needs, you might think she’s a botanist or master gardener.
“The Monstera Albo and Monstera Thai Constellation do better with a brighter light being a tropical plant with higher variegation,” she says, gazing into a glass case featuring some of the rarest houseplants around. “And this Philodendron billietiae has long leaves, so as it grows, each leaf will get longer and longer.”
But the truth is she’s just really into plants.
“Like a lot of people, during COVID we started to get more into plants,” she explains. “Everyone was having to stay home, so they just wanted to bring some of nature indoors.” She says this was especially true for people in this area who don’t have a lot of outdoor yard space or the ability to plant gardens.
During that same time, Anderson and her husband Jonathan had been looking to start a small business concept, and when a spot in Norfolk’s NEON District became available, they jumped at the opportunity, turning their growing hobby into a growing business: Plant Norfolk.
The aptly named shop, which opened in March 2022, is the only one of its kind in Norfolk offering all types of plants in a curated, boutique-style setting. They’ve got popular houseplants like pothos, string-of-pearls and pilea—”ones that are kind of different and interesting,” she says. They’ve got succulents, cacti, Bonsai trees, Staghorn ferns and kokedama, a Japanese growing style of growing in a moss ball aimed at keeping ornamental plants at an optimal size. And, in their latest growing venture, they’ve got plants in rare and highly sought-after varieties.
“I personally went down to Florida and hand-picked most of those because I wanted to see them,” Anderson explains. “If I’m going to spend a lot of money on them and other people are going to spend a lot of money on them, I want to make sure they’re good quality, that they have different levels of variegation.”
Anderson doesn’t just buy and resell plants though. “My husband has gone on a streak of, ‘If we have it in the shop, we need to have one at home so I know how to take care of it’—which is a good idea, but we’re kind of filling up,” she laughs. The process of growing what they sell has been helpful however, in sharing tips and tricks with customers to set them up for success.
“When people come in, I try to ensure they’re going to walk out with a plant they’re going to be successful with,” Anderson says, even if it means talking someone out of a plant if she knows the plant is a difficult variety or requires a very specific growing environment. “I don’t want them to go out and then a month later it dies and they think, ‘I have a brown thumb. Never again.’”
To help shoppers feel successful in their planting endeavors, Anderson encourages customers to message her on Instagram—send a photo, describe the issue and the conditions they’re keeping the plant in—so that she can attempt to help them work through the problems.
As a final step to ensure plants’ success, the Andersons started making and bagging their own potting soil in three different varieties: a houseplant mix, a tropical mix and a cactus mix. “It’ll at least put you on the right path of helping that plant,” she says.
As with any business, the goal is to keep on growing, but for a business involving plants, growth is a must. For Plant Norfolk’s continued growth, Anderson says she wants to continue expanding on the variety of plants offered and also help people use plants to style their homes. “We’re trying to help people get some more stylish planters that they can put larger plants in to really make it a piece, something to bring some texture and interest into their home,” she says. “We talk about what planters would be good for different plants, shapes, sizes and colors, so really trying to help people elevate their space with plants, actually enjoy them.”
Another way they’re growing is by collaborating with different businesses in Norfolk, popping up with plant sales at places like Selden Market, Reaver NFK and the Hermitage Museum & Gardens. “Sometimes we reach out to them, sometimes they reach out to us; people are just excited about plants,” she says.
Plant Norfolk’s reception in the NEON District has been just as exciting as Anderson sees a steady amount of foot traffic from individuals who work nearby. “They’ll walk down, they’ll get Zeke’s, they’ll pop in and get plants on their lunch break,” she says. “The plant community around here has been really cool.”